Major League Baseball Midseason Awards: American League
By Joe Smeltzer
MVP: Jose Altuve
Stats (As of 7/29): 6.2 BWar, .369 Average, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 21 SB, .433 OBP, .585 SLG, 181 OPS+, .428 WOBA, 176 WRC+
The best player in baseball is Michael Nelson Trout. If not for missing several weeks with a thumb injury, Trout would probably be in line to win his third MVP Award. But injuries happen, and because Trout got hurt, a door has opened for Altuve to win his first such trophy.
Over the past five years, Altuve has gone from one of baseball’s most underrated players to one of its best, and he keeps getting better as the years roll on. When you look at Altuve’s stat line, the number that will jump out to the casual fan is his .369 batting average. Over the course of his career, however, Altuve has become more than a guy who can hit for a high average. He is on pace to hit 20+ homers for the second year in a row, as well as finish with an On-base percentage above .400 and an OPS over 1.000 for the first time. These feats will officially destroy any idea of Altuve being just a high average, Punch and Judy hitter.
Perhaps the stat that is most telling of how much better Altuve is than he was a few years ago is his WRC+. In 2015, Altuve’s WRC+ was a respectable, but not eye-popping 123 (the league average is 100). Last season, it spiked to 150. So far in 2017, it is a career best 176, which is just five points behind the power hitting Judge.
With respect to Judge and Trout, in 2017, Altuve is putting together the finest season in the American League. It also doesn’t hurt that he is the best player on the AL’s best team.