Aaron Judge has quieted down the pen-protector, analytic geeks.
For sure, they were loud and beating the drum against Judge being the American League MVP. It was crazy, but true.
Before the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, the very same game that Judge was the leading vote-getter by fans in MLB America, there were stories written and talking heads touting Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star Shohei Ohtani for MVP.
Ohtani was pitching brilliantly and being a batting threat, too. Yes, the unanimous AL MVP from a year ago was being Babe Ruth again.
But the Ohtani love and admiration is misguided, ill-placed.
Judge — the New York Yankees’ star right fielder — is the best player on the best team. And if people were starting to overlook him just a bit, Judge wasted no time after the All-Star Break to make all the baseball folks recognize what he’s been doing all season.
On Sunday, in the Yankees’ 6-0 victory over the Orioles in Baltimore, Judge blasted a suitable-for-framing 456-foot two-run home run. He now has a four-game hitting streak, batting .529 (9-for-17) with four homers and 11 RBI. Judge’s HR gave him 37. He easily leads everyone in that department in the game.
And the Yankees are the best team in MLB with a 66-31 record and Judge is a big reason why. That’s why he’s clearly the front-runner at this point.
And the Angels? They’re going nowhere. They are 40-55 and in fourth place in the AL West, 23.5 games out of first. But all the analytics geeks see are Ohtani’s stats as a hitter — .259 with 20 HRs and 57 RBI — and a pitcher — 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA.
Enter J.D. Martinez. The Boston Red Sox slugger added fuel to the Ohtani fire at the All-Star Game. He was ready to crown him MVP for a second straight season.
“I think it’s a no-brainer,” Martinez told the media in L.A. “How are you going to compete with Ohtani? He’s gonna win it for the next five years. As long as he pitches and he hits, you’re not going to beat him.
“Look at (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) last year. If Vladdy didn’t win it, nobody’s going to win it. It’s too much. If you look at the WAR numbers, the value numbers, who else can affect the game on both sides? Just change the name of it to The Ohtani Award.”
Martinez is certainly a prisoner of the moment. There’s no context with his hype of Ohtani.
According to Martinez’s logic, Russell Westbrook should have won four straight NBA MVPs. He won the MVP when he averaged a triple-double in 2016-17. In doing so, he became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62.
Westbrook even holds the NBA record for most triple-doubles.
But the impact of it has, indeed, faded and he didn’t keep winning the MVP despite continuing to pile up double-digits in point, rebounds and assists.
Since winning the MVP, Westbrook went on to have three more seasons where he averaged a triple-double. However, he finished no higher than fifth in MVP voting since winning the award. In 2021, while playing for the Washington Wizards, he placed 11th in the voting.
“I look at Westbrook, and he got triple-doubles this year and no one noticed it. They don’t think it was such a big deal,” Robertson said in a podcast in 2021. “I think that’s totally unfair.
“I think he should have won (MVP) again. If he (averaged) a triple-double again, and he didn’t win (MVP), so why keep stats then?”
Let’s help you, Big O. It’s not just about piling up stats. Winning — and context of when you’re compiling stats — matters.
The problem with Ohtani’s season is that he hasn’t really had a meaningful at-bat since Opening Day. Worse, Ohtani was nowhere to be found when his team needed him most. He was M.I.A. during the 14-game losing streak that cost manager Joe Maddon his job and the Angels their season.
Judge has been there for the Yankees all season, getting big hits in big games. That’s what you call an MVP.