Judge vs. Altuve: The Two Potential AL MVPs
While their teams compete for the American League pennant, Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve are also competing for the 2017 American League MVP award. The two of them make an unlikely duo for the top two hitters in the AL due to their 13-inch height difference, but both players have clearly demonstrated their immense talent through their respective performances this season. Let’s break down the 2017 seasons of both Judge and Altuve, and try to determine the factors that make each of them stand out from the rest of the league.
When one mentions Aaron Judge, the first thing that comes to mind is his immense power, and the 25 year old rookie’s power was clearly on display in 2017. He led the American League in HRs (52), ISO (.343), BB% (18.7%), and fWAR (8.2), while placing second in SLG (.627), wRC+ (173), and OBP (.422). Despite a 30.7 K% that was the third worst in the AL, Judge still hit a very respectable .284, mostly due to a very high BABIP of .357. Some critics may claim that Judge had some luck with his BABIP, which may be due to regress towards the mean in the future, but one can also say part of this was due to the fact that he hit so many balls hard. In fact, 45.3% of the balls he hit were hit hard (per Fangraphs), which ranked as the second highest in the American League. Judge was also an above average outfielder this season, posting a 7.7 UZR/150.
The diminutive Altuve more than compensated for his lack of size with his exceptional hitting in 2017. The Major League batting champion (.346) also showed surprising power for someone his size, with 24 HRs, a .202 ISO, and a .547 SLG. He also placed third in the AL in OBP (.410), third in wRC+ (160), second in fWAR (7.5), and had the seventh lowest K% (12.7%). His low K% helps to explain his league leading batting average, as does his blazing speed and exceptionally high BABIP (.370). Altuve provided much more value on the bases compared to Judge, as he had 32 SBs and was only caught stealing six times. Despite having a slightly below average season defensively (-2.6 UZR/150), the fact that he plays a very demanding position in second base (where there are fewer productive players compared to a corner outfield spot) gives him immense value.
In conclusion, both Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve had exceptional seasons in 2017. Whether the MVP voters decide to select the massive slugger in Judge or the speedy, batting title champion in Altuve, it is hard to make the wrong choice here. My best guess is that Aaron Judge’s enormous power and higher fWAR will give him the slight edge over Altuve, but regardless, it will be exciting to watch these two youngsters compete for many years to come.
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