Shohei Ohtani or Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: Who deserves AL MVP?
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The American League MVP race suddenly deserves a discussion, which it didn’t about a month ago. Here’s what happened: Teams stopped throwing strikes at Shohei Ohtani, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went on fire.
Let the debate begin. Be brief. Because as good as Guerrero has been, Ohtani has something the Toronto first baseman can’t match: unprecedented greatness. Guerrero is a rarity. Ohtani is a unicorn. There is no comparison.
In any other season, Guerrero is your prototype MVP. His strongest argument is that he hits at huge levels of average and power. He hits .321 with 46 homers and a 1,029 OPS. But it has been done 35 times before. He is Derrek Lee of the 2005 Cubs.
What Ohtani has done has never been done before. You’ll never see him again, unless it’s from Ohtani. He defines the 2021 baseball season as Roger Maris did in 1961 or Bob Gibson in 68, or a combination of the two.
Try to figure this out: the same player who smashed 44 home runs also throws the hardest pitch to hit in baseball. On Sunday, Ohtani recorded 19 strikeouts on his split-finger fastball, the most in a game with the field in 11 years, since Brad Penny was 21 on April 25, 2010. The As’s went 0 for 19 against his divisor, dropping the league average against the court to .067.
Ohtani struck out 10 batters Sunday in eight innings. In his 22 starts, he kept hitters at a .208 batting average while losing just twice. Only four other pitchers in baseball history were so hard to hit and so hard to beat in at least as many starts: Rich Harden (2008), Greg Maddux (1995), Randy Johnson (’95) and Tom Seaver (‘ 81).
Such a tough pitcher to hit is also one of the most feared hitters in the game. Ohtani leads the league in intentional marches. Since 1955, when the intentional goal tracking began, only three hitters have hit 44 home runs, stole 23 goals and led the league in intentional goals: Barry Bonds (’93), Ken Griffey Jr. (’99) and Ohtani. .
At this time of year, it should be remembered that the MVP is awarded at most valuable player of the year, not the past two months or the pennant race. As the teams stopped pitching at Ohtani in a scaled-down Angels lineup, Guerrero took the opportunity to present his case. It is still not enough. Need to convince? In honor of # 17, here are 17 more reasons Ohtani is one of them:
1. With his strikes and throws, Ohtani is personally responsible for deciding 1,087 home plate appearances, more than Babe Ruth, his only legitimate two-way comparison, recorded in 1918 (1,042) and 1919 (1,033).
2. Ohtani leads Guerrero in bWAR 8.1–6.8.
3. Guerrero is not the absolute leader of WAR in his own club. He is tied with Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray. The last player to win the MVP title who didn’t lead his team in WAR was Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He was trailing a pitcher over the Tigers, Justin Verlander.
4. Until Ohtani, no player in baseball history had hit more than nine home runs in a season while starting more than 20 games on the mound. Ohtani reached 44.
5. Until Ohtani, no player had ever been selected for the All-Star Game as a pitcher and hitter. Ohtani was the first hitter and winning pitcher for the AL.
6. Ohtani is the eighth pitcher to strike out 10.6 batters per nine and win 80% of his calls (min. 22 starts). The others are Gerrit Cole, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Corey Kluber, Blake Snell, Clayton Kershaw and Charlie Morton. These seven combined for five circuits in their career.
7. Only four AL players have managed 44 homers and stole 23 goals in one season: Jose Canseco (twice), Alex Rodriguez, Griffey and Ohtani.
8. Ohtani leads the majors in left-handed slugging vs. left-handed pitchers (.629). He hits higher against lefties than Guerrero, a right-hander.
9. Ohtani hits 0.391 with high bat leverage. On the mound at those same spots, he gives a batting average of .097.
ten. With runners in the scoring position, Ohtani allows a batting average of 0.128, tied with Pete Richert (1965) for the third lowest since such statistics were recorded (min. 22 starts). He only trails Blake Snell (0.088 in 2018) and Max Scherzer (0.110 in 2021).
11. Facing batters for a third time in a game, Ohtani is allowing a batting average of 0.165, the league’s lowest this year and the MLB’s second only to Scherzer (0.145) among pitchers who have faced at least 100 batters in the past. third time.
12. Ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr. are the only players with at least 35 home runs and 16 hits.
13. Ohtani only sees a fastball in the zone 22.2% of the time – the lowest rate in MLB other than the Rays’ Randy Arozarena (21.8%).
14. As of August 1, with Phil Gosselin hitting behind him most often, Ohtani has seen just 43.3% of shots in the strike zone, the fourth lowest rate in baseball and down from 45.9 % he saw in the first four months (seventh lowest).
15. Guerrero is surrounded in the lineup by five other Toronto hitters with at least 200 goals overall. Ohtani has one.
16. Ohtani takes the extra base 45% of the time, well above the league averages (40%) and Guerrero (36%).
17. Ohtani’s split-finger fastball is the most difficult pitch of all the shots thrown by all pitchers (min. 100 at bat): .067. He threw 538 splitters in his career and has never allowed a home run on the field.
More MLB coverage:
• The Ohtani rules
• Salvador Perez’s Trend of the Year of Career in Dollars for Aging Seekers
• The epic year of Vlad Jr. shows the limit of a triple crown
• Blue Jays’ disparaging offense is answer to MLB woes