Back in 2017, the New York Yankees were hoodwinked, bamboozled and led astray in an American League MVP race no one saw coming between the tallest, largest rookie and the smallest, slappiest leader of the league’s elite.
Whose dominance was more surprising? Honestly, it depends on the date range of your data. Nobody saw Judge’s instant stardom coming back in 2016 when he was a long, loping slugger fresh out of the minors, but not one person expected the diminutive Altuve to be captaining Houston’s contention when he was promoted back in 2011. Which marvel dropped more jaws? Apparently, it was Altuve by a nose back then, even though it was Judge by two heads whenever they stood side-to-side.
It’s still unclear what went on in 2017, when the voters unanimously took the anti-Sabermetric position that home run numbers and ridiculous power should lose out to guttiness across the board. Altuve edged Judge in very few metrics, so it seemed only natural that Yankee fans claimed bias and came to believe voters would simply rather see an Astro win something shiny. When the scandal broke two years later, that view began to seem retroactively ridiculous. At the time, other than the possibility that some media members believed the younger Judge’s “day would come,” there seemed to be no other reasoning behind the snub.
Now, in 2022, Judge’s day is undoubtedly here … unless voters unite to give the MVP Award to the game’s most spectacular talent, whose hitting and pitching ability COMBINED will never be matched.
Shohei Ohtani is, by definition, the most valuable player in baseball, and will be every year of his career. He uses one roster spot more efficiently than anyone else, pitching like an ace once every five days before slugging to a 138 OPS+ during his other starts. That is spectacular, no matter which metric you use to slice it up.
If Ohtani swipes the 2022 MVP from Judge, it won’t be as egregious as Altuve’s win, and the loss certainly won’t come because some other contenders’ story was more interesting than the Yankees’ tale. It will, though, either come because of a monstrous Yankees collapse (stay tuned!) or because Ohtani’s unique approach is undeniably valuable, no matter how poorly his team is constructed around him.
Yankees Aaron Judge vs Shohei Ohtani in 2022 AL MVP chase
Would Aaron Judge be more valuable to the 2022 Angels than Shohei Ohtani? Even with his elite outfield defense, in both center and right, probably not. Ohtani is a singular force, killing two birds with one WAR. Unfortunately, the Angels have done very little to maximize the roster spot he’s cleared with his own brilliance. That’s on them.
If there were ever a season to not hand the award to Ohtani, though, it’s probably this one, where Judge is flirting with breaking the American League record of 61 home runs, all while piling up superior counting stats, WAR, and propelling his team to a 10-game lead in the AL East.
Instead of attempting to reason with Judge’s statistics and measure him against Ohtani, why isn’t the discourse flipped the other way around?
For now — for now — Judge is the runaway winner, measured by both objectively and the court of public opinion regarding who has or hasn’t “paid their dues.” Ohtani owned 2021, and has operated semi-obscured in 2022, doing the same great things he was already rewarded for last season.
In an unfair twist, Ohtani is likely the one being penalized for something he had no control over: Mike Trout’s MVP run earlier in the decade. Bizarrely, the Angels are the franchise that some writers probably believe deserves to be knocked down a peg, especially after Trout made most of their opposing narratives futile with his own objective dominance from 2012-2019, resulting in three trophies.
Now it’s Judge who’s commanding a more interesting path to contention, while Ohtani innovates under a duller spotlight. Fair? Hardly. But both stat heads and storytellers can agree that Judge’s superiority is probably going to cement his case this season.