The American League MVP award has been one of the more interesting races during the 2022 MLB season. For most of the summer, there have been only two serious contenders, New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and the multi-talented Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani.
By doing what's essentially unprecedented in modern MLB history, Ohtani had set himself up as an overwhelming favorite to repeat after winning the award after the 2021 season.
Many around the league have even suggested that every year Ohtani plays, the MVP award should be his to lose.
But that's exactly what he's done.
Through essentially no fault of his own, he's been outplayed by Judge.
Ohtani is amazing, but Aaron Judge has been better
While Ohtani has continued his awe-inspiring success on both sides of the field, hitting 34 home runs, stealing 11 bases, getting on base more than 35% of the time AND throwing 141 elite innings, with a 2.55 ERA and 188 strikeouts, Judge has simply been even better.
With 57 home runs, 16 steals, a .415 on base percentage and batting line 105% higher than league average, Judge's year has been historic.
While wins above replacement isn't always a perfect tool, it can be extremely useful when comparing players like this that create value in different ways.
OutKick's Geoff Clark summarized the data-driven case between the two players, which shows that the numbers clearly point to Judge.
"There's no doubt a healthy Shohei Ohtani should be a heavy favorite to win the AL MVP as long he is the Angels' ace and cleanup hitter. As a lifelong Yankees fan it pains me to say this but Ohtani is the most talented baseball player ever. Ohtani has the second-best exit velocity at the plate, sandwiched between Yankees sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, according to Statcast. On top of that, Ohtani's fastball averages 97.4 mph and his whiff rate is in the 97th percentile. However, baseball is about consistency and longevity, which makes WAR (Wins Above Replacement) the end all, be all stat in MLB. Well, Judge has a higher WAR as a batter (9.8) than Ohtani's combined hitting and pitching WAR (4.6 as a pitcher, 3.5 as a hitter), per FanGraphs. DraftKings Sportsbook recognizes how special Judge's season has been hence Judge's -2000 price to win 2022 AL MVP. Ohtani will win the MVP again but Judge is truly MLB's MOST VALUABLE PLAYER this year."
Vlad Guerrero Jr. is backing Judge, too
Last year, Ohtani's award came at the expense of Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who had an outstanding 48 home run, 167 OPS+ season.
Guerrero clearly didn't think he deserved to lose out to Ohtani, despite the added two-way value. When asked about his thoughts on this year's MVP race, Guerrero said if it doesn't go to Judge it "will be another steal."
Ohtani's MVP last year clearly wasn't stolen; it was incredibly well deserved. But Judge's win this year will be equally well deserved.