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Can Aaron Judge repeat as MVP?

Yankees outfielder superstar Aaron Judge has been on a tear since returning to the lineup following a brief stint on the injured list. MLB announced on Friday that he was the American League Player of the Month of May; in 21 games played, Judge performed with a .342/.474/.882 slashline accompanied by 12 home runs and a 1.356 OPS- all incredible, league-leading numbers. Reading over this, you may be thinking he’s in a prime position to win MVP- again. While it’s only May, and far too early to make definitive predictions, it’s not outlandish to name the current frontrunners. While Judge certainly is the AL frontrunner, back-to-back MVP titles are tough to come by. It’s only happened 13 times, and Judge would be only the fourth Yankee to achieve the feat. Can we use the three previous Yankee back-to-backs to say what Judge has to do to join them?

Yogi Berra (1954 and 1955)

The 10x World Series champion won 3 MVP titles, in ‘51, ‘54, and ‘55, and his 10 World Series is a major league record among all players. Between Berra’s back-to-back MVP titles, in ‘54 and ‘55, he slashed .290/.358/.479, hit 49 home runs with 233 RBI, played All-Star-caliber catcher both years and struck out only 49 times. Yogi Berra played catcher so well that he was on the MLB All-Century Team in 2000. Yogi’s back-to-back MVP titles can naturally be attributed to consistently strong offense and defense. Judge has achieved consistency thus far, hitting .291/.404/.674, 19 home runs, and 40 RBI in 49 games this season alongside his impressive .311/.425/.686, his unforgettable 62 home runs and 131 RBI during his 2022 MVP-caliber season; as I said, the offensive consistency is there.

However, the Yogi stat I’d pay the most attention to is his 49 strikeouts between 1954 and 1955. That’s 29 strikeouts in ‘54 and 20 in ‘55. Aaron Judge struck out 175 times in 2022- that’s almost 9x as many as Yogi in ‘55. 175 strikeouts are 58 ⅓ innings of outs, which is more than 6 nine-inning games of straight outs; from one player. While the game has changed in the pitcher’s favor, 175 strikeouts made Judge seventh out of all MLB players in 2022. If Judge could take one tip from the previous Yankee back-to-back MVP, it would be to strike out less.

Mickey Mantle (1956 and 1957)

One half of the infamous M&M Boys, Mickey Mantle won MVP three times total and back-to-back in ‘56 and ‘57. Mantle, another member of the MLB All-Century Team, hit .358/.487/.686 between his back-to-back titles with 86 home runs and 224 RBI. That’s good for one of the strongest sets of consecutive seasons in MLB history. Can Judge do this though? Well, he already has. In looking at the data lined out in an article by leading up to Judge’s 60th home run last season, his 213 OPS+ ranked 7th all-time, behind several seasons shrouded in accusations of steroids-propelled performance. Through 49 games in 2023, Judge is sitting at a 193 OPS+, which is an impressive number considering he’s missed more than a dozen games and is on pace with his offensive stats from last season. If Judge can keep the offensive domination up, he’s sure to defend his title.

Roger Maris (1960 and 1961)

The second half of the M&M Boys, Roger Maris, who played on the Yankees with Mickey Mantle for 6 seasons winning five AL pennants and 2 World Series championships, won MVP in ‘60 and ‘61, with a slashline of .276/.372/.602 with 100 home runs and 253 RBI across both seasons. Maris’ back-to-back MVP titles can be chalked up to his incredible, well-timed power. His many, many home runs often came with runners on base, as can be seen in that high-as-a-kite RBI number, at 253. 

If Judge continues on the pace he’s currently at, he’ll finish this season with a 2022-2023 slashline of .306/.420/.683 with 119 home runs and 251 RBI. That’s insane. If that’s not a line of stats that wins MVP for power as Maris did, I have no earthly idea what would be.

In 1961, Maris won MVP the same year he broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run count, with 61, and in 2022 Judge won MVP the same year he broke Maris’ American League home run record. See what I mean? Power is power.


The name of the game for Judge is offensive consistency and fewer strikeouts. He has the power, the hitting prowess, and as seen in Saturday’s game against the Dodgers the defensive skill, where he knocked the bullpen gate open catching a run-saving line drive. None of that was in question last year, but the one critique offered to Judge in his MVP candidacy was his astronomical strikeout number. If he can stay hot-hitting and lower that strikeout number, he’s well on his way to joining Yogi, Mantle, and Maris in the Yankees back-to-back MVP club.

As for the Yankees as a playoff-contending team, their main issue has been monstrous, season-testing injuries in both the bullpen and the lineup. It seems like as soon as someone comes of the injured list someone else has to replace them, leaving our offense dependent on depth position players like Willie Calhoun, hitting .241/.314/.380 in place of 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, who in 2022 hit 31 home runs with 78 RBI and before hitting the injured list April 18th was hitting .269/.296/.558 with 4 home runs. Going into this past weekend’s series against the Dodgers, Stanton, Donaldson, and Kahnle all returned to the active roster while Harrison Bader left to the injured list. While in Los Angeles, Judge took an awkward step into the concrete barrier at the visiting bullpen gate (in a marvelous play) and couldn’t play the next day. Injuries on injuries means less playing time, which means less quality performance.


In the same way Judge has to overcome the strikeouts, the Yankees need to overcome injuries to last into the playoff. Sometimes one’s fate is not controllable; Judge can’t always help striking out, and the Yankees aren’t responsible for injuring their stars. But it’s something to keep in mind.


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