Aaron Judge is back to making hitting home runs look easy. In the last seven games, the Yankees rookie has hit seven more, breaking MLB’s rookie home run record and improving his season totals to .283/.418/.831 with 50 dingers, 108 RBI and 124 runs scored.
One month ago, people wondered if Judge would even hold on to Rookie of the Year. With less than a week remaining in the season, he’s not only locked up that accolade, but put himself squarely in the MVP conversation alongside Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
Altuve is still the favorite. But only slightly, according to Vegas odds. Entering Monday — when Judge jacked two more homers in a win over the Royals — Altuve held 11-9 odds while Judge sat close behind at 3-2.
Yes, Judge strikes out a ton and holds a record in that statistical category as well. But he’s caught up to Altuve with a 7.3 WAR, according to FanGraphs. He also leads Altuve with 167 wRC+ and 10 defensive runs saved. While Altuve has a huge lead in batting average and has his third batting third batting title in the last four seasons locked up, Judge has the edge in on-base percentage.
And then look at how both players have finished the season. Judge’s September numbers rival what he put up in May and June. With six games to go, he’s recorded 13 home runs, five doubles and 26 RBI while ending his slump emphatically with a .296 average. Altuve has been good but not exceptional, hitting .292/.403/.477. The final month of a season shouldn’t matter any more than any other month, but we’re dealing with human voters here. If you don’t think recency bias plays a role, just remember how quickly people questioned Judge’s seemingly unquestionable AL Rookie of the Year status when he hit his August slump.
Beyond the numbers, Judge has been an awe-inspiring presence. Check out all 50 of his bombs from the 2017 season:
This is 50.
— MLB (@MLB) September 25, 2017
The Astros cruised to the AL West title while the Yankees will settle for the first Wild Card spot. That could go both ways for Altuve. He was the best player on the better team, but maybe his team still could’ve won its division without him. Without Judge, the Yankees would be clawing for a playoff spot rather than comfortably prepping for a home postseason game next week.
Either way you cut it, Altuve is a great candidate. But, statistically, Judge holds the edge. Barring one last slump, that’s not changing.