Deep Dive: Yordan Alvarez takes advantage of Aaron Judge slump to challenge in MVP chase

Still considered the favorite to win the American League MVP, Aaron Judge may not want to look in his rearview mirror as the race has tightened.

For much of the early season, it was a forgone conclusion that Aaron Judge was headed for the American League MVP.

Through April, May and most of June the Yankees slugger was tearing pitchers apart slashing .304/.379/.658 on his way to 27 home runs, 53 RBI, 187 wRC+ and a 4.0 WAR through his first 299 plate appearances.

Then it all changed.  Since June 24 Judge, covering 45 plate appearances, Judge is slashing .128/.227/.308 with 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 54 wRC+ and a -0.1 WAR.

Major League seasons are long and there are bound to be struggles at some point, it’s just a matter of how long and how bad they are.

So far, Judge’s has lasted two weeks and has allowed a young Cuban slugger from the Astros to place himself squarely in contention for the award that was once believed to be all but sewn up.

Alvarez has been a marvel in consistency over the season, finishing no month lower than a .260 batting average (May), then blasting his way to a slash of .418/.510/.835 in June, while early July finds Alvarez slugging .733 for the month.

What’s made the difference for Alvarez this season? He’s  cut down on his strikeouts, which make him difficult to get out.

No hitter with 20 or more home runs this season has fewer strikeouts than Álvarez. He is one of eight qualified AL batters with more runs scored than strikeouts. It’s impressive stuff — and it just keeps getting better.

In short, Alvarez hits for average, power and doesn’t strike out, something Judge struggles with.

As the All-Star break approaches Judge is at .281/.360/.612 with an wRC+ of 170 and a 3.9 WAR. And Alvarez? .313/.413/.633, 203 wRC+ and 3.9 WAR.

Astros: Has Yordan Alvarez jumped Aaron Judge for AL MVP?

Alvarez has clearly been the better offensive player over the season, but Judge is certainly no slouch defensively whether in center or right field.

While Judge has only 11 games at DH, Alvarez has 38 at DH only  32 starts in left field, limiting any help either via WAR or the eye test for what the MVP looks like in 2022.

That’s not trivial, as no primary DH not named Shohei Ohtani has won the MVP.

Alvarez has improved in the field, though.  Just ask  Hunter Dozier.

Will his part-time duty in left be enough to push Alvarez past Judge? Judge has to be considered the favorite, after all, he plays in the biggest media market in the world, for a very good team that gets more attention than any and he’s very good at baseball.

Down in Houston, though, there’s someone who may have a thing or two to say about who takes that MVP trophy home.

No matter how much they try, Alvarez is having a season that can’t be ignored.