Yes, New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge just broke Kris Bryant’s record for most strikeouts by a rookie in a single season. Yes, he could still potentially break the record for strikeouts by any batter in a season. But in my mind, Aaron Judge is indubitably the AL MVP for the 2017 season.
And yes, I said MVP.
Judge was already going to hold off Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox for AL Rookie of the Year, but his numbers are too good to deny him of the MVP award, while his value to the Yankees’ organization goes well beyond the field of play.
I’ll start off with the statistics. Of players eligible to be league leaders, Judge leads the league in five major categories: home runs (48), runs scored (122), walks (119), slugging percentage (.610) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.026). Judge also sits in the top-three for RBI with 105 for the season and boasts a very respectable .281 batting average. He also has the second highest number of wins above replacement in the AL with 7.1, behind Jose Altuve’s 8.2. Yes, the 202 strikeouts and counting are a bit of an issue, but you cannot deny he’s had a fantastic season.
Additionally, Judge is now just two home runs away from breaking Mark McGwire’s 1987 rookie home run record of 49 home runs and could be the first to hit 50 home runs in the American League since Chris Davis hit 53 with the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.
A lot of people will point to Judge’s huge slump after the All-Star break as a knock against his case for MVP. For the first 46 games after his incredible home run show in Miami, he batted .176 with just seven home runs. But over the last 19 games, Judge has turned up the heat as he did in the first half of the season and is batting .317 with 11 home runs.
Few teams have a player with Judge’s capabilities when he’s hitting the way he is now. And perhaps most importantly, it is these kinds of performances from Judge that have reinvigorated the Yankees’ clubhouse this season. His presence – both physically and psychologically – gives his teammates and the fans a boosted spirit every time he steps up to bat. Even if a home run doesn’t come in a given at-bat, all rise for Judge just in case.
Judge’s likable personality, humble interviews and last name instantly made him a fan-favorite at Yankee Stadium. So much so that the Yankees gave him his own fan section called “The Judge’s Chambers,” located in right field.
Judge and the rest of the Yankees’ core of youth and talent have caused general manager Brian Cashman and other decision makers in the organization to speed up the rebuild to win-now mode. Most of that is a result of Judge and his stellar performances for much of the season.
If Judge wins both the MVP and presumably the Rookie of the Year, he would be only the third player to do so in the history of baseball, joining Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki in 1975 and 2001, respectively. In my opinion, his play has definitely warranted the honor of winning both and it would be quite a shock if anyone other than him or Altuve won. Perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout could be in consideration as well, but he missed a big chunk of the season that may ultimately cause the Los Angeles Angels to miss out on the last wildcard spot.
Ultimately, by due process, I think the voters will all rise and see that Aaron Judge has reigned supreme this year and declare him the American League MVP. The evidence is all there.