Updated: Sep 12
For those of you who witnessed Shohei Ohtani’s luminosity this season, whether it was at the plate, or dominating as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, he had an unprecedented 2021 season and the choice for AL MVP was abundantly clear as the two-way star captured all 30 first-place votes. Later in his hometown Japan, the Tokyo Tower lit up in his team's colors to celebrate him becoming just the 19th unanimous MVP in major league history, joining names such as Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout, Frank Robinson, and so forth.
Ohtani revealed his humbleness by even turning down a top Japanese government award as a sign of "his strong desire to continue focusing on reaching even greater heights." https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/11/8e64f034fc76-baseball-star-ohtani-turns-down-top-japan-government-award.html He even stated, "I don't have any special plans, actually, I'm probably gonna spend a lonely night by myself at home." He’s the fifth unanimous MVP since 2000, joining Trout (2014), Albert Pujols (2009), Barry Bonds (2002), and Bryce Harper (2015), who also captured the National League MVP this season.
Other candidates for the AL MVP were Toronto Blue Jay young star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who received 29 of the 30 second-place votes by the BBWAA, with the remaining vote going to Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals, and Guerrero’s teammate Marcus Semien receiving 24 third-place votes.
The MVP was Ohtani’s crowning achievement as he exceeded the expectation he carried since leaving the Japanese League four years ago. "I've always dealt with a lot of doubters, especially from my days in Japan," Ohtani said. "But I try not to let that get to me. I just wanted to have fun and see what kind of numbers I could put up."
Numbers he sure did put up as he became the first player in baseball history to hit at least 30 home runs in a year when he also made at least 10 pitching appearances. Let's also not forget Ohtani, 27, amassed 46 home runs and made 23 starts for an otherwise lowly Angels team. Offensively, he posted a .965 OPS (second highest in the AL), added eight triples (tied for the major league lead), and stole 26 bases (a mark topped by only seven players). He became the sixth player in history with at least 45 homers and at least 25 stolen bases in the same season, joining a decorated list of names that includes Alfonso Soriano, Chipper Jones, Jose Canseco, Larry Walker, and Bonds.
Ohtani would also compile 130 1/3 innings on the mound and boasted a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts and 44 walks. Among those with at least 120 innings in 2021, Ohtani ranked within the top 14% in strikeout percentage, the top 19% in opponents' slugging percentage, and the top 16% in expected fielding independent pitching. All told, Ohtani was worth 9.1 Baseball-Reference wins above replacement, blowing all his contemporaries out of the water!
His teammate Trout, who’s a three-time MVP himself even stated, "Shohei's season was nothing short of electric, at times, I felt like I was back in Little League. To watch a player throw eight innings, hit a home run, steal a base and then go play right field was incredible. What impresses me the most about him, though, is the way he carries himself both on and off the field. With so much on his plate daily, he still manages to do it with a smile."
This is a man who gave up a promising career early in his home country Japan to become a two-way force in the major league. In July, Ohtani competed in the Home Run Derby, then led off the All-Star Game as both a pitcher and a hitter. In October, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred gave him the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award which is meant to "recognize accomplishments and contributions of historical significance to the game," according to an MLB release.
Throughout an electrifying season, Ohtani captivated audiences with his unprecedented combination of power, speed, and pitching prowess. His fastball was turbocharged, but his splitter was injurious. He hit 500-foot moon shots, but he also legged out routine grounders. He is the do it all unicorn of the major league, unlike anyone we’ve seen before.
Fans would line up outside the Angel Stadium gates for his giveaways, people all over the world tuned in to see the spectacle that their eyes were about to witness and the most respected members of his sport - players, coaches, and executives were left dazed by his humbleness and overwhelming talent.