If you’ve spent recent weeks arguing between Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez as the early American League MVP frontrunner, think again, because nobody may be able to dethrone Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani.
Sure, it is only June, but Ohtani is once again proving he is the best damn player in baseball – playing at an above-average level as a pitcher and hitter for the second consecutive season.
The 27-year-old is coming off back-to-back career performances, driving in eight runs with two home runs in Tuesday’s game against the Royals, which he followed up with his best pitching performance of the season — eight shutout innings with 13 strikeouts in a 5-0 win on Wednesday.
It was basically a reminder that he is MLB’s unicorn.
We still have just more than half a season left to play, but there have been some pretty remarkable performances around the American League this year.
Judge hit two more home runs on Wednesday and may be the first player to hit 60 in a season since Barry Bonds. Cleveland Guardians star Jose Ramirez is excelling in all aspects of the game and leads the majors with 62 RBI and is a major reason why the Guardians woke up Thursday in first place in the AL Central.
Mike Trout, Yordan Alvarez and Rafael Devers are also putting together impressive seasons, too. But it is undeniable that nobody is more valuable than Ohtani.
First, let’s look at Ohtani’s numbers at the plate:
He entered Thursday hitting .260/.336/.487/.823 with 15 home runs, 45 RBI, 13 doubles and 44 runs scored. For the AL, that puts him ninth in home runs, sixth in RBI, fifth in runs scored. His OPS is a tick above Blue Jays star George Springer.
On the pitching side, Ohtani has posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 90 strikeouts over 68.1 innings pitched (11.9 K/9) and opponents hitting .208 against him.
Now, Ohtani does not quite have the innings yet to qualify in pitching categories, but if you put his stats up against the current leaders in the AL he would rank 10th in ERA, eighth in batting average against, sixth in WHIP and fifth in strikeouts.
In fact, his 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings would place him third between Shane McLanahan and Gerrit Cole.
In short, Ohtani is playing at an All-Star level as a pitcher and hitter. Again. What he did in 2021 was unprecedented but if he continues to play at the same level this season and beyond, well, they may need to create a new award for best position player because Ohtani is going to win the MVP every time.