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

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

New York Yankees star Aaron Judge, left, and Angels star Shohei Ohtani are the front-runners for the 2022 AL MVP award.

New York Yankees star Aaron Judge, left, and Angels star Shohei Ohtani are the front-runners for the 2022 AL MVP award. (Adam Hunger; Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

As Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens began showing up on the Hall of Fame ballot, the Baseball Writers Assn. America asked for clarification. The Hall of Fame listed “integrity, sportsmanship, character” among its six criteria for voters. In the wake of the steroid era, how did the Hall want BBWAA voters to interpret those criteria?

The Hall’s board of directors shrugged. The result was a decade of interesting but ultimately interesting debates about whether to vote the poster boys for the steroid era into the Hall of Fame.

The BBWAA did not hold the election for the Hall of Fame, but it does hold the election for the most valuable player. Here are the first words of the MVP ballot: “There is no clear definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide.”

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

In the Angels’ 2-1 win over the playoff-possible Seattle Mariners on Saturday, Ohtani scored one run, drove in one run, and allowed no runs. This is as close as you can get to winning a game by yourself. That seems pretty valuable.

Ohtani can do this in any given start. No one else can.

Ohtani is 28. He can keep this up.

Angels deliver starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani against the Houston Astros on September 10.

Angels deliver starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani against the Houston Astros on September 10. (Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press)

That’s the bottom line in the Ohtani vs. Aaron Judge debate: If Ohtani wins this year, he might win every year. Is that fair?

Perhaps the emergence of a two-way superstar should prompt the BBWAA to define “valuable” and see if there’s a way out of what’s starting to be another tedious debate, amplified by the fact that Judge plays for the New York Yankees.

If the legendary 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 be generating the attention that comes with playing in the media market. biggest in the league. We wouldn’t succumb to the East Coast bias that produces absurd lines like this: “Almost no one not currently employed by the Angels or living in Orange County, California, believes that anyone other than Judge could be MVP.”

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

Judge could set the “real” single-season home run record, with 62? Bud Selig went out and stuffed his hands in his pockets when Bond set home run records, but Selig didn’t beat Bonds. Rob Manfred didn’t touch the dirty piece of metal they won in 2017 against the Astros. Baseball does not punish retroactively, and Judge should be celebrated on his own considerable merits. The all-time single-season home run record is 73.

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

Yankees star Aaron Judge hits his 58th home run of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. (Kenny Yoo/Associated Press)

Judge drove the Yankees toward dominance? The Yankees have lost 10 games off their division lead in two months, with the Dodgers tying them for the best record in the majors. The Yankees don’t even have the best record in New York. That’s not 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 have done that.

Could Judge hit 62 home runs? Three players have done that.

Ohtani is on pace to hit 30 home runs and hit 200 batters in the same season. That has not been done. He already has 30 home runs and 10 wins in the same season. No one had done that either.

Judge has already won the Hank Aaron award, which is given annually to the top hitter in each league. Judge leads the majors in home runs, runs scored, runs batted in, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. No one is within 20 homers of him.

Ohtani is among the league’s top five in home runs, triples, slugging percentage and OPS — and, as a pitcher, in earned-run average, strikeouts, and wins.

Judge 631 plates appeared. Ohtani had 604, and faced 593 batters — that is, 1,197 impacts as a pitch or batter. No one comes close, and Ohtani has given elite performances on both sides of the ball. Given the excellence of both, it could be argued that Ohtani would be twice as valuable.

Major League Baseball has already acknowledged that Judge and Ohtani cannot be classified as the same. Ohtani is not listed as an employee/designated winner but as a “TWP” — a two-way player, giving the Angels the appropriate freedom in roster rules and limitations.

Should the BBWAA consider another classification for Ohtani, or a “one-way player” award for Judge?

That’s assuming the BBWAA wants to define “valuable.” Jack O’Connell, long-term secretary of the BBBWA, said he could not recall any formal recommendation. 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 decide whether Ohtani or Judge is more valuable.

“That’s what’s so different about the award,” said Ó Conaill, “the individual voter’s view of what is valuable.”

Let’s go back to 2012, when Trout had the better WAR and Cabrera won the MVP. The most popular thought: Cabrera won the MVP when he won the Triple Crown. The reality, at least from here: Cabrera hit .395 with 11 home runs and a 1.071 OPS in September, lifting his Detroit Tigers to a come-from-behind division championship.

Judge this September: .491, with eight home runs and a 1.604 OPS. If he keeps that up for a few more weeks, and if he keeps the Yankees from completely collapsing, that could seal the MVP deal for him. But to suggest that there is only one worthy candidate is puffery that disrespects both of them.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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