MLB not finished just yet

Now that the Houston Astros have claimed the first World Series title in franchise history, many baseball fans are turning their attention to the offseason and hot stove coverage as rumors begin to flow about big-name free agents and trade talk runs amok.

This can be a very hard time for fans of the diamond sport as on-the-field action and stat watching disappears until spring training in March.

However, the 2017 Major League Baseball season isn’t over just yet. Debate still swirls around the end-of-the-year awards due out any time now, especially the American and National League Most Valuable Player awards.

The consensus in many circles (and I agree with them) is the honor in the Junior Circuit (AL) falls between two big-impact players in Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve and New York Yankees’ right fielder Aaron Judge.

Many are eager to anoint Judge the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP after he burst on the scene with his jaw-dropping home runs and prodigious power. Fifty-plus homers and 114 runs-batted-in are nothing to blink an eye at if you are a voter, but can you ignore 208 strikeouts in 542 at-bats, 37 straight games with a strikeout, or where he went in the tank for a month-and-a-half from July to September after the all-star break?

We are talking only regular season here too … It doesn’t matter his team finished one game away from the World Series in the postseason.

“But Joe, he is only a rookie and will have those ups and downs over the course of a season.” Thank you Yankees’ fan for proving my point.

The word valuable in my opinion means unwavering greatness throughout the course of an entire season, which we just saw Judge didn’t do.

Altuve, on the other hand, tore the cover off the ball as the AL batting champion (.346 BA) and led the league in hits (204). Not to mention, he flashed a fair bit of power out of the leadoff spot with 67 extra-base hits (24 HRs) and 81 runs-batted-in. Plus, he performed the main task of a number two hitter by getting on base at a .410 OBP.

And he had a .982 fielding percentage with just 10 errors at a premium defensive position.

If this doesn’t convince you, I have one more thing to throw out at you. Altuve ranked among the most clutch hitters in the game this season, hitting .337 in high-leverage situations and .310 with runners in scoring position. Both figures well beyond Judge’s .211 and .259 marks in similar settings.

I rest my case … Next.

National League ballots are a little fuller, but again I can narrow my argument down to just two in the Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and Arizona Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton appeared to be a favorite for this award, but a September dry spell along with a .250 average with runners in scoring position cooked his fish.

Like the Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto, Stanton also didn’t have a meaningful at-bat once the Marlins fell out of the race toward the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Goldschmidt (36 HR, 120 RBI) and Arenado (35HR, 126 RBI) both had meaningful at-bats in September. This is where Arenado wins the award in my opinion as the two have nearly-identical offenive numbers. The Rockies third baseman not only was one of the game’s top defensive players, but he was crucial to Colorado nailing down a playoff spot in the last month of the campaign. His monthly OPS of .975 dwarved Goldschmidt’s figure of .663.

There you have it sports fans. When the votes come out next month, Jose Altuve and Nolan Arenado should be your 2017 MVPs.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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