Is Yordan Álvarez the American League’s MVP?
With Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge grabbing headlines in the American League, Yordan Álvarez is overlooked in the MVP debate outside of Houston
Top of the eighth, bases loaded, one out. The Kansas City Royals are knocking on the door in Houston, trailing by 6-8, but looking to flip that with any ball through the infield. Nicky Lopez does exactly what he needs to do, smacking a deep fly ball to left, backing up Yordan Álvarez to just a step in front of the warning track. Tagging at third, Hunter Dozier looks to score on a fairly routine sacrifice fly.
But then Álvarez showed off a gun to accompany the hitting power that he packs, putting a long, no-hop throw directly on the money for the tag out at home. A spectacular play by any standards, more so when it is made by one of the great names on the American League champion Astros lineup. And therein lies the rub.
Yordan Álvarez is a superstar, every bit the full package, surely a hot pick for MVP. Seen around the league as a designated hitter only, he is often dismissed as a one-trick-pony outside of Space City when discussing the American League award. Critics will point to the two-way threat of Shohei Ohtani, who is a marvellous, once in a generation, perhaps even once in several generations, talent. Or they look at Aaron Judge, who is monstrously huge and dominates the plate in New York.
Ohtani is perhaps even better than he was last year, when he walked away with the league’s nod for the award, but the Angels are much worse. Barring an almost miraculous turnaround, there is a vanishingly slim chance of the Angels making the post season (sorry Halos fans, but it is a very steep hill to climb).
And while it is clear that Judge is the home run leader at this point in the season, there is always an asterisk next to Yankee Stadium as it skews these figures as one of the shortest porches in baseball combined with the angle of the prevailing winds make it a true hitter’s paradise.
Álvarez, on the other hand, is a key element to the Astros success. And make no mistake about it, the Astros will be in the World Series again this year. The Yankees are flying along at the moment, scoring at will and holding opponents with solid pitching. But Houston is just behind them in the stats and are just getting warmed up.
The MVP award is multi-faceted. Voted for by the Baseball Writers Association of America, it is often a popularity contest amongst journalists. But one of the key elements in the name “most valuable player” should be “value”. If your team finishes dead last, even a hall-of-famer is of little value to them or their season.
When Álvarez stepped to the plate in the bottom half of the eighth, minutes after making that spectacular throw, the home crowd was already stating the case for their man, chanting “MVP! MVP! MVP!” Yordan did not disappoint them, banging his 25th homer of the season just to the east of the Crawford Box.
Asked after the game how he felt about the fans calling him the MVP, Álvarez said, “It felt exciting that the fanbase is calling for that, so it definitely felt good.” He continued, “Houston are one of the best fan bases in baseball.”
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman agrees, saying “That’s what great players like Yordan do on both sides of the ball. Just a huge play defensively and then comes up and adds some insurance.”
“He has an extremely good arm and he’s very accurate. At first, I was like, ‘Oh, he overthrew me,’ and then I was like, ‘Oh, out.’ No, I didn’t think we had a chance and then all of a sudden, he’s out.”
At the plate, Yordan Álvarez leads MLB in both OPS (1.076) and slugging (.663) and his 25 homers place him in second behind Aaron Judge’s 29.
When it comes to adding value to a team, nobody adds more than Yordan Álvarez adds to the Houston Astros.