Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani? The AL MVP debate could be affected by more than numbers

As Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens began running for Hall of Fame ballots, the Baseball Writers Assn. of America asked for a clarification. Hall of Fame Listed “integrity, sportsmanship, character” among its six criteria for voters. In the aftermath of the steroid era, how did the Hall want BBWAA voters to interpret these criteria?

The Hall board shrugged. This led to a decade of initially interesting but ultimately tedious debates over whether steroid-era posters should be elected to the Hall of Fame.

The BBWAA did not organize the election for the Hall of Fame, but they organize the election for the most valuable player. These are the first words of Ballot MVP: “There is no clear definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the voter to decide.”

There is a disturbance in the force, and its name is Shohei Ohtani.

In the Victory of the Angels 2-1 during the presumably playoff-bound Seattle Mariners on Saturday, Ohtani scored a run, drove a run and allowed no runs. That’s about as close to winning a game on your own as you can get. It seems quite valuable.

Ohtani can do it at any start. Nobody else can.

Ahtani is 28 years old. He can go on like this.

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Houston Astros on Sept. 1.  ten.

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers against the Houston Astros on Sept. 1. ten.

(Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press)

That’s really the undercurrent of the Ohtani vs. Judge Aaron debate: If Ohtani wins this year, he might win every year. Is it right?

Perhaps the emergence of a two-way superstar should prompt the BBWAA to define “precious” and explore if there is a way out of what is beginning to become another tedious debate, heightened because Judge plays for the New York Yankees.

If the distinguished judge was about to hit his 60th home run for the Houston Astros — a team with a better record than the Yankees — he wouldn’t generate the attention that comes with playing in the biggest media market. of the league. We wouldn’t be subject to the East Coast bias that produces lines as absurd as this: “Hardly anyone is currently employed by Angels or living in Orange County, California. actually believes that someone other than Judge could be MVP.

Judge leads in WAR? Fair, but not decisive. Mike Trout led WAR ten years ago and Miguel Cabrera won the MVP title. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

The judge could set the “true” home run record in a season, with 62? Bud Selig squirmed and stuffed his hands in his pockets when Bonds set home run records, but Selig didn’t strip Bonds of it. Rob Manfred did not undress the Astros from the piece of tainted metal they won in 2017. Baseball does not inflict retroactive punishment and Judge should be celebrated for his own considerable merits. The true single-season home run record is 73.

Yankees star Aaron Judge hits his 58th homer of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

Yankees star Aaron Judge hits his 58th homer of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

(Kenny Yoo/Associated Press)

The judge led the Yankees to dominance? The Yankees lost 10 games to their division lead in two months, with the Dodgers beating them for the best record in the majors. The Yankees don’t even have the best record in New York. It’s not the judge’s fault — just like the Angels’ miserable season isn’t Ohtani’s fault. Since the All-Star break, the Angels (25-30) have a better record than the Yankees (24-30).

Could the judge win the Triple Crown? Ten players did.

Could the judge hit 62 home runs? Three players did.

Ohtani is on pace to hit 30 home runs and strike out 200 batters in the same season. Nobody did that. He already has 30 home runs and 10 wins in the same season. No one had either.

Judge has already picked up the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best hitter in each league. Judge leads the majors in home runs, runs scored, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. No one is within 20 home runs of him.

Ohtani ranks in the top five in the league in homers, triples, slugging percentage and OPS — and, as a pitcher, in ERA, strikeouts and wins.

Judge has had 631 plate appearances. Ohtani had 604 and he faced 593 batters, or 1,197 impacts as a pitcher or batter. No one comes close and Ohtani delivered an elite performance on both sides of the ball. Considering the excellence the two have produced, this could arguably make Ohtani twice as valuable.

Major League Baseball has already acknowledged that Judge and Ohtani cannot be ranked the same. Ohtani is not listed as a pitcher/designated hitter but as a “TWP” – two-way player, giving the Angels proper wiggle room within roster rules and limitations.

Should the BBWAA consider another classification for Ohtani, or a ‘one way player’ award for the judge?

This assumes that the BBWAA wishes to define “precious”. Jack O’Connell, the BBWAA’s longtime secretary-treasurer, said he did not recall any formal proposal to that effect. If the BBWAA can award the MVP to pitchers — even relief pitchers — and players on last-place teams, O’Connell said the writers can be trusted to determine whether Ohtani or Judge is more valuable.

“That’s what makes the award so different,” O’Connell said, “the individual voter’s perspective on what has value.”

Let’s go back to 2012, when Trout had the top WAR and Cabrera won MVP. The most common thought: Cabrera clinched MVP when he won the Triple Crown. The reality, at least from here: Cabrera batted .395 with 11 home runs and 1,071 OPS in September, elevating his Detroit Tigers to a division championship from behind.

Judge in September: .491, with eight homers and 1,604 OPS. If he keeps that going for a few more weeks and keeps the Yankees from completely collapsing, that just might seal the MVP deal for him. But the suggestion that there is only one worthy candidate is a farce that disrespects both of them.