Is Shohei Ohtani The 2021 AL MVP?

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Is Shohei Ohtani The 2021 AL MVP? | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com

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All-Star week in Denver is destined to be all about Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese-born star who is rewriting the Major League Baseball record books. Heading into the Midsummer Classic, Ohtani leads the Majors in home runs and has some wondering if the two-way star should be permitted to pitch and hit in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Others are asking if a player from a .500 team who doesn’t appear to be headed to the postseason should win his league’s MVP award, something Mike Trout has made a nearly annual occurrence for the Los Angeles Angels. So, is Shohei Ohtani good enough to pick up the mantle from Trout and claim the 2021 AL MVP award? 

Could Shohei Ohtani hit 60 home runs in 2021 and NOT be the American League Most Valuable Player? In theory it is very possible since his Los Angeles Angels team are .500 at the All-Star break. Yet, just past the halfway mark in the schedule, Ohtani has 33 Home Runs, which is the best in the majors.

Like his teammate Mike Trout, however, all of Shohei Ohtani’s stats still leaves his team nine games out of first place in the American League West, five games out of a Wild-Card spot and his Angels team destined to begin the offseason in October.

First, let’s start by eliminating everything that Shohei Ohtani is doing as a pitcher, because his 3.49 earned run average is just that, average, at best, and his 67 innings pitched doesn’t permit him to be in the running for any awards since you need to throw an inning for every game your team plays to do that. Sure, the lefty pitcher has 87 strikeouts in those 67 innings, but he has also walked 35, just over one every two innings, and his 2.49 K/BB ratio would barely be good enough to make him a specialist out of the bullpen if the Los Angeles Angels didn’t need to use Ohtani as a drawing card for their average team. In short, Shohei Ohtani’s “value” on the mound is as a gate attraction.

As for his offensive prowess, Shohei Ohtani had helped propel the Los Angeles Angels to a 44-44 record after 88 games. To put that in perspective, the Yankees are two games better at 46-42, and people in New York want manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman fired. Yet, somehow with all his talent, Ohtani can’t even get his team past the Yankees in the American League Wild-Card race. Perhaps Angels manager Joe Maddon should also be on the hot seat?

Was it impressive to watch Shohei Ohtani plant a home run in the fourth deck of Safeco Field this past weekend? If you think distance on a home run matters, then of course it was impressive, but who won the game? (Hint, it wasn’t the Angels!)

Where is the value in compiling stats in games your team doesn’t win, in a season when half the time you walk off the field you lost the game?

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora tried to justify why Shohei Ohtani must be the AL MVP:

He’s not the best hitter, he’s not the best pitcher, but if you combine everything, he’s the best player. 

To which I say thank you for making my point against his MVP case. The award is not the Most Outstanding Player, but the Most Valuable Player, and in this era when “stat people” know what every hitter and pitcher does on Thursday, and how Tuesday is the best day of the week to rest them, those who vote on the MVP can’t get hung up on home runs in losing games or any other stat that didn’t directly help that player’s team win a game. That’s because baseball, more than any other sport, has a lot of garbage time over its 162-game schedule, and for Shohei Ohtani and the Angels, without getting off to a hot start after the All-Star break, most of their summer will be garbage time, and whatever stats their star players put up will mean nothing to their team’s 2021 success.

So, either MLB needs to have a Most Outstanding Player award or define what “value” is for those voting for the MVP, because right now, those with a ballot are using their vote for the latter to really vote for the former, making the award pointless. 

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