Anyone looking for the odds to win American League MVP here the morning after we found out about Shohei Ohtani's injury would come up empty. The odds are off the board, due to Ohtani's commanding lead in the race and the uncertainty about his status moving forward.
What we know is that. What we don't know is if he'll keep serving as a DH after taking a few days off to evaluate the situation.
What I'll do right here is discuss whether or not Ohtani already has the MVP wrapped up. That is to say, if he doesn't play the rest of this season or only sparingly plays, will he still win the award?
Here are the numbers:
Ohtani is hitting .304/.405/.664 (183 OPS+) with 22 doubles, seven triples, 44 homers, 91 RBI, 97 runs and 17 stolen bases. He leads the AL in runs, triples, home runs, walks, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. In terms of position player stats accrued, he leads in Fangraphs' WAR and is tied for first in baseball-reference.com's WAR with Marcus Semien. To be clear, this excludes his pitching.
On the mound, Ohtani finishes with a 10-5 record (his team is 61-67 and they have gone 14-9 in his pitching starts). He has a 3.14 ERA (143 ERA+) and 1.06 WHIP in 132 innings with 167 strikeouts. He leads the league in ERA+ and has the lowest allowed hit rate.
To put it all in perspective, Ohtani leads Semien 9.6 to 5.7 in WAR.
If we're going to envision someone else making a run at Ohtani, we need to look at specific player cases. You can't just throw out Ohtani due to injury and playing for what'll end up a non-contender. It's like complaining about a problem without offering a solution.
Ohtani's chief competition might be the Rangers' middle infield in Semien and Corey Seager. Seager has only played in 83 games to this point, so he'll end up in the same range as Ohtani, should the latter be done for the season entirely. And if they played in a similar number of games, how could Seager possibly be more valuable than Ohtani?
Ohtani's OPS is 1.069. Seager is the only player even in the same stratosphere. Yandy Díaz of the Rays is third at .912. No one else is even over .900. Over on Fangraphs' WAR, the next players are Ohtani in the AL are Bobby Witt Jr., Semien and Luis Robert Jr.
No, Ohtani was more than lapping the field due to both merit and a dearth of other MVP-type seasons in the AL. Seager has MVP numbers, but he's missed a big chunk of the season. It looks like Ohtani might, too, while being more individually valuable than Seager.
If it's not Ohtani, the list of other candidates:
Marcus Semien, Rangers: He might be the best chance here with the gaudy WAR showing while playing every day for what has been one of the best teams in the league this season, especially with that team being such a pleasant surprise. But are you moved by his .279/.349/.463 slash that's good for a 120 OPS+? How about 31 doubles, four triples, 19 homers, 79 RBI, 96 runs and 13 steals? Great numbers, but we're talking about MVP over Ohtani's output.
Corey Seager, Rangers: He's hitting a robust .343/.411/.651 (184 OPS+) and that's absolutely an MVP slash line. Of course, he's not even qualified for the batting title. Even if he plays every single game the rest of the way, he'll finish with 119 games. That's short of Ohtani. Seager would have to keep up this ridiculous pace and not miss any games and still probably would be well short of Ohtani in terms of individual value. If the argument against Ohtani is games played, he'd still have more. If it's value to the team during a pennant race, Semien's been around all year for the Rangers. I'm just not seeing it.
Yandy Díaz, Rays: He leads the league in average (.329; remember, Seager isn't qualified) and on-base percentage (.406) while playing for a team that's been in the thick of the race all year. He's also got 27 doubles, 16 homers, 65 RBI, 77 runs and 4.2 WAR. Not exactly numbers that jump off the page when we're talking about running down Ohtani.
Luis Robert Jr. White Sox: Robert has 30 doubles, 33 homers, 67 RBI, 78 runs, 16 steals and 4.9 WAR. He's hitting .266/.321/.551 for a slug-heavy 134 OPS+. He's on a bad team. Next.
Julio Rodríguez, Mariners: Julio and his Mariners are on an absurd run that should have him on the radar, but he was in "sophomore slump" mode for months with such a slow start that it was an incredible hole from which to climb all the way to the top here. Just look at the season-long line right now: .277/.337/.461 (123 OPS+). He has 30 doubles, 21 homers, 80 RBI, 76 runs, 34 steals and 4.7 WAR. If he could get to around .300 in average (which would be astounding, given that he was hitting .244 a month ago) with something like 40 doubles, 30 homers, 100 RBI, 100 runs and 50 steals while the Mariners won the AL West, it would be interesting to see the arguments. Can all that happen, though?
Kyle Tucker, Astros: The Astros could also take the AL West. Tucker has been hot this second half and leads the AL with 95 RBI. He's hitting .293/.372/.522 (143 OPS+) with 29 doubles, 25 homers and 24 steals. What if he stayed hot and got to, say, 40 homers with 135 RBI? Maybe he'd have a case. Of course, Ohtani already has 44 homers.
Adley Rutschman, Orioles: The O's have the best record in the AL and many view Rutschman as the team leader and most valuable player. Maybe there's a little Yadier Molina type thing going on here where the WAR total shortchanges the value many see in him behind the plate. At the plate, Rutschman is hitting .273/.368/.427 (122 OPS+) with 22 doubles, 16 homers, 61 RBI and 66 runs. This entire argument seems reasonable if we're talking about down-ballot votes, but not the actual winner. Not when someone of Ohtani's caliber is sitting right there.
Basically, it's hard to see anyone toppling Ohtani, even if his season is over. Plus, the best bet is he returns as a hitter and keeps compiling offensive stats. Even if he doesn't, though, make sure you're looking at the other candidates before declaring that he can't win due to playing for a non-contender and/or being done due to injury. The alternatives most likely won't have a case.