November 18, 2021

Shohei Ohtani Is Unanimous Choice As AL MVP

Shohei Ohtani is the unanimous choice for American League Most Valuable Player in 2021.

Ohtani received all 30 first-place votes . . . so hats off to the AL voters: good job not fucking up.

The unanimous vote was well-deserved since Ohtani had a truly unprecedented season at the plate and the mound. The only possible "modern" comparisons are more than 100 years old: Babe Ruth's 1918 and 1919 seasons, but Ruth was a true two-way player for only portions of each of those seasons.

Ohtani batted .257, with a .372 on-base average (5th in the AL) and a .592 percentage (2nd). He hit 46 homers (3rd in AL), 26 doubles, eight triples (1st), scored 103 runs (8th), knocked in 100 runs, and stole 26 bases (5th). He was also 2nd in OPS (.965), 2nd in extra-base hits (80), 2nd in Runs Created (122), 3rd in walks (96), tied for 4th in total bases (318), 7th in times on base (238), and 1st in fewest AB per HR (11.7), 1st in Win Probability Added (5.1), and 1st in intentional walks (20).

Ohtani also made 23 pitching starts, with a 3.18 ERA and 1.090 WHIP. He struck out 156 batters in 130.1 innings (10.8 K/9). His record was 9-2. Ohtani did not pitch enough innings to qualify among the league leaders, but his ERA would have been 3rd-best, his ERA+ 4th-best, WHIP 4th-best, and his 6.8 H/9 2nd-best.

From May 5 to August 18, Ohtani made 15 starts and had a 2.71 ERA. If you toss out one horrible start in that stretch against the Yankees, his ERA in the 14 other starts is 2.00 (actually, 1.996108).

Ohtani led MLB with 9.1 Wins Above Replacement (the same total as Ruth had in 1919), with a large margin between himself and Zack Wheeler's second-best 7.7. Marcus Semien was at 7.3 WAR and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was at 6.8.

Seemingly every week during the season there was news of Ohtani reaching an unprecedented milestone or two. He became the first player in AL or NL history with at least 45 homers, 25 stolen bases and five triples in a season. No player had ever hit more than 30 homers while making at least 15 starts on the mound. In July, he was the first player elected to the All-Star Game as both a starting pitcher and a position player.

Ohtani also won his first Silver Slugger Award, was named the MLBPA Player of the Year, as well as the Player of the Year by Baseball America, Baseball Digest, and The Sporting News. 

Sarah Langs ( wrote about "15 of the coolest, craziest Ohtani facts" from 2021. I'm snipping only eight:

• Multiple times in '21, Ohtani entered a pitching start leading MLB in home runs. Before him, nobody had done that since Babe Ruth on June 13, 1921, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• It isn't just about pitching prowess and slugging for Ohtani, though: There's speed, too. He became the first player in MLB history (pending inclusion of Negro Leagues stats) to rack up at least 20 homers, steals and pitching appearances in a season. The next-most home runs for anyone with 20 steals and games pitched? That would be eight, by Bob Caruthers in 1887. Again, simply incomparable.

• There are so many historic combinations of stats that demonstrate Ohtani's unique, never-before-done season that we can't possibly list them all. But one other combo worth noting is his 30-plus homers and 30-plus strikeouts on the mound. And again, Ohtani had 46 homers and 156 strikeouts -- nowhere even close to those modest qualifiers. The prior most strikeouts in a 30-homer season was three, by Babe Ruth in 1930 (49 homers). The prior most homers in a 30-strikeout season was 29, by Ruth in '19, when he struck out exactly 30 batters.

• Ohtani finished the season with 46 homers, third most in MLB, and eight triples, which was tied for the most with Bryan Reynolds and David Peralta. He became the first player to finish in the top three in both home runs and triples in a season, including ties, since Jim Rice in 1978.

• On May 12, Ohtani batted leadoff for the first time all season, and he did it the day after a pitching start. He became the first player to start a game on the mound, then bat leadoff in his team's next game since Ray Caldwell on July 25-26, 1916. Caldwell started for the Yankees, then batted leadoff, then played center field the next day, according to Elias.

• On June 29 at Yankee Stadium, Ohtani hit two homers. The next day, he started on the mound, becoming the fifth player to hit at least two homers in a game and then start the team's next game on the mound, joining 1930 Babe Ruth, 1887 John Clarkson, 1886 Bob Caruthers and 1883 Monte Ward, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• On Aug. 12, Ohtani started the game in the leadoff spot and got the pitching win. The only other player to do that since at least 1906 was Charlie Jamieson on Aug. 19, 1918.

• Ohtani hit 25 home runs with a 110 mph exit velocity or harder, four more than anyone else. He also hit six that traveled at least 450 feet, tied for third most this season.

Also: Three Red Sox players received MVP votes. Rafael Devers finished 11th, Xander Bogaerts was 13th, and Nathan Eovaldi was 15th. . . . Devers's fifth-place vote came from Peter Abraham of the Globe.

1 comment:

FenFan said...

Ohtani received all 30 first-place votes... so hats off to the AL voters: good job not fucking up.

Indeed! I would say that I'm surprised he didn't get at least one fifth-place vote for the Cy Young, even though he was grossly underqualified for the award.