The media tendency to overreact to whatever happened more recently has now come to this—Aaron Judge, who was anointed the MVP at the All-Star break, plays for the Yankees, electrified the country in the Home Run Derby, has now—thanks to a rough month and a half—actually managed to be underrated in the push for the American League MVP.
There’s no better measurement of public opinion than the Las Vegas odds and they tell us that you can now get a healthy 7-1 price if you were to bet on Judge to win the MVP award. Ponder that for a moment—Judge leads the league with 38 home runs. He leads in runs scored with 101. He’s driven in 85 runs. His on-base percentage is .412 and his slugging percentage is .573. He’s leading a team that’s heavily reliant on him and Gary Sanchez to produce at high levels and that team would currently make the playoffs. They may yet win the AL East.
Given all this, how has Judge managed to be an afterthought in the MVP conversation?
There’s no denying how rough the month of August was for him. But Judge is the equivalent of a team that led its division by twelve games at the All-Star break and is now in a dead heat. Such a team’s slump would be highly notable, but they’d still be essentially tied for first. That’s about where Judge should be in the MVP race.
Jose Altuve is the new favorite, with the Houston Astros second baseman going off at (-200) odds. Altuve is a worthy candidate—he’s got a .415 on-base percentage and he does it the old-fashioned way–by actually hitting the baseball, as he runs away with the AL batting title. He hits home runs (21) and drives the ball in the gap (36 doubles). He steals bases, with a league-leading 31, and he both scores runs (95) and drives them in (72) for an elite offense that blown away its division.
Then there’s Mike Trout, who has finished first or second in the MVP voting all five years of his career. If not for the injury that has limited him to 91 games thus far, he’d be a runaway choice to win it for a third time. Trout’s .464 OBP and .662 slugging each lead the league. In spite of the limited time, he’s hit 27 home runs. Most compelling is that he may yet drag a lousy team into the playoffs on his back, the kind of one-man show often seen in the NBA, but rarely in baseball.
If you pick Altuve or Trout, I can see why—all things considered, I’d make a slight lean to Altuve myself right now. But when you compare their numbers to Aaron Judge, it’s clear that the Yankee rookie still is (or at least should be) very much in this race, with everything hinging on September. The fact the media overreaction is so intense as to turn a Yankee star into a subject of empathy and leave his MVP case to be defended by me, a partisan Red Sox fan…well, that’s the sports example of fake news run rampant.