Los Angeles Angels interim manager Phil Nevin has not been shy about giving his opinions on the 2022 American League MVP race. Having a personal relationship with both leading candidates — New York Yankees star Aaron Judge and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani — gives him a deep insight into a fascinating race.
Judge has been remarkable at the plate this season. He’s batting .312 with an 1.102 OPS and is in legitimate consideration to win the Triple Crown with 57 home runs and 123 RBIs. He has a wRC+ of 205, making him 105% better than a league average player.
But if you ask Nevin, no one can ever replicate the value that Ohtani brings to the baseball field each and every time he plays, a point he has made several times throughout the season, according to Daniel Chavkin of Sports Illustrated:
“I’ve said it before: He’s the most valuable player of our game right now,” Nevin said, via ESPN. “Until somebody can come in and do the things he does on both sides, I don’t see it going any other way. I love Aaron Judge like a son, but I’ll continue to say it: [Ohtani] can take over a baseball game like nobody can.”
As a batter, Ohtani is batting .266 with an .891 OPS. He’s hit 34 home runs with 89 RBIs, and has decreased his strikeout numbers from 2021. Judge has clearly been the better hitter this season despite Ohtani having a great season at the plate with a 146 wRC+.
But Ohtani’s best work has come as a pitcher, where he holds a 2.43 ERA and 1.041 WHIP in 148.0 innings. He’s struck out 196 batters — four away from 200 — giving him the highest K-per-nine rate in baseball at 11.9.
At the moment, Judge is likely the frontrunner. If he wins the Triple Crown by leading the AL in average, home runs, and RBIs, there is almost no doubt he’ll take home the hardware. But Ohtani is still very much in this race, and according to Nevin, it’s his to lose.
Ohtani dominates Mariners
Ohtani proved just how valuable he is on Saturday night against the Seattle Mariners. At the plate, he went 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI double that scored one of just two Angels runs. However, the two runs were enough because of his work as a pitcher.
Ohtani tossed 7.0 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and one walk in the process. He struck out eight batters en route to his 13th victory of the season on the mound.