Shohei “Hitter” Ohtani (29-LA Angels) is on a tear over his last 15 games. It’s the exact opposite pace of “Pitcher” Ohtani, who has struggled to a 4.88 ERA in his last eight starts. Add to that the fact that Ohtani’s home run barrage came on the same day as some not-so-bad news, and his MVP chances have been rekindled.
Ohtani, batting second and designated hitter, went 3-for-5 with a home run, one run scored and one strikeout in the final game of the 2023 Major League Baseball home series against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, on Wednesday.
It was Ohtani’s seventh game of the season with three or more hits, raising his batting average from .281 to .287 and his OPS from .925 to .930. While he didn’t have his home run machine going for the third straight game, Ohtani’s seven-hit outburst, including two home runs in the three-game series, helped the Angels to a 9-5 win and a sweep of Seattle.
In his last 15 games alone, no other American League (AL) hitter can match Ohtani. With six home runs in 14 games, a .772 OPS, and a 1.185 OPS, he leads all AL hitters in home runs, OPS, and slugging percentage in that span. His season batting numbers are in stark contrast to his pitching numbers, where he’s batting .287 with 18 home runs, 46 RBIs, and a .930 OPS in 65 games, with a 5-2 record, 3.32 ERA, and 102 strikeouts in 76 innings.
As a two-way player, his batting numbers are on par with those of players who only step into the batter’s box, and his MVP chances are on the rise again. Breaking down his numbers, Ohtani ranks 13th in batting average, 13th in slugging percentage, 3rd in on-base percentage, 4th in OPS, and has a wRC+ of 151, making him one of the most productive hitters in the AL.
The only way to stop Ohtani from winning MVP honors is to have a dominant performance at the plate, like Judge did last year. Last year in right field, Judge batted .311 with 62 home runs, 131 RBIs, 133 runs scored, 16 doubles, an OPS of 1.111 and a wRC+ of 207 in 157 games to prevent Ohtani from winning his second straight MVP.
Ohtani’s biggest rival this year was Jersey. Despite two trips to the disabled list (IL) this season, including one on July 7 with a right big toe contusion, Jersey has been one of the league’s most productive hitters, batting .291 with 19 home runs, 40 RBIs, an OPS of 1.078 and a wRC+ of 189 in 49 games. Injuries have kept him behind the rest of the competition in cumulative stats, but his OPS and wRC+ are unrivaled. Despite his frequent injuries, local media in the U.S. still consider him an MVP frontrunner.
However, the AL MVP race is getting interesting this year as Judge’s recovery has stalled. On Sept. 9, Jersey said, “It could be a couple weeks longer, it could be a couple weeks shorter. It depends on how I feel,” he said in a vague response. The next day, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone gave an update in a public Q&A, saying, “I think he’s feeling a little bit better,” and that he “had a long conversation with trainer Michael Shook about what we’re going to do over the next couple days if he continues to improve (at the rate he is).”
If Ohtani and Judge have similar batting performances, Ohtani, who also has a track record as a pitcher, has the advantage. Ohtani’s performance, which moved him to within one home run of the home run leader, also tied the two men’s season-ending home run projections from Baseball America’s FanGraphs. Even at the low end, Ohtani and Judge were each projected to hit 21 home runs over the remainder of the season (according to Fangraphs’ statistical forecasting program Steamer). Ultimately, I saw Ohtani hitting at least 39 homers and Judge hitting 40.메이저놀이터
The maximum was 27 (final 46) predicted by ZiPS, another Fangraphs projection system, still in favor of Jersey. The maximum is the 24 (42 final) that THE BAT X program projected for the remainder of the season. However, the four-point gap could easily be reversed if Jersey’s injury lasts longer and Ohtani maintains his current batting pace. Whether Ohtani reclaims the MVP, or Judge tries to win back-to-back MVPs, we’ll see what happens in October.