Judge, Goldy slug their way to 1st MVP Awards

November 18th, 2022

Much like when gets a hold of one, there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome of this year’s American League Most Valuable Player voting. The real intrigue rested in the Senior Circuit, where co-Cardinals candidates and Nolan Arenado and Padres third baseman Manny Machado all mounted strong cases as the National League’s standout star.

Ultimately, it is Goldschmidt who stands with Judge as a 2022 MVP after the Baseball Writers’ Association of America revealed the results on MLB Network on Thursday night. Both were first-time winners of the award.

“I think it was my best season,” Goldschmidt said on MLB Network on Thursday. “Who know what that means? Other guys had great years, too.

“I had a year or two in Arizona that were really good, but even last year -- 2021 with St. Louis -- I thought that could have been my best year even though those numbers weren’t quite as good as earlier,” Goldschmidt added.

Judge, meanwhile, now officially has the game’s most lofty individual honor to add to his free-agent profile. The big man who placed a big bet on himself in turning down the Yankees’ $213.5 million extension offer at the start of the year wound up with a season for the ages, breaking Roger Maris’ single-season AL home run record with 62 and finishing just five batting average points shy of the Triple Crown.

"It's tough to put into words, it's an incredible moment," Judge said on MLB Network just seconds after he was named MVP. "A lot of hard work throughout the years to get to this point."

Though Judge’s juxtaposition against reigning AL MVP and two-way unicorn Shohei Ohtani inspired plenty of healthy debate in the season’s second half, he unsurprisingly owned the AL balloting. Judge received 28 of 30 first-place votes and 410 voting points to Ohtani’s two first-place votes and 280 points. Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez finished third (232 points).

Only the most outrageous output could take down Ohtani, who once again put together a jaw-dropping campaign in which both his offense and pitching performance were of an All-Star caliber. And Judge’s season, in which he hit 16 more homers than anybody else in MLB, certainly qualified. As a result, Judge’s win marks the 21st time (and the first time since Alex Rodriguez in 2007) that a Yankees player has been honored as MVP -- the most of any team.

Giancarlo Stanton, Judge's slugging teammate, announced Judge as the winner. Stanton himself was the NL MVP in 2017 after he launched 59 homers.

"I'm so happy for you," Stanton told Judge. "Just being able to watch you front and center all year, and seeing everything it took -- the good days, the bad days. I'm just happy I was able to be a part of it. You're incredible. Enjoy this moment. It's going to last forever."

The team with the second-most MVPs? That would be the Cardinals, who now have their 18th all-time in Goldschmidt.

It was a closer vote in the NL. Goldschmidt, who was an MVP runner-up twice (2013, 2015) and finished third in 2017 before finally winning the honor, claimed 22 of 30 first-place votes for a total of 380 points. Machado (seven first-place votes) finished second at 291 points. Arenado (one first-place vote) finished third at 232 points.

Albert Pujols, the previous MVP winner for the Cardinals in 2009, announced Goldschmidt as the winner after he brought to a close one of the greatest careers in MLB history with a flourish, crossing the 700-home run mark by smashing 24 in his final big league season.

"Pauly, the work ethic and the way he goes about it day in and day out, he's a great teammate," Pujols said. "He's not just a great teammate, but he's a great person, a great ambassador in this game."

Goldschmidt earned the MVP by having the best season of his career -- in his age-34 year, no less, making him the ninth-oldest player to win an MVP. Goldschmidt not only led the NL but set a career-best in slugging percentage (.578). He also led the league in OPS (.981) and weighted runs created plus (177) and was critical in the Cards claiming the top spot in the NL Central.

“For me, I think that was my best year, even if you take out my age,” Goldschmidt said. “When you start getting older, you’re thinking, ‘Man, can I replicate what I did in my quote/unquote ‘prime?’ I thought in 2021, I can definitely do that if I can keep it going for the year and I thought physically I can do it and mentally there’s no reason why I can’t keep it going.

“Factor [age] in and I’m more proud of what I was able to do in 2022 and even 2021,” he added. “Even if you take out age -- and I’d have to look at the stats because I didn’t dive into them -- but I think the way I played was the best.”

Of course, Goldschmidt had stiff competition on his own team for the MVP. He beat out Arenado, whose second season with the club saw him sport a .293/.358/.533 slash with 30 homers while earning his 10th consecutive Gold Glove at the hot corner. The Cardinals had made trades for Goldschmidt (prior to 2019) and Arenado (prior to 2021) in the hope that they could solidify the middle of the lineup. In 2022, they both finished as finalists for the MVP, and Arenado’s recent decision not to opt out of his contract with the club ensures they’ll remain corner-infield cornerstones next season.

"I don't look too far ahead -- I just want to try to be good next year," Goldschmidt said.  "And if I can do that, I'll try to do the same the year after that. I think definitely as you age, you have to adapt. And that's some of what I've tried to do, get ahead of it. You can't just do the same thing you did the year before.  ... I want to find a way to still be a great player and perform and try to win."

Machado had an equally strong MVP case, leading the NL in FanGraphs’ WAR (7.4) while slashing .298/.366/.531 with 32 homers for a Padres team absent Fernando Tatis Jr.

The NL had a deep field of potential MVPs that, beyond the three ultimate finalists, included the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts, the Mets’ Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor, the Braves’ Austin Riley and others.

It was, in other words, a complicated ballot.

Judge’s case was much clearer. It wasn’t just that he captured the attention and imagination of the sporting world, at large, by chasing down the ghosts of two other pinstriped right fielders -- Maris and Babe Ruth. And it wasn’t just that his homer total so far exceeded the norm in a year in which the long ball was suppressed leaguewide. It was that he almost personally assured the Yankees the top spot in the AL East by maintaining his absurd run production while the rest of the team had a sluggish second half.

That all combined to give Judge, who was the Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up in the AL in 2017, an obvious path to MVP. Ohtani’s continued maximization of his unique skillset figures to make him a force in this vote for the foreseeable future. This season, though, belonged to Judge.

The 6-foot-7, 282-pound native of Linden, Calif., towered over the opposition, figuratively and literally, to become the tallest MVP ever.

Judge led the Majors in homers, RBIs (131), OPS (1.111), OPS+ (211), total bases (391) and runs scored (133). He didn’t just clobber baseballs; he also knew when to let them pass, with a 15.9% walk rate that ranked in the top 1% in MLB and a 22.9% chase rate that ranked in the 83rd percentile. He knew how to trot around the bases, and he knew how to steal them, with 16 swipes. And for a Yankees team that spent much of the year in need of a center fielder, he ably handled that demanding defensive position before shifting back to right and finishing in the 85th percentile in Outs Above Average.

"I was trying to grind out the year all year," Judge said. "I was focused on trying to win games for the Yankees and doing whatever I can for that game tonight and win and wake up and do the same thing the next day. ... It wasn't really until the past couple weeks where I could sit down and reflect on the year and see how good it was."

With this award out of the way, our attention turns fully now to a fascinating free agency. Judge’s MVP is secure, and his NL counterpart is known. The only question is where he’ll be playing in 2023.