Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani? AL MVP debate can be influenced by more than just numbers


New York Yankees star Aaron Judge, left, and Angels star Shohei Ohtani lead the way for the 2022 AL MVP award. (Adam Hunger; Alex Gallardo/The Bharat Express News)

When Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens began appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot, the Baseball Writers Assn. asked for clarification from the United States. The Hall of Fame named “integrity, sportsmanship, character” as one of its six criteria for voters. In the wake of the steroid era, how did Hall want BBWAA voters to interpret those criteria?

The board of directors of the room shrugged. That sparked a decade of initially interesting but ultimately tedious debates about whether poster boys should be voted into the Hall of Fame for the steroid era.

The BBWAA did not direct the election to the Hall of Fame, but it did direct the election for the most valuable player. These are the opening words of the MVP vote: “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 police and his name is Shohei Ohtani.

In the Angels’ 2-1 win over the presumably playoff-bound Seattle Mariners on Saturday, Ohtani scored one point, drove in one point and conceded no points. This is about as close as you can win a game yourself. That seems pretty valuable to me.

Ohtani can do this at any start. No one else can.

Ohtani is 28. He can keep this up.

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

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will deliver against the Houston Astros on September 10. (Eric Christian Smith/The Bharat Express News)

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

Perhaps the rise of a two-way superstar should prompt the BBWAA to define “valuable” and explore a way out of what’s starting to become another tedious debate, intensified because Judge plays for the New York Yankees.

If the senior 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 attracting the attention that comes with playing in the league’s biggest media market. We wouldn’t be subjected to the East Coast bias that produces such absurd lines as this: “Almost no one who is not currently employed by the Angels or living in Orange County, California, really believes that anyone other than Judge could be MVP.” .”

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

Judge could set the “real” one-season home run record, with 62? Bud Selig squirmed and put his hands in his pockets as Bonds set home run records, but Selig didn’t take them away from Bonds. Rob Manfred hasn’t stripped the Astros of the tainted piece of metal they won in 2017. Baseball does not punish retroactively, and Judge should be celebrated on his own considerable merits. The real home run record for one season is 73.

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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/The Bharat Express News)

Judge drove the Yankees to domination? The Yankees have lost 10 games from their division lead in two months, with the Dodgers rounding them out 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 as 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).

Judge can win the Triple Crown? Ten players have done that.

Judge could hit 62 home runs? Three players did that.

Ohtani is about to hit 30 home runs and strike out 200 in the same season. No one has done that. 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 presented annually to the best hitter in each league. Judge leads the majors in home runs, runs scored, runs batted in, percentage on base, slugging percentage and OPS. No one is within 20 home runs from him.

Ohtani ranks in the league’s top five in home runs, triples, slugging percentage and OPS – and, as a pitcher, in runs earned, strikeouts and wins.

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

Major League Baseball has already recognized that Judge and Ohtani cannot be classified in the same way. Ohtani is not listed as a pitcher/designated hitter, but as a “TWP” – two-way player, giving the Angels proper leeway in rules and roster limits.

Should the BBWAA consider a different rating for Ohtani, or a ‘one-way player’ award for Judge?

That assumes the BBWAA wants to define ‘valuable’. Jack O’Connell, the longtime secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, said he could not recall a formal proposal to do so. If the BBWAA can award the MVP to pitchers — even relief pitchers — and to players in 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 opinion of what’s valuable.”

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

In September, rate: .491, with eight home runs and a 1,604 OPS. If he keeps that up for a few more weeks, and he keeps the Yankees from collapsing completely, it could seal the MVP deal for him. But the suggestion that there is only one worthy candidate is puffy who disrespects them both.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.