Judge still has enough buzz in the MVP discussion

Aaron Judge hit his 37th home run on Wednesday, a shot that landed on one of those car-repair shops that line the streets outside Citi Field:

The official measurement was 457 feet, which seems about right, give or take a couple of city blocks. New York Yankees players weren’t buying 457 either.

“Five hundred thirty feet. That’s what I told everybody,” Didi Gregorius told ESPN’s Mark Simon after the game. “I said it on ESPN too. They said 450. There’s no chance. That’s one of the furthest, I think.”

Jaime Garcia added, “Somebody said that was 457. I don’t buy that. I feel like it was 550. It looked like it.”

Chase Headley was more succinct. “If that ball only went 450, no ball’s going 500,” he said. “That ball was crushed.”

(MLB Network must have received a barrage of complaints on the distance because it felt compelled to explain that Judge’s home run was such a moon shot with a high degree of launch angle that it was coming straight down when it landed rather than flying more horizontally.)

You know, Judge’s second-half slide — he’s hitting .185 with seven home runs in 31 games — means he’s no longer the clear MVP front-runner. But he still has a strong case considering he leads the American League in home runs, runs and OPS while ranking second in on-base percentage and fifth in RBIs.

Consider this as well: The MVP award is basically about three areas: numbers, whether your team makes the playoffs and the buzz factor. Home runs like his blast in the 5-3 win over the New York Mets means Judge remains a topic of conversation.

I was reminded of the importance of this buzz factor in reading this Joe Posnanski column about Kris Bryant. Mike Petriello, the excellent analyst at MLB.com, had tweeted out a line comparing Bryant’s 2017 woBA to his 2016 woBA. It’s the same! Except last year, Bryant won the MVP award in a near-unanimous landslide. And this year, nobody is talking about him as a potential MVP. As Posnanski wrote:

But now we are getting to the heart of what wOBA does and what it does not do. It shows — in superb ways, I think — a player’s offensive value. But it does not measure (and does not want to measure) what you might call: Buzz. A year ago, Kris Bryant had numerous memorable hits in what was a dazzling season for his team. This year, Kris Bryant is hitting .223 with runners in scoring position in a Cubs season that has felt shockingly lethargic.

Bryant also is hitting under .200 in “late and close” situations, so there are other reasons he hasn’t generated much buzz. Plus, there are more players having great seasons in the National League compared to 2016 (although Bryce Harper‘s injury probably eliminated one MVP candidate).

Voters do a much better job than two decades ago, but in a close race, buzz can be a tiebreaker. It’s how Josh Donaldson beat Mike Trout in 2015, when the Blue Jays had the big surge in August with Donaldson having a monster month. In 2011, Justin Verlander became the first pitcher to win MVP honors since 1992 over Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Bautista largely because he generated more buzz throughout the season. It felt like the season of Verlander.

Jose Altuve and Chris Sale probably have better statistical arguments than Judge this year, but I’m not sure they beat him in buzz factor (although Sale does seem to be gaining). The Astros have had the AL West locked up for so long that we might not talk much about Altuve the final two months. Judge has a chance to remain in the spotlight as the Yankees fight for a playoff spot and division title.

In the NL, the statistical edge probably goes to Paul Goldschmidt or Max Scherzer, but Goldschmidt seems to trail Harper, Nolan Arenado, perhaps Scherzer and maybe even Giancarlo Stanton or Joey Votto in buzz. Now, by the end of the season, his numbers might show he’s clearly the deserving winner and it won’t matter, but it could be a factor.

Anyway, Judge will have to break out of this tailspin to keep up with Altuve and Sale. Maybe he’ll even hit a home run longer than 457 feet.

The Cardinals suffer a terrible, horrible defeat. So many things happened in the ninth inning of Boston’s 5-4 win. Let’s recap:

1. Trevor Rosenthal starts the ninth with a 4-2 lead. Xander Bogaerts homers off a 91 mph fastball and Mitch Moreland walks. Matheny senses something is wrong and takes out Rosenthal (although he was back to 96 against Moreland).

2. Zach Duke strikes out Brock Holt, but walks Jackie Bradley Jr. Enter John Brebbia.

3. With Brebbia pitching to Eduardo Nunez, plate umpire Chris Segal calls time. Yadier Molina and Matheny go crazy and start saying some very bad words. Matheny gets tossed. Quick thoughts here. Brebbia was taking forever to pitch to Nunez. Segal had been questioned the whole game, so the Cardinals already were in a bad mood. He’s also a minor league call-up, which doesn’t help (he has umpired occasional games in the majors since 2014). Mostly though, it’s viewed as a breach of etiquette for the umpire to call time, especially in that moment:

4. Nunez pops out, but Mookie Betts would hit a two-run, two-out walk-off double off the Green Monster.

All that happened … but the play of the game came in the second inning when this happened:

You saw that right. Tommy Pham singled and Matt Carpenter gets thrown out on Bradley’s laser beam. Credit Bradley for an amazing throw, but it’s also hard to tell if Carpenter was running hard the entire way. His look says, “Crap, I wasn’t expecting that.” No matter how you slice and dice it, that’s bad baserunning, even if he wasn’t sure whether Bradley would catch it.

The Dodgers win, because they’re the Dodgers. The Dodgers were down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, after an unimpressive game from Yu Darvish (three home runs and only two K’s in six innings). Twenty-two pitches later, they won 5-4 on Yasiel Puig‘s two-run double into the left-center gap. Puig fouled off two pitches with two strikes before drilling the winning hit. The Dodgers are now 50-9 since June 7, on pace for 116 wins and every night it seems there’s a different hero.

Should Buck Showalter have hit for Chris Davis? Wild ending in the ninth inning between the Mariners and Orioles. Edwin Diaz entered with a 7-4 lead, but he was wild, walking guys and hitting guys, and suddenly it was 7-6 and the bases were loaded with two outs. (Leonys Martin had helped save the day with a tremendous diving catch in right field.) Davis was up and Scott Servais pulled his closer for Marc Rzepczynski.

Now, Rzepczynski is in the majors for one reason: to get out left-handed batters. He has allowed a .400 OBP against righties the past two seasons. Even eliminating the intentional walks, he’s not good against righties. He’s a LOOGY in the absolute truest definition of the word. Davis bats left-handed. He’s better against righties. Adam Jones happened to be on the bench, available as a pinch hitter.

Showalter didn’t call on Jones. I get it: Chris Davis is making a gazillion dollars and you don’t hit for him. Showalter clearly had a better option on the bench and the Mariners couldn’t pull Rzepczynski because he has to face one batter, and he couldn’t walk Jones if he had pinch-hit because the bases were loaded. Jones remained on the bench. Davis struck out on three pitches. Orioles Twitter was angry.

Box score of the season. The Mets were down to two infielders due to injury (don’t get me going on roster construction), so catcher Travis d’Arnaud started at third base. Except Terry Collins was alternating him between third and second with Asdrubal Cabrera depending on whether a lefty or righty was at the plate. Which gave us this:

Best first pitch of the season. Presented without comment:

Adrian Beltre gif of the night. Elvis Andrus and Beltre should get their own reality TV show in retirement. The whole show will consist of Andrus trying to touch Beltre’s head:

Oh, and Joey Gallo homered again, the Rangers beat the Tigers, and now Texas is just a game under .500, which means they’re right in the middle of The Race That Shall Not Be Named.

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