Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani has torched both sides of the ball to the tune of 45 home runs and a 3.28 ERA on 146 strikeouts. And this is where the conversation gets tricky. Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sits in the thick of a triple crown bid, which is essentially a stamp as “best hitter in that league.”
I’m here to argue that no matter what Vladdy Jr. does the rest of the way, Shohei should win the american league MVP.
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) September 22, 2021
Before I go any further, I should mention that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a better offensive player in the AL. Sure, Ohtani matched the Blue Jays star in homers, however there’s much more to the equation when determining a player’s “value” at the plate.
Vladdy Jr. is currently batting .323 with 46 homers and 105 RBI, that only trails White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (113). These numbers prove Vladdy Jr. to be a much more well-rounded offensive player than Ohtani. To Ohtani’s credit, he’s stolen 23 bases that Vladdy Jr. simply can’t do, but there’s no question the last american league player pitchers want to face is Vladdy.
But all that considered, I still find that Shohei Ohtani is the MVP, so how?
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is likely to fall short of winning the triple crown, however even if he did accomplish that feat, it’s happened before. Not often, but we’ve seen it as recently as Miguel Cabrera’s MVP season in 2012.
When was the last time you saw an ace of a big league team slug over 45 homers and steal over 20 bases? You’re probably thinking outside of stealing bags, Babe Ruth managed, right? That would be an incorrect assumption since The Great Bambino began his career as a full-time pitcher, and then he swapped into an all-time slugger. Not simultaneously where he was hitting four days straight while starting on the mound every fifth day. Somehow, Ohtani is managing to do exactly that and he deserves credit for doing so.
It’s rather pathetic to simplify this conversation to “how many innings has Vladdy Jr. thrown?” So I refuse to do it. I’d much rather make this about the responsibilities of pitching every turn through the rotation. It’s not like Shohei slotted sixth in this lineup while hopping out the bullpen to close a game like some of us did in Little League — no, he’s batting in the heart of that Angels lineup every day without injury and threw over 120 innings as the team’s ace.
THAT is value. Not saying Vladdy Jr. isn’t valuable, but how can anyone argue one singular hitter can be more valuable or rare to a team than someone that can do both? According to MLB.com, Shohei leads the league in WAR with a 4.5 offensive rating and 3.7 from the mound to combine for 8.2. I feel like I must also acknowledge the value in Ohtani allowing the Angels to have an extra player on their roster since they no longer need an ace or DH.
Shohei Ohtani will be making 21st pitching start of the season & 10th on the road. He's won eight straight decisions, dating back to June 4, including winning decisions in five of last six starts. Overall he's (9-1, 2.97 ERA, 135 SO, .198 BAA). He also leads #MLB in HR with (43). pic.twitter.com/2BeA0Pskou
— AngelsWin.com (@AngelsWin) September 10, 2021
Vladdy Jr. deserves an MVP someday soon — it just can’t be this year.