Astros legend makes flawed argument for Yordan Alvarez over Aaron Judge

A Houston Astros legend had a spicy take regarding superstar slugger Yordan Alvarez. 

Jeff Bagwell played 15 years with the Houston Astros, made four All-Star teams, and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award. He knows a thing or two about hitting the baseball, and he knows a thing or two about stardom in Houston.

Now in the broadcast booth, Bagwell is charged with supplying his insight to the fans watching at home. During the Astros’ three-game roadtrip in Milwaukee, Bagwell got to pontificating about one of the debates currently raging in the MLB fandom: Yordan Alvarez or Aaron Judge?

Using context clues, it’s not difficult to surmise who Bagwell went with.

Astros legend picks Yordan Alvarez over Aaron Judge

“You could go either way with these two guys, but to me personally, I think Yordan is a better hitter,” Bagwell said. “You’re not going to see as many valleys with Yordan.”

On the surface, the numbers are comparable. Alvarez is currently batting .297 with 46 hits and 12 home runs in 155 at-bats. Judge is batting .288 with 42 hits and 14 home runs in 146 at-bats.

Both have very similar career arcs too. Judge won Rookie of the Year. So did Alvarez. Last season, Judge took home his first MVP trophy. Alvarez wasn’t too far behind; he finished third. Bagwell referenced a specific set of data points to make his argument: Alvarez, in his first four seasons, has been better than Judge was in his first four seasons.

The Houston Chronicle laid it all out:

“Alvarez entered Wednesday with 1,719 career plate appearances since making his major league debut in June 2019. In Aaron Judge’s first four years as a big leaguer, the New York Yankees slugger tallied 1,718 plate appearances. During this span, Alvarez and Judge’s home run totals were were identical, as both sluggers mashed 110 bombs. Alvarez led Judge in all other major categories. Batting average favored the Astros star, with Alvarez hitting .297 to Judge’s .273 during this span. Alvarez’s OPS was 26 points higher than Judge’s. “Air Yordan” also had 86 more RBI than the reigning American League MVP.”

It’s a compelling case, to be frank. Alvarez is younger than Judge and he’s following the same sky-high trajectory. Bagwell’s overall thesis is probably correct: Alvarez has fewer “valleys” than Judge. He also batted in more runs, but that could be a product of lineup placement more than actual hitting acumen.

The primary dent in Bagwell’s case is the fact that we simply cannot tell the future. Alvarez may be on a slightly steeper upward trajectory than Judge was through four years, but Judge’s rookie season was demonstrably better than Alvarez’s — he started from higher ground.

Plus, we have three more years of tape on Judge and he has only gotten better. Development isn’t linear; just because Yordan matched Judge years 1-4 doesn’t mean he will match Judge years 5-7. There is also the age factor — Judge is currently eight years Alvarez’s senior.

That very fact is a strong point in Alvarez’s favor, especially if the goal is the pick the best player for the next decade — not the best player right now, or who has had the better career up to this point. But to broadly state that Alvarez is better based on four years of counting stats feels like half an argument, or half a conclusion.

Both are tremendous hitters, and there’s a good chance Alvarez gets his MVP award in the near future. This debate is still evolving and we likely won’t have a concrete feel for the “winner” until many more years have passed. Maybe Yordan was, marginally, better in years 1-4. But that doesn’t mean much projecting forward, and it doesn’t mean much right now. Judge was No. 1, not No. 3, in MVP voting last season for a reason.

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