Judge, Ohtani, and MVP Criteria

Fun fact: In 2022, the Yankees have a better winning percentage in games that Joey Gallo played in than in games Aaron Judge has played in – actually, they have a better winning percentage in games Judge hasn’t played in than in ones he has.

My point? The number of variables that determine whether a team wins or loses is countless, so assigning team success or blame to one individual is beyond silly.

To wit:

If the season ended today and you’d say that Judge should be the AL MVP over Shohei Ohtani, I’d agree 100 percent. To me, Judge has been a better player in 2022 – period. And although I find the highly predictable “It’s the most valuable player, not the best player” retorts tiresome (uh…the most impactful manner in which to provide value to your team is to be the best player – I mean, what are we even talking about?) I’ll play along…

The pro-Ohtani gang likes to point out that because he can pitch and hit, he saves the Angels a roster spot that they can fill with another valuable player, and that bonus value can’t be measured. That’s a fair point and certainly should be weighed in addition to Ohtani’s absurd levels of production.

However…

I can say that Judge successfully moving to center field for more than half of his defensive games had a huge ripple effect on the Yankees that also can’t be accurately measured. Considering the offensive struggles of Gallo and Aaron Hicks this season, Judge moving to center allowed Aaron Boone to put Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Carpenter in right field a combined 46 times, which needless to say, was a massive upgrade over Gallo and Hicks.

Furthermore, even prior to Carpenter’s acquisition, the DH spot being occupied daily by Stanton would result in a good player having to sit every single day. With only three fielding positions available for DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Rizzo, and Josh Donaldson, one of them would have to be benched daily – unless, Stanton can get into the outfield – and Stanton could because Judge could play center field.

All of the above Judge vs. Ohtani talking points are reasonable debates. What is not a reasonable talking point is that Judge should be the AL MVP because the Yankees are a better team than the Angels. The intangible positives of both players are not insignificant, but we’re only talking about a few wins over 162 games – maybe.

Do you know what’s worth far more than a few wins? DJ returning to be the monster that he was in 2019-20. Jose Trevino becoming an All-Star catcher. Anthony Rizzo, Nestor Cortes, Jameson Taillon, and Torres all being significantly better than they were in 2021. Matt Carpenter being the best damn hitter in baseball after his acquisition in May.

And absolutely none of those things has anything to do with Aaron Judge. Don’t penalize Ohtani because Judge was a beneficiary of things he didn’t control, while Ohtani bears the brunt of being around uselessness.

All of this comes with the enormous caveat that this discussion is taking place on August 19th – many things can change between now and the season’s end. That said, if the season ended today, Aaron Judge should be the AL MVP. He’s been the best player and he’s clearly added value beyond numbers as well – it’s not “because the Yankees are good and the Angles are awful”.

Did I miss something? Let me know. Leave a comment below or yell at me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter and/or the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.

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