By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
How nice it must be to be Judge Aaron. In a nod to young people MLB legend surname, Yankees worshipers don court robes at every household in the ultimate expression of fandom. This must give the superstar slugger the fuzzy hots.
And if seeing his personal fan club dressed identically at the ballpark doesn’t do it for Aaron, being right certainly should. From a gambling standpoint, Judge is the new favorite to win AL MVP at FOX Bet (+250).
The slugger refused a contract extension worth over $213 million Yankees because apparently he didn’t reach his magic number. So far, whatever that magic number, the NYY outfielder has proven to be worth every penny and more. Judge posted a five-home run lead over the rest of MLB for a quarter of the season.
And at this rate, he’s on course to have 64 home runs and 130 RBIs This year. Talk about knowing your worth.
But what is the verdict of the jury when it comes to betting on Judge to win the prize? Should we lock Aaron now, or should we consider investing that bet elsewhere?
Let’s dig into the data to see if the odds are really in his favor.
And here comes a shock. Using these metrics, Aaron Judge should actually have EVEN MORE homers than the 21 he’s hammered this season.
How is it possible? I’m glad you asked.
So the one thing that makes MLB particularly unique is that the playing conditions for each ballpark are different. Not only are exterior wall dimensions not uniform, but environmental conditions such as altitude, temperature, and wind can affect play disparately.
Statcast uses these variables to determine whether a flyout at one ballpark had been a home run at another and vice versa. This formula gives us the expected home runs (xHR). Although 50 games have already been played, not all schedules are equal. Ultimately, some batters had to play in pitcher-friendly baseball fields, which means they’re due for a slight uptick.
But back to our pinstripe guy who we could put AL MVP money on.
Currently, Judge has 23.4 xHR. This means he has 21 actual homers as he has had about two homers canceled due to where he has played so far this season. This negative differential ranks tenth in baseball, indicating that Judge is a hitter who is most likely to get even hotter on the plate.
Not only should Judge have more back and forths, but his lead in the home race should be even bigger as well. Pete Alonso ranks second in xHR with 15.4, but Judge’s five homer lead over Alonso should actually be closer to eight!
This Statcast approach can also classify all potential home runs as “probably” – balls that would be home runs in all 30 baseball diamonds. With three more than second place, Aaron Judge has 12 without a doubt.
If MVPs were awarded simply because of power shots, Aaron Judge would be the simple bet and likely with juicer odds. This is where fWAR comes in.
Often the player with the highest fWAR at the end of the season wins the MVP. While Judge leads the AL in fWAR (3.2), his lead is proportionately smaller over players like from boston Raphael Devers (also 3.2 fWAR) and from Cleveland Jose Ramirez (3.1).
There is an explanation for this discrepancy, and it could be because of the defense.
The Outs Above Average (OAA) statistic attempts to explain how many outs a defensive player has saved above average. Each ball hit is assigned a probability that an out will be recorded. For an outfielder, the variables include distance traveled and time taken to catch. These probabilities for the individual games are then added or subtracted depending on whether the game was made to the overall score. We can then add up the OAA of each defensive player to get a season total.
Judge, it turns out, was more than adequate defensively. Among all right-wingers, Judge ranks seventh with two OAAs. The other fWAR leaders play in different positions, and none of the top five have better defensive metrics. In fact, only the angels‘ Mike Trout has as many outings above average. And it’s worth noting that Trout plays center field, a position that offers more opportunities for a higher OAA.
How does he judge against these two other stallions?
His box score and Statcast numbers beat Trout’s. However, Ohtani is a wild card — in part because his pitch produced a ton of strikeouts. But even if you add his fWAR numbers for hitting and throwing, it still doesn’t match Judge’s.
With all of this evidence, there is clearly only one decision the jury can make. It’s time to bet on Judge to win MVP!
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