When it comes to the American League MVP race, there are only two contenders. Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani. As of now, who deserves the award? Let’s find out.
As a disclaimer, there is still about a month left in the regular season, so there is still enough time for the answer to that question to change.
Let’s start first by defining what the criteria for the most valuable player should be. The MVP should simply be the best player, it shouldn’t take into account team records. Take Judge and Ohtani and swap their teams and the records would be similar. Giving extra credit to a player because their team made the playoffs is essentially giving them a boost because of their surrounding cast. It makes no sense. It’s called the most valuable player award. We have the numbers to measure the value a player brings.
That sounds a lot like the beginning of an argument in favor of Ohtani, but the American League MVP as it stands right now should be Aaron Judge. We don’t even need to bring in team records.
Judge currently has a 9.0 fWAR and a 203 wRC+. Ohtani sits at a 7.6 fWAR with a 143 wRC+ and a 155 ERA+. Both are having incredible seasons, but Judge has the edge.
WAR isn’t everything, and if Ohtani was within about half of a win I would view it as basically a tie, but it is a 1.4 difference in favor of Judge right now. Yes, Ohtani gets negatively impacted by WAR because he is a DH. Regardless, it is still a big enough difference in WAR that it should be factored into making a decision.
Let’s also look at win probability added. Judge sits at 6.27 while Ohtani is at 4.22. Judge has impacted his team’s chance of winning significantly more than Ohtani. Some would say that the fact that Judge is on a good team impacts that number, and it might, but the difference is so big that you can’t just throw the stat out because of the difference in teams.
Some would say that what Ohtani is doing is historic, and they’re right. However, that is the same case with Judge. The fact that he is having a season that is 103% better than the league average is absurd, especially when offense is down as a whole around the league.
Aaron Judge's season as of right now: 131 games, .302/.404/.683, 54 HR. A 203 wRC+ and 9.0 fWAR.
— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) September 5, 2022
Some also argue that Ohtani doing that well on offense while being surrounded by a weak lineup is impressive, and it is. But Judge has been doing that too for an extended period of time. Since August, the Yankees have struggled to score. To paint that picture, here are the wRC+ numbers of some notable Yankees since August 4th:
Judge has basically had no lineup protection. Anyone who has watched as of late knows that Judge is getting pitched around, yet is still hitting home runs at a great rate. The fact that he is still on pace to hit over 60 home runs in this circumstance is ridiculous.
Second-deck for No. 54 👨⚖️ pic.twitter.com/hzXycYma0m
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 5, 2022
Lastly, the elephant in the room when it comes to the Ohtani vs Judge argument is that Ohtani also pitches, and we have literally never seen this before. One common saying that has been getting parroted is, “Judge is chasing ghosts, Ohtani is creating them.” That’s all fine and well, but that is an argument that has to do with novelty and not value. It doesn’t make Ohtani the best player in 2022. We have the numbers to make an objective decision, and as of right now Judge should be the MVP in the American League.
Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray/Associated Press