Roughly a month ago I declared that Aaron Fucking Judge was running away with the AL MVP award. At the time Judge's numbers pretty much made the case for him. He was leading the American League in nearly everything and there weren't any notable competitors to challenge him. Mike Trout was injured. Mookie Betts and Franky Lindor were both playing well, but neither were playing great. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa (and maybe George Springer) figured to all take votes away from each other. That left Judge, who in addition to having the best stats also had the benefit of being THE STORY of the 2017 baseball season.
However, a few things have happened since I wrote that blog. First off, Judge hasn't been all that good lately. Since the All-Star break the rookie is batting just .178 with a .342 slugging percentage and a 74 wRC+. None of that is good. His 5.2 WAR according to Baseball-Reference now rank third in the AL, which is still good, but he's no longer the runaway favorite.
The second thing that happened was Altuve caught absolute fire in July. The 27-year-old hit an absurd .485 (!!!!!!) with a 1.250 OPS for the month. This marked the highest single month batting average for any MLB player since Pudge Rodriguez hit .500 in June of 2004. For the year Altuve now leads baseball with a .361 average to go along with 16 homers, 24 stolen bases, and a .991 OPS. Those are crazy numbers for a second baseman. The last two second basemen to finish a season with an OPS over 1.000 (Jeff Kent, Joe Morgan) both won MVP. Altuve is close to that. Oh, and he now leads everyone this year with 6.2 WAR.
Additionally, Altuve no longer has as much competition coming from his own team. Correa and Springer are both out with injuries right now, which could help pave the path for Altuve to be honored for being the best player on the best team. You could argue he was already the best player on the best team, but when voters have multiple superstar teammates to choose from it makes things difficult. It's the reason Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz never won an MVP during their primes.
This isn't to say the MVP race is a rap. Altuve won't hit .485 in a single month again, and it's likely he doesn't finish the season with a .361 average (nobody has been above .350 since Josh Hamilton in 2010). Judge likely won't continue to be this bad either. Come September the gap in WAR between the two probably won't be as large as it is now. There will also undoubtedly be people who argue that while Trout missed a third of the season, he played the best when healthy. I get it, but that won't fly with me this year when there's other deserving candidates. Betts and Lindor might make cases too, but right now the AL MVP race is between one of the biggest players in baseball and one of the smallest. As of today the smallest is winning.