It’s not really a shock, given that Astros second baseman Jose Altuve finished last season with 6.7 WAR and has been putting up ridiculous statistics for years now, but the little guy is currently your MVP frontrunner.
Altuve has 5.5 WAR on the season, and he now leads the league in that category after squeezing past the biggest dinger boy, Aaron Judge. Altuve went 4-for-4 in a win over the Phillies last night, and he’s hitting (take a deep breath) .507 in July. In those 17 games he’s got four homers, seven doubles, seven steals, and a 1.314 OPS.
His numbers don’t get any less absurd when you zoom out a bit. His season slash line is at .365/.431/.574, he’s on pace to lead the league in hits for the fourth consecutive season, and he’s already got 15 homers (his career high came last year, when he hit 24). He’s only getting stronger as the season goes on:
The Mike Trout Era has warped the game in many ways, one of them being that there’s really no sense in having any conversation about who is the best player in baseball. I imagine this wears on his contemporaries (just ask Joey Votto), particularly those who play in the AL and begin every season knowing that the MVP award is more or less Trout’s to lose. So if there’s any silver lining to the fact that Trout spent a few weeks on the DL this season, it’s that it opened up the MVP race to all challengers. Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, and Jose Altuve are all right there.
Altuve is the guy to root for. Judge winning the award during a rookie season in which he became a genuine sensation feels gluttonous; Betts is just 24 and will always have the size and prestige of his market to boost future campaigns. Altuve, on the other hand, is 27 and has earned just under $14 million in his career despite playing at a Hall-of-Fame level for most of it. He finished third in MVP voting last year, and barring further injuries to Trout, he’s probably in for many more second- and third-place finishes. A player this good and this entertaining deserves to finish at least one season atop the podium. Let this one be it.