Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani built on this weekend. It started Saturday night with a whale of a game against the AL West rival Mariners (LAA 14, SEA 1). Ohtani went 2 for 3 with two triples in the game. He also walked twice, scored three runs, and drove in three runs as well.
Sunday afternoon, Ohtani took the ball for the Angels' final home game (and possibly his final start of 2021) and pitched brilliantly again. He worked seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits. He walked one and struck out 10. He now has a 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings. At the plate, he is hitting .258/.371/.595 with 25 doubles, seven triples, 45 homers, 98 RBI and 99 runs. He's also stolen 24 bases.
Ohtani entered Sunday with an MLB-leading 8.7 WAR this season. He's more than a full win ahead of the second-place player (Zack Wheeler at 7.5 WAR) and WAR doesn't fully capture Ohtani's value because he fills two important roles (middle-of-the-order hitter and ace) while occupying just one roster spot.
Ultimately, the BBWAA and 30 AL MVP voters (two per American League city) will determine whether Ohtani is the league's MVP this year. Mike Trout, a three-time MVP himself, went to bat for Ohtani's MVP candidacy prior to Saturday's win. Here's what Trout told reporters, including MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger:
"He's the MVP," Trout said. "He's just a truly amazing talent. What Vladdy is doing over there is unbelievable, and he's in the race. His [offensive] numbers might be a little bit better than Ohtani, but then you look at Vladdy's pitching -- and I haven't seen him pitch."
"Vladdy" is of course Toronto Blue Jays wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ohtani's primary competition for the MVP award. Guerrero leads the league in the three triple-slash categories (.315/.405/.601) as well as homers (46), runs scored (120), hits (183), total bases (349), and OPS+ (170). Guerrero is 10 RBI behind Salvador Perez for the league lead as he hunts a Triple Crown.
In any non-Ohtani season, Guerrero would be a worthy MVP winner. It is not a non-Ohtani season, however, and a player who has been a top-10 hitter and also given his team 23 starts that are roughly ace caliber exists. Guerrero's team being in the postseason race will be a factor for some MVP voters, undoubtedly, though Toronto is currently on the outside of the postseason looking in.
It is no surprise Trout, who has not played since May 17 due to a calf ailment, went to bat for Ohtani's MVP case just as it is no surprise Guerrero's Blue Jays teammates would go to bat for him. MVP votes will be cast after the regular season but before the postseason, and the awards winners will be announced in November.