If you’re casting a Broadway show, who would you rather have in the lead: a performer who can sing or one who can sing, act, and dance?
If you’re a voter for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, you have a similar choice: a slugger OR a superstar who can do three things very well. That’s the difference between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani, and the chance that Vlad will win the MVP award are slim now that the season enters the final seven weeks of play.
Guerrero Jr., the impressive (still young at 22) slugger of the Blue Jays is enjoying a tremendous season at the plate. But that’s the “problem”: he only does his stuff at the plate with a bat in his hands. Vladdy Jr. has 36 homers and a league-best .405 on-base percentage. He also leads the league in runs scored.
But Ohtani, the Japanese superstar for the Angels, has a league-high 40 homers and .637 slugging percentage. Ohtani has the most total bases of any player in baseball, and he also has 19 stolen bases. He’s a double-threat offensively: with his booming bat and his legs. But that’s only two-thirds of the picture, of course.
Ohtani has a 2.79 ERA, which would tie him for the lowest in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. He’s made 18 starts and tossed 100 innings, which leaves him shy of the required one inning per team game standard. But his work on the mound is still impressive. No, impressive isn’t a big enough word. Legendary is more like it.
Ohtani has struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings, which rates among the five highest figures in the league. He has surrendered only six hits per nine, which would rank first if he qualified. That’s a figure better than Gerrit Cole, who gets paid obscene money just to be a pitcher. Ohtani is nearly as effective and he also has those 40 bombs and his 88 runs batted in. What Ohtani is doing at the plate, on the mound, and on the bases in 2021 is unheard of. We’ve never seen a player like Ohtani, and that includes Babe Ruth, who was a two-way star one hundred years ago.
All that production (Ohtani ranks first in the AL in Wins Above Replacement as a position player and fourth as a pitcher!) will lead to voters handing Ohtani a much-deserved MVP award. That will force Guerrero Jr. to wait for another year, which isn’t unlikely. At 22, Guerrero has many years of slugging ahead of him, and seeing as he is a high-average player with good strike zone judgment, it’s not unreasonable to imagine a triple crown in his future.
Odds for American League Most Valuable Player Award
Current sports betting odds for the AL MVP from DraftKings:
- Shohei Ohtani (-2500)
- Valdimir Guerrero Jr. (+1100)
- Rafael Devers (+7000)
- Matt Olson (+7000)
- Marcus Semien (+7000)
In a typical season, Guerrero Jr. would be the runaway leading candidate. Many MVP voters love the traditional triple crown stats (batting average, HR, RBI), and Vlad Jr. is hitting above .300 with 36 HR and 89 RBIs. He’s going to end up somewhere in the 45-50 HR range with 120 RBI or so, and he currently trails Michael Brantley by only 10 points in the batting race.
But Ohtani is out of this world with his 8-1 record and 2.79 ERA on the hill, AND his 40 homers and league-best slugging percentage. Assuming Ohtani stays on the field and avoids injury, it’s his award in a landslide.