Is Ohtani even better this year than he was in 2021 when he was MVP?
ANAHEIM — After another incredible performance in which he pitched 7.0 scoreless innings and scored an RBI brace in a 2-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday, multifaceted player Shohei Ohtani was asked if he thought he had a better season than in 2021, when he unanimously won the American League Most Valuable Player award.
Ohtani, who is vying with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge for the MVP award this year, was cautious with his response but ultimately indicated he thinks he’s been better this year.
“I don’t like to criticize myself in any way,” Ohtani said through her interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.
Ohtani hasn’t had the kind of flashy power numbers or stolen base totals like he did last year, but he’s been a more consistent hitter and a much better pitcher than he was. last season. So it’s possible to say that Ohtani is having a somewhat better season than in 2021.
Ohtani has a .270/.358/.534 batting line with 34 homers, 27 doubles, six triples and 89 RBI in his first 144 games of 2022. The Japanese hit .257/.372/.592 with 46 homers, 26 doubles, eight triples and 100 RBIs in 155 games last year.
His attacking numbers are obviously a bit lower than last year, but not much compared to what the Majors have seen this year. The OPS+ Ohtani’s, adapting to the league and the stadium, was 157 last year and 149 this year. That means his OPS+ was 57% above the league average last season and 49% above average this year.
But where Ohtani makes the difference is in his improvement on the mound. Last year, the right-hander posted a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts, 44 walks and 15 home runs allowed in 130 1/3 innings in 23 starts. This season, Ohtani has made 25 starts and has a 2.43 ERA with 196 strikeouts, 36 walks and 14 hits in four corners allowed in 148 innings.
Ohtani is expected to make three more starts this year, and he needs 14 more innings to qualify for the ERA title. The Japanese is also only four strikeouts away from reaching 200 this year. The EFE+ Ohtani’s, which is akin to OPS+, is 165 this year, up from 141 in 2021. The right-hander has benefited from better control and a highest withdrawal rate Majors.
Ohtani is likely to finish in the top five in votes for the American League’s Cy Young Award, having received zero votes last year. The biggest handicap for him is the lack of innings, as he pitches in a rotation of six starters, but when he got on the mound, the 28-year-old right-hander was one of the best pitchers in the majors. Ohtani’s slider seemed more effective than last year’s and he also started throwing a two-seam fastball.
As a pitcher, Ohtani ranks third in strikeouts, fifth in ERA and tied for fifth in American League wins. And as a hitter, he ranks fourth in OPS, fourth in homers and tied for sixth in league RBIs.
Mix all those numbers up and interim manager Phil Nevin thinks Ohtani deserves to be MVP, despite the incredible season Judge is having. Judge is on course to set the record for most home runs in an American League season and has a shot at winning the Triple Crown, which is why the Yankees slugger is considered the favorite to win the coveted trophy. But Nevin thinks Ohtani brings more value because he’s an elite hitter and an elite pitcher.
“I don’t take that for granted at all,” exclaimed Nevin. “We’re seeing things that we’ve never seen before: being such a dominant player in both facets. I’ve said it before, he’s the most valuable player in our game right now, and until someone else comes along who can do the same as him on both sides, I don’t see why that needs to change.”
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