It feels as though the American League MVP race has been settled for quite some time now, with Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani firmly in the lead.
However, despite Ohtani’s historic season as both a hitter and pitcher, there has been growing support in recent weeks for Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’s not without good reason, as Guerrero is slashing an absurd .315/.405/.601 with a league-leading 46 home runs, to go along with 105 RBIs and a 6.7 WAR.
Guerrero has absolutely been incredible and has had a season worth celebrating. However, the MVP voters — from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — simply cannot look away from what Ohtani has done this year, even if he’s had a second-half slump at the plate.
Some of the voters gave their anonymous opinions on the MVP race and why Ohtani should remain favored over the incredibly talented Guerrero Jr., according to Stephen J. Nesbitt of The Athletic:
“While I’d normally consider the possibility of a feat like the Triple Crown to be an extenuating circumstance, Ohtani’s entire season is an extenuating circumstance,” one voter said, later adding, “I’m honestly stunned that this has ballooned into this big of a debate. We’ve witnessed history this year. Who knows how often we’ll ever see this level of overall performance and health from Ohtani or a similar player ever again? Let’s not overthink this.”
“Guerrero is the best hitter in the AL and the best position player; I would never make declarations about what he can’t do, and I’m sensitive to the idea of a leader of a winning team being an important and valuable role,” one voter said. “But other players are flabbergasted by what Ohtani is doing. I think he’s changing the sport and with time it will only become clearer.
“What we’ve seen from Ohtani is historic, never seen before, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that,” a voter said. “It’s not just that he’s had a full season hitting and pitching; it’s that he’s been elite at both. For a time, including at the All-Star Game, he was the story in baseball and everything else felt secondary.”
None of these arguments take anything away from what Guerrero has done this year. And they don’t take away from the fact that the Blue Jays are still in playoff contention, while the Angels will finish below .500.
The issue is that none of it matters when discussing what is arguably the greatest individual season in baseball history. Yes, Ohtani’s .258 batting average and 30% strikeout rate leave something to be desired. But he sits just one home run — 45 — behind Guerrero for the MLB lead. He also is just two RBIs away from 100.
In terms of offensive WAR alone, Ohtani is a top-20 player. In terms of pitching WAR alone, Ohtani is a top-20 player. Combine them, and you have a player that has over a 1.5-WAR lead over second place. The Angels star is in a class of his own this season, and he should undoubtedly be rewarded with MVP honors.
Joe Maddon looking ahead to 2022
Angels manager Joe Maddon has already stated his thoughts on Ohtani winning the MVP. Now, he’s moving forward and discussing the plans for 2022 and what the Angels can do to get back into the playoffs.
In order to do that, Maddon has proposed that the team chase after two frontline starting pitchers in free agency. His pitch to those starters? Be the players who brought the Angels to the level of contention.