Not all numbers are created equal when it comes to the American League Most Valuable Player race.
A year ago, Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero led the American League with a .601 slugging percentage, an on-base percentage of .401, an OPS of 1.002, was tied for the lead with 48 home runs, and had 111 RBIs. That remarkable season got him zero first-place votes on the MVP ballot.
Why Ohtani Could Win
Although Ohtani’s offensive numbers are down slightly from what he accomplished last year, when his power numbers as a hitter are combined with his accomplishments as a pitcher, it is a pretty hard combination to beat.
Ohtani is on pace for 36 home runs and 98 RBIs to go with 19 stolen bases. As a pitcher, Ohtani is fifth with 134 strikeouts. He is 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA. Those are all good numbers and ultimately could result in a second straight MVP award.
His ability to put together quality starts as a pitcher is something no other top AL MVP candidate can match. He is doing something that hasn’t been seen before and that is why the MLB picks view him as one of the players to beat in the AL MVP race.
He has been on a roll with the Ohtani allowing three earned runs in a span of six starts. More importantly, the Angels were 6-0 in those starts. That ended when he allowed six runs in 6⅓ innings in his last outing as the Angels fell to defending World Series champion Atlanta.
Why Ohtani Might Not win
His offensive numbers are good. However, a season ago, they were much better and not far off what Guerrero was putting up. At what point does it just become a case of Ohtani getting MVP consideration simply because he pitches and hits?
There’s nothing in his list of accomplishments as a hitter in 2022 that makes people think of him as the MVP. Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees and Yordan Alvarez are putting up numbers worthy of drawing MVP votes.
It can’t help Ohtani’s case that the Angels have been perhaps the most disappointing team in baseball in 2022. They trail Houston by 22½ games in the AL West standings.
It doesn’t help that Ohtani suffered a bruise above his knee in Monday’s game and while that didn’t stop him from having a home run and stolen base in Tuesday’s win over Kansas City, it is something that will need to be monitored.
Ohtani is listed at +110 to win the MVP award according to the sportsbook and is tied for third at +1000 in the AL Cy Young Award odds.
Why Judge Could Win the MVP Award
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees leads MLB with 38 home runs and tops all American League players with 82 RBIs. Those numbers dwarf Ohtani’s. Judge is also batting .296 compared to .256 for Ohtani.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 26, 2022
Certainly, Judge won’t have the benefit of pitching stats to bolster his MVP candidacy. However, he has led the Yankees to the best record in baseball and that ought to count for something.
Judge is hitting .326 with 12 home runs when the Yankees are trailing while Ohtani is at .213 with seven home runs when the Angels are behind.
Those numbers are part of the reason Judge is at even odds to win the MVP award.
Alvarez Has Some Catching Up To Do
It is looking like a two-player race, which is a bit of a disservice to Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros.
Alvarez leads the majors with a .664 slugging percentage. His .307 batting average, 43 extra-base hits, 28 home runs, and 66 RBIs should have him closer than +1000 in the MVP odds. Perhaps he is being downgraded because more than half of his games have come as the designated hitter. That hasn’t hurt Ohtani’s odds, however.
Like Ohtani, Alvarez is currently dealing with an injury so we’ll see if that impacts his availability.
Boston third baseman Rafael Devers and Angels outfielder Mike Trout are the only other candidates even close to the top three. Devers comes in at +2500 with Trout at +3300.
Devers ranks third and Trout fourth among qualified American League hitters in slugging percentage and OPS.