1. 2017 MVP Race, Aaron Judge vs. Jose Altuve
You’ve all seen the infographics. You know the tale of the tape here. This is, perhaps, the most classic example you’ll ever see of voters being wowed by something unique, as long as that “something” isn’t wearing a Yankees uniform.
Which is insane! Because Aaron Judge is as much of a unicorn as anyone who’s ever put on pinstripes, and this was his national debut!
Alas, voters examined the race and selected small over big. They selected Houston over New York. They selected slashing singles over monstrous power. And they made a mistake.
For as spectacularly tiny as Jose Altuve is, Judge’s 6-7, 282-pound frame is just as unexpected on a baseball diamond. You’d think that a hulking rookie destroying baseballs into the stratosphere would’ve overwhelmed the voting body, but instead they decided they were bored with strikeouts. They hated his tough July and August (.230 and .185 with 10 total home runs, though he still got on base at .364 and .353 clips). They hated, perhaps most of all, that he seemed to represent the boom-or-bust “modern game,” and that he did it in a Yankee uniform.
Comparing the two seasons in totality leaves you no other conclusion than, “Yeah, Judge deserved it.” Judge had more WAR (again, as a rookie), topping Altuve 8.0 to 7.7. He had more runs scored (128 to 112). He had more homers (duh, but 52 to 24), more RBI (114 to 81), a higher OPS (1.049 to .957), and a higher OBP (.422 to .410) despite Altuve literally hitting .346. And that was that. The voters saw a high average with moderate pop and voted for Altuve in a landslide; he received 27 first-place votes to Judge’s … two.
Judge was better. Judge and Altuve are two different players, though Altuve was a less helpful type of player in 2017. Voters decided they preferred Altuve’s throwback nature and narrative. Voters were not correct to do so.