Shohei Ohtani is doing things that have never been done in the entire history of Major League Baseball. That's not hyperbole. That is not me trying to entice the readers to keep going. That is a literal fact.
Ohtani hit his 30th home run on Wednesday evening. This feat made him the first player in AL/NL history to record 10 wins on the mound and 30 homers at the plate in the same season. Unlike most other Tungsten O'Doyle moments, Ohtani's home run came at a critical moment in a colossal game, not in a lopsided blowout. It was a three-run bomb against Yankees ace Gerritt Cole that gave the Angels the lead and the win.
This gives Ohtani a cumulative stat line that looks like this. A 148 OPS+ and a slash line of .269/.359/.529 to go along with 11 wins, a 2.67 ERA, and an ERA+ of 151. His bWAR for the year is 7.3 His Angels are bad, though. They are 57-74 and over 20 games back in the AL west.
Ohtani would be a shoo-in for winning a second and back-to-back MVP award in almost any other year. The thing is, a big guy is doing big things in New York.
Just a few days ago, in this same Angels/Yankees series, Aaron Judge hit home run number 50. He now has 51 for the season.
Aaron Judge has a legitimate shot at trying Roger Maris' original record of 61 home runs in a season. I am not here to start another pointless debate about whether that is the "true" record, but I do want to add context. MLB is in the midst of one of the worst offensive seasons it has seen in a few years. Nobody told Judge this, though. Judge's offensive statistics alone dwarf Ohtani's this season. Look at these numbers.
He leads the league with 51 home runs, 113 RBIs, 104 runs scored, a .399 on-base percentage, a .664 slugging percentage, an OPS of 1.062, and an obscene 199 OPS+. He leads the league in all of those categories. His bWAR is listed at 7.8, which is .5 more than Ohtani. It is incredible that without any pitching statistics, Judge has posted a higher WAR than Ohtani. That is how elite his hitting has been this season.
So...Who Wins MVP?
Now we get to everyone's favorite part—dogmatic MVP preferences. Does the MVP go to the best player with the best numbers? Does the MVP go to the best player on the best team? Does the MVP go to a player who is a mix of both of those things? Historically, the MVP award-winner tends to be a mixture of both. The statistics that people value have changed over the years. Batting averages and RBIs do not hold the same weight they once did, and some newer-school voters value WAR as much as they do anything else. This makes it a tough call. Ohtani doing things nobody has ever seen also makes it a tough call. Here is my unpopular opinion:
Aaron Judge is the MVP.
Here Comes The Judge
Judge leading the league in almost every statistical hitting category is hard to ignore. He hits for power and gets on base at a prodigious rate. He plays decent-to-good defense in the outfield. For much of the season, his team also had the best record in Major League Baseball. During the Yankees' ugly month of August, Judge's bat did now slow down. For days at a time, Judge was the only bat still hitting during the Yankees' ugly slide.
Judge's pursuit of Roger Maris' original 61 home run record is worth noting in this MVP race as well. For those who love cumulative stats like WAR—he even leads Ohtani in that statistic as well. Judge cannot pitch, but he has meant more to his team and has been the league's Most Valuable Player.