Capping off Major League Baseball's annual awards week, Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros and Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins were named American League and National League Most Valuable Player, respectively, on Thursday.
After finishing in the top 10 of MVP voting in 2015 and 2016, Altuve became the second player in Astros history to take home the award, joining Jeff Bagwell, who won in 1994. Houston's superstar second baseman beat out New York Yankees rookie sensation Aaron Judge and Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez.
Stanton's massive display of power in 2017, which included 59 home runs and a .631 slugging percentage, carried him to the award. The 28-year-old is the first player in Marlins history to be named NL MVP, finishing just two points ahead of runner-up Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds while Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt came in third.
AL MVP Voting Results
1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (405 points; 27 first-place votes)
2. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (279 points; two first-place votes)
3. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians (237 points; one first-place vote)
4. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (197 points)
5. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (143 points)
NL MVP Voting Results
1. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (302 points; 10 first-place votes)
2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (300 points; 10 first-place votes)
3. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (239 points; four first-place votes)
4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (229 points; two first-place votes)
5. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (205 points; three first-place votes)
Stanton's two-point margin of victory over Votto marked the fourth-closest MVP vote in MLB history.
Since both players received 10 first-place votes, the difference came by way of Stanton getting one more second-place vote (worth nine points) and one more third-place vote (worth eight points).
The only MVP races closer than the 2017 NL MVP finish were 1979 when Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell tied for the award, 1947 when Joe DiMaggio (202) beat Ted Williams (201) by one point and 1944 when Marty Marion (190) finished one point ahead of Bill Nicholson (189).
It turns out staying healthy is all that was needed to unlock a new gear in Stanton's already excellent career. He was the runner-up for NL MVP in 2014 when he led the league with 37 home runs and a .555 slugging percentage. Stanton finished behind Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw
That was also the last time prior to 2017 that he didn't spend time on the disabled list with an injury. Stanton made those 2014 numbers look middling with what he did in 2017, finishing one home run shy of becoming the sixth player in MLB history to hit at least 60 home runs in a season.
Known for his prodigious power, Stanton took things to another level from July 5 through Aug. 15 with 23 home runs in a 35-game span that put him in exclusive company in MLB history:
It can be easy to get lost in power numbers, but Stanton is a terrific hitter. The four-time All-Star hit .281/.376/.631 during his MVP campaign, setting career highs with 123 runs scored and 132 RBI.
Marlins assistant hitting coach Frank Menechino told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com that Stanton's game got better when he made a slight change to his hitting stance by moving his front foot closer to home plate:
"It put him in a good position to hit. It put him in position to get out of the way and gave him confidence. Gave him something less to worry about. Before we did that, he was stepping in the bucket and we couldn't stop it. He tried to fix it on his own. He tried to do a couple of different things, this and that."
Another area Stanton improved offensively last season, per ESPN Stats & Info, was on outside pitches:
Stanton has also made himself into an excellent defensive player in right field. He ranked third among NL right fielders with 10 defensive runs saved and first with 110 plays made out of the zone, per FanGraphs.
Goldschmidt and Votto feature prominently on the short list of best hitters in the NL. They were two of the eight players in the league with an on-base percentage of .400 or better in 2017.
The big separating factor for Stanton was power. He hit 20 more home runs than any other NL player, including 23 more than Goldschmidt and Votto, and slugged 30 points higher than anyone in the league.
Even though the Marlins weren't a big factor in the NL playoff race, Stanton had a memorable season that made him worthy of being recognized as an MVP.
With Stanton's name a staple of trade rumors this offseason, Eno Sarris of FanGraphs offered this tidbit about MVP winners switching teams:
For now, though, the Marlins can celebrate their first-ever MVP winner.
Since his MLB debut in 2011, Altuve has been a hit machine for the Astros. The Venezuelan native has led the AL in hits every season since 2014 and has recorded at least 200 hits in each of those seasons.
In 2017, Altuve set a new career high and led MLB with a .346 batting average. He also set career highs in on-base percentage (.410) and slugging percentage (.547) and tied his career high with 24 home runs.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch praised Altuve's consistency from game to game and season to season when making an MVP sales pitch on behalf of his second baseman, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
"Well, I don't know any more ways to describe Jose other than he's as close to perfect as you can imagine as a manager. He does everything right. And I've used this before, but he's every bit what's right about our team and our organization, and he represents so much of what we do. His consistency is second to none in the big leagues. It's why I believe he's the MVP of the [American] League."
Altuve's MVP win caps off what has been a busy offseason with many individual honors two weeks after helping the Astros win their first World Series title:
Almost 23 years ago to the day that Bagwell was named NL MVP for the Astros, Greg Rajan of the Houston Chronicle tweeted out what the front pages of the newspaper looked like:
It's also fitting Altuve was named MVP for 2017, the same year Bagwell was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in July.
Per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, MVP winners at second base have been a rarity in MLB history:
Altuve wound up being the overwhelming winner in the AL MVP voting, but Richard Justice of MLB.com did note Judge was superior in several notable categories:
It's hard to make an argument against Altuve or Judge as a viable MVP candidate in 2017. Judge had a rough 51-game stretch from July 1 through Aug. 30 when he hit .209/.356/.407 with 80 strikeouts in 177 at-bats that brought his all-world numbers down to earth.
By comparison, Altuve's worst month in 2017 was September with a .291/.390/.442 slash line in 25 games.
The Astros were the story in MLB throughout the season, which was capped off with their thrilling World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Altuve was at the center of everything they did, leading to him being named AL MVP.
This also marks the third straight year with at least one MVP winner from a non-playoff team. Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (2015) and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout (2016) previously pulled off the feat.