Aaron Judge vs. Shohei Ohtani: How to decide the AL MVP award?

Through Pedro Mura
FOX Sports MLB Author

That YanksAaron Richter produced one of the best single seasons in baseball history. He’s chasing Roger Maris’ franchise record of 61 homers and playing a stable midfield. Lately he is almost single-handedly keeping the highest-profile team in the sport at the top of the American League East amid the colossal collapse of his teammates.

The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is producing either the most dominant or second most dominant two-way season in baseball history — if only for himself. He bats more than 50% better than the average major league hitter, and he overpitches 50% better than the average major league pitcher. He also does both in remarkable quantity: he is capable of leading the Angels in innings and he leads the club in plate appearances with ease. In fact, he leads the Angels in every significant statistical category.

Despite their best efforts, neither man will win the 2022 American League MVP award. This injustice has already triggered many discussions and will certainly continue for weeks, if not years. On a November afternoon when the voting results are finally announced, a team’s fans are sure to be furious.

Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge fuel the epic fight for AL MVP

Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge fuel the epic fight for AL MVP

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry discuss the AL MVP award contest between Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge as Ohtani becomes the first player in MLB history to record 10 wins and 30 home runs in a season.

There’s no apparent antidote to that rage available for this awards season, but it’s worth wondering if there’s a longer-term solution that would allow Ohtani to be properly honored for his unique success while also accommodating other players’ breakout years consider.

One possible way could be to create some kind of Hitter of the Year honor. Call it the Platinum Slugger, call it what you will, but let it replace the nine hitters that Silver Sluggers win per league, much like the Platinum Glove does for each league’s nine Gold Gloves per year. Major League Baseball could let the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America choose the winner, as is being done for Cy Young. Or it could be determined by fan voting, as is the case with the Platinum Glove. That might arouse additional interest.

This year, Judge would be the obvious pick for Hitter of the Year, and Ohtani would have a better chance of winning his second straight MVP. Last year, the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would have been a perfect fit for the Hitter of the Year award. It would have recognized his significant achievement while still leaving room for Ohtani to win the MVP. Around this time last year, a league executive freely admitted that he felt terrible about Guerrero.

Nobody knows how long Ohtani can maintain this unprecedented success. But it’s in the sport’s best interest to acknowledge it for as long as it takes without losing sight of other standout seasons. What he does is unique and will remain so for at least the rest of his heyday, if not forever. This uniqueness attracts attention worldwide. It could also serve over time to eclipse players who only do half of what he does.

Creating a new award would be one way to ensure the sport markets these players while recognizing Ohtani.

Shohei Ohtani is yet to hand over his AL MVP to Aaron Judge

Shohei Ohtani is yet to hand over his AL MVP to Aaron Judge

Ben Verlander looks back on Shohei Ohtani’s recent tear at the plate, including his two night home runs on Monday. Meanwhile, Aaron Judge is keeping up with his historic home run pace.

This year another possible solution to this dilemma is emerging. Two of the AL’s top Cy Young contestants, Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan and Houston’s Justin Verlander, recently succumbed to injury. Both could be back before the end of the season but Ohtani has a looming opportunity to overtake them. His biggest remaining competitor might be the White Sox’s Dylan Cease. Perhaps Ohtani could win his first Cy Young while Judge wins his first MVP.

He’s pitched enough – and good enough – that that’s a realistic possibility. Ohtani won’t match his homer or stolen base totals from a year ago, but he’s beating his ERA and winning totals. He also throws harder. Yes, he’s played on a six-man rotation schedule all season, which hampers his innings accumulation, but the rest of the sport is increasingly operating with similar arrangements. Most elite starters don’t get to 30 starts a year either.

Right now, Judge looks more likely to win the MVP than Ohtani. That’s hard to question. He carried his club. The only question is: Can’t you somehow steer honors in both directions?

Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for The Athletic, the Angels and Dodgers for the Orange County Register and the LA Times and his alma mater, USC, for ESPN Los Angeles. He is the author of How to Beat a Broken Game. Follow him on Twitter @Pedromoura.

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