There's nothing particularly shocking about hearing a manager stump for one of his superstar to win the MVP award, but Angels manager Joe Maddon was notably emphatic when talking about Shohei Ohtani's case. Here's what he said:
Joe Maddon was asked about Shohei Ohtani being MVP: "It's way inbalanced... It's not even close."— Taylor Blake Ward (@TaylorBlakeWard) July 27, 2021
"It's not even close," Maddon says. Ohtani's case flows from the fact that he's a two-way stat and that he provides significant value as a hitter and a pitcher, all from a single roster spot. Some relevant digits:
- At the plate, he's batting .277/.361/.679 (172 OPS+) with 35 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 93 games.
- His .679 slugging percentage leads all of MLB, and those 35 home runs also lead all of MLB.
- At this writing, he's on pace for exactly 100 extra-base hits, which would be the 16th time in MLB history that a hitter has racked up at least 100 extra-base hits in a season.
- On the mound, Ohtani boasts an ERA of 3.04 (154 ERA+) in 15 starts with 100 strikeouts and 36 walks in 80 innings.
- In terms of Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, Ohtani has registered a 3.8 WAR as a hitter and a 2.8 WAR as a pitcher. High-level mathematics reveals that those two figures added together come to 6.6 -- all from, again, one active roster spot. In second place on the AL WAR leaderboards are Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien of the Blue Jays with 4.9 apiece. That's a sizable gap with barely two months of regular season to go.
To be sure, WAR isn't the unassailable answer to any MVP question, but it's a fairly reliable guidepost. It also speaks to the "inbalanced" (note: not a word) margin of which Maddon spoke. Throw in Ohtani's star appeal and the way he's captured the imagination of the sport on what seems like a nightly basis, and all of this tracks. Speaking of which, please regard the current AL MVP odds via William Hill Sportsbook:
They don't see it as particularly close, either.
While it's perilous to attempt to read the minds of voters, there's been a decided shift away from the old ballot ethos that held the MVP must almost always come from a certifiable contender. The Angels right now are only one game above .500 and five games out of playoff position (and behind a number of teams). They'll get back Mike Trout at some point and may make a charge, but even if they come up short voters will likely (and rightly) not pin any blame on Ohtani. That's especially the case given that Ohtani this season has stepped up his production at the plate in clutch situations.
All of this is to say that Maddon is correct when he says Ohtani is in line for MVP laurels and that it's not a particularly close call. There's still time for things to change, but that's an unlikely outcome.