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2017 BBWAA Awards: American League MVP – Most Valuable José

The Most Valuable Player is an award that draws the most controversy, the most scrutiny, and the most hometown fanaticism. If you live in Cleveland, Lebron James is the MVP, if you live in Houston it’s James Harden, or New Yorkers its Kristaps Porzingis, who got a few write-in votes in the New York City Mayoral Election last week.

Jose Altuve by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2017 BBWAA Awards: American League MVP – Most Valuable José

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

The Most Valuable Player is an award that draws the most controversy, the most scrutiny, and the most hometown fanaticism. If you live in Cleveland, Lebron James is the MVP, if you live in Houston it’s James Harden, or New Yorkers its Kristaps Porzingis, who got a few write-in votes in the New York City Mayoral Election last week.

We’ve all joined in an MVP chant in our lives. Don’t deny it. I once chanted MVP at Dillon Gee after he got a big strikeout. Dillon Gee: Most Valuable Nothing.  Regardless, the MVP is handed out to the best player in the league and for the first time in a long time, it cannot go to the best player with the last name Trout.

Jose Ramirez

107 R, 29 HR, 83 RBI, 17 SB

Triple Slash: .318/.374/.583

OPS – .957, WAR – 6.8

Helmets Kept on Head – ZERO

This is the biggest surprise of all of these awards, including surping players who didn’t make the cut. Don’t get me wrong, Jose Ramirez had a very good season, but to call him the third best player in the league seems like a bit of a stretch.

At first look, it would seem that Ramirez’s numbers were greatly influenced by the players surrounding him. That’s not something you can say about the other 3 AL finalists… or even the other 3 NL finalists either. Ramirez is the only player who spent the majority of the season hitting below the cleanup spot this season. When batting 5th, Ramirez put up a .295 average, a .893 OPS with a .299 Batting Averag on Balls in Play. All of those numbers sound lovely, until you look at his 3-spot numbers.

From the 3-spot in the order, Ramirez was hitting .370, with and OPS of  1.155. For those of you who are whispering to yourselves “That’s gotta be a small sample size,” I am here to tell you that it’s not. That over 55 games this season. So that’s not terrible. However, I would still argue that the players around Ramirez made him better.

José Ramirez is this years Daniel Murphy. Here comes a guy who saw an uptick in his slugging numbers from the last year, but that’s about it. Who would you rather face on the Indians? Edwin Encarnacion or José Ramirez? The answer now, after the season EE had is pitching to Encarnacion, but even then that’s still not a great option. The Indians were stacked to the gills with talent, and right smack dab in the center of it was Ramirez. Take one of those other bats away and you have a completely different story.

Why would the Indians move Ramirez out of the 5th spot, a position he had been thriving in for the past two years? To offer EE some protection. With Edwin seeing better pitches, the more Ramirez came across the plate, this accounts for the 15 times EE knocked him in, the second most of any other teammate besides Lonnie Chisenhall.

I’m not trying to discredit the impeccable 2017 performance of Ramirez, I just think we should be applauding Terry Francona for setting his lineup in a way that boosts slumping players. Ramirez had an amazing season, but he was shielded by the other power players on the Cleveland roster.

Aaron Judge

128 R, 52 HR, 114 RBI, 9 SB

Triple Slash: .284/.422/.627

OPS – 1.049, WAR – 8.1


Alright. Aaron Judge had a hell of s season. Setting the record for most consecutive games with a  strikeout, setting the record for homers in a Rookie season both for the Yankees Organization and Major League Baseball and now being named the American League Rookie of  the Year. Plus, he was able to stop by Kinky Boots with his mom. It’s unclear which one of these accomplishment tops the list.

To say that Aaron Judge was an important piece of the Yankees successful 2017 campaign is like saying that that water is an important piece of the success of rain. Without Aaron Judge, there is not ALCS with the Yankees. Flat out. This kid was the guy in the Bronx.

Strikeouts aside, the kid can hit. Out of the top 10 hardest hit balls, 6 of them came off the bat of Judge, 4 of those 6 being homers. Judge also owns the longest home run of the year with a 495-foot blast off of Logan Verrett. The top Exit Velocity from 2017 was 95.3 MPH, which is the average speed a ball come off the bat of Aaron Judge. This kid is the epitome of hard hitting. The closest player for 95.3 MPH was Joey Gallo at 94.0 MPH. Judge has it by a whole MPH and then some.

If there’s one hole in his game it’s the strikeouts. In the regular season, 70% of Judge’s league-leading 208 Ks were swinging strikeouts. Complete whiffs. The other 30% were on called strikes. For the kid’s first year in the league, I am not worried about his issues seeing pitches. Across the board, minor leaguers are having issues with pitch recognition. Seriously. All of these young players have a serious learning what to look for an how to decipher major league pitching. The good news for Yankees fans is this: the kid’s gonna get better. He’s literally has a track record of doing so. During his 2016 September call-up, Judge was hitting sub-.200. The potential looked limited, and now here we are, talking about him as an MVP candidate. Not a bad year for the kid.

Jose Altuve

112 R, 24 HR, 81 RBI, 32 SB

Triple Slash: .346/.410/.547

OPS – .957, WAR – 8.3


*-More to come…

José Altuve is the shortest baseball player in the Majors. In fact, he’s one of the smallest players to ever play the game. His official height is listed at 5’6″, but most players and scouts know his true height to be 5’5″. Being short doesn’t hinder Altuve’s game, not at all, it enhances it.

A lot of people will talk about a pitchers ability to command the zone, or their ability to expand it. When you see pitchers throwing to the corners, missing by inches, what they’re actually doing is stretching the zone. If an umpire calls a close pitch a strike, the pitcher and the catcher can lock that in as a strike. So you keep going to that location to get a borderline strike call that is going your way. Slowly, you’ll see the pitcher testing the waters of how far out of the zone they can get that call. eventually, they’ll find the limit and you know how much room you have to play with.

It’s a huge advantage to a pitcher in a battle dictated by inches. A Batter is only going experience a few at-bats and then take clues from every other hitter on his team. A lot of the time it’s a “see it for yourself” situation. Ever wonder why most batters seem combative so quickly after calls go the pitcher’s way? That’s because everyone has been talking about it, but now it’s become egregious.

Altuve, on the other hand, doesn’t have that factor. With his size, Altuve is able to force pitchers to come to his zone. Most pitchers try and find the bottom of the zone first, attempting to see how low the zone goes, or even how low Altuve is willing to go on a pitch in the deep in the zone. Let’s say for example that the Pitcher gets that call and we’re in a 0-1 count. Next pitch? He’ll possibly test the top of the zone on the next pitch. Misses high and it’s now 1-1. Altuve is still in the driver’s seat and now with the count even, the pitcher is gonna try to get ahead, so he goes for where he thinks the strike zone exists, which is right where Altuve wants it.

From the first pitch to the last, Altuve has been in control of this at-bat. He knows where his zone is, but it’s up to the pitcher to come to him. A borderline pitch to Aaron Judge or any other professional player with height for that matter is going to be a ball to Altuve, plain and simple. Altuve holds the at-bat in his hand. This is a guy who controls his game and the game around him. He’s got it all.

So Who Wins?

Altuve. It’s Altuve. If it’s not Altuve, I’ll buy a Yankees hat and wear it all next season. Coming from a Red Sox/Mets fan, you know that’s a strong gut feeling I have to risk debasing myself and losing the respect of my friends and family. That being said, I LOVE AARON JUDGE. When I was lucky enough to meet him after a performance of Kinky Boots, I straight up told him, “I am so glad I live in the city where the league’s best young player plays.” He smiled and said “thank you that means lot.” I promptly died due to the immense insanity of meeting Aaron Judge and his mother, who is the absolute nicest.

Altuve has done the incredible. He’s competing at the highest level, overcoming insane odds to get where he is today. He narrowly missed out last year, and this year he’s earned every ounce of that MVP award and the ring he led the Astros to in 2017.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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