The 2022 MLB season is entering the home stretch. While playoff races are coming down to the wire for many teams across the league, for the players themselves, the award races are heating up as well. One of the most captivating races is between Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge for the 2022 AL MVP award.
At this point, it appears to be Judge's race to lose. Judge is putting together a legendary season that is coming close to breaking a number of long-standing records. He is just five home runs away from breaking the American League record for most home runs in a season, and if he manages to make the record his own, it's tough to see him losing the AL MVP race.
On the other hand, Ohtani cannot be ruled out because his individual impact is greater than any players in the game given that he is among the best hitters and pitchers in the game. Ohtani ran away with the award last year, and you can make a case that he's been even better this year. Let's take a look at three reasons Ohtani will end up winning his second straight MVP award this season.
3. Shohei Ohtani has remained a lethal hitter
It's clear that if we are measuring the winner of this award based on hitting alone, it isn't a contest. Judge's line (.310 BA, 57 HR, 123 RBI, 1.105 OPS) is drastically better than Ohtani's (.265 BA, 34 HR, 88 RBI, .890 OPS) and that's really a testament to how good Judge has been rather than a knock on Ohtani.
Still, that isn't the case because, again, Ohtani is a pitcher whereas Judge isn't. Even looking at Ohtani's numbers at the plate, they are certainly nothing to scoff at. He's not going to hit 46 home runs like he did last season, but he still could reach 40 home runs and 100 RBIs by the time the season ends. Ohtani's batting average has also jumped nearly ten points from last season, so the minor drop in power isn't a big concern.
If it weren't for Judge's outrageous season, it would be tough to deny Ohtani his second straight MVP award based on his hitting numbers alone. Even with his contributions as a pitcher, Judge is the only guy who has been a better hitter in the American League than Ohtani this season. Ohtani's strong season at the plate should help him in his case to repeat as AL MVP.
2. Shohei Ohtani has improved as a pitcher
Ohtani's MVP run during the 2021 season was primarily due to his strong season at the plate. Ohtani was still very good on the mound, but it was his absurd hitting that really caught eyes last season. During the 2022 season, the roles have been reversed, and it's been Ohtani's pitching rather than his hitting that have really helped cement his MVP case.
Ohtani's pitching line for the season (12-8, 2.55 ERA, 188 K, 1.06 WHIP) is already much improved from last season. His ERA has dropped over 60 points from last season, and he's already passed the number of starts and innings pitched he had from last season. Ohtani proved this year that he can handle an ace's workload while still being one of the best hitters on the plate, which makes his ceiling even higher than initially thought.
Due to the greatness of Justin Verlander and Dylan Cease this season, Ohtani hasn't really been a Cy Young candidate, but he should parlay his strong season on the mound into a top five finish in the AL Cy Young race. After winning the award on the back of his historic season at the plate, Ohtani has proven he's just as good on the hill this season, adding to his already extraordinary skill set.
1. Aaron Judge only hits, Shohei Ohtani hits and pitches
In the end, this award is going to come down to how much value voters give Ohtani's performance as both a hitter and a pitcher in relation to Judge's hitting prowess. If voters are wowed by Judge's home run-hitting tendencies, then he will easily walk away with this award. But it's not all about how many home runs you hit.
The Most Valuable Player award isn't more complex than it seems; it goes to the player most valuable to their team throughout the course of the season. In that regard, how can you not pick Ohtani to win? He's doing something that literally no other player in the league can do, and he's doing at an unreal rate. He's putting together seasons where he's among the best hitters and pitchers in the league at the same time. It's unprecedented.
That lack of precedent is very clear when it comes to the MVP race, as voters really don't know what to do. Judge has been fantastic this season, but can they really give him the award given all that Ohtani has done for the Angels this season? Judge has been great, but he hasn't been as valuable to his team as Ohtani has, and for that reason alone, Ohtani should walk away from the 2022 season with his second straight MVP award.