It’s been a crazy MLB season. Perennial powerhouses like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros have been racking up wins, but new contenders such as the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles have been making noise. In terms of individual play, the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge has been this year’s megastar, most notably chasing the single season American League home run record of 61 set by the great Roger Maris. Besides the big blasts, Judge leads the AL in most major batting categories and is the frontrunner to take home the AL MVP. Meanwhile, the reigning champion, two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, is putting up similar numbers to his season last year, but is on a losing team and is behind Judge in most offensive categories. While Judge is having an incredible season, is he the most deserving of this year’s AL MVP award? The Daily Campus’ Jonathan Synott and Evan Rodriguez will look to answer this question on this week’s edition of the Point/Counterpoint.
Jon: Alright, let me start by saying that Ohtani is not the best hitter in the American League this year, that nod goes to Judge. However, Ohtani ranks in the top seven in the AL in some major hitting categories – RBIs, OPS and OPS+, home runs and slugging percentage included. He clearly is one of the most elite hitters in baseball this season, adding that offensive production to his team. He is a mortal lock for a Silver Slugger. However, the one aspect that Judge cannot even match up with is the pitching aspect. Ohtani also adds so much in the Angels’ rotation, giving his team a 2.67 ERA and a 2.59 FIP. He is allowing a 1.063 WHIP, and is first in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings. Not for nothing, Aaron Judge has recorded zero strikeouts this year. He’s had a great season, yes, but until he or anyone else provides on both sides of the baseball, the AL MVP should always go to Ohtani. Take the production of Gerrit Cole on the mound and the production of Rafael Devers at the plate, but combine them into one person. Shouldn’t that kind of talent be more valuable than any one-way player?
Evan: I agree that Ohtani is certainly killing it on the mound, however, it would be highway robbery if you did not select the best hitter in the American League, especially after he just hit his 50th bomb of the season before the month of September, a legendary feat for anyone in baseball. While Ohtani does sit top 7 in all the categories you named, Judge leads all those categories in baseball. He’s doing all this while still being first in the AL East. In fact, New York is still first in the AL East even after playing their worst baseball of the year with Judge playing a huge part in keeping the team afloat despite their terrible play. While the Angels may not have as great of a team as the Yankees in terms of talent, a 56-73 record is certainly nothing to brag about as the Angels head toward another losing season. While Ohtani does add very much to the Angels pitching rotation, I’d argue Judge’s hitting is much more valuable to any baseball team this season than both of Ohtani’s skills. It’s reflected in both teams’ records this season.
Jon: Yes, Judge is undoubtedly the best hitter in the league. However, I have to cite recency bias as to why Ohtani is not getting the respect he deserves. Aside from the RBIs, all of the batting statistics listed were led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the AL last season, with Ohtani trailing behind. However, Ohtani was widely considered to be the favorite for the award last year. Voters tend to avoid multiple MVP selections if it’s not a landslide. That’s why Michael Jordan didn’t win at least 10 MVP awards. Ohtani makes the extraordinary seem ordinary after just two full seasons of stardom. Say a football player put up Kyler Murray-type numbers in the NFL, a fringe MVP candidate, but then also put up Nick Bosa statistics on the defensive end. The idea that you can impact on both sides of the ball makes you much more valuable than any other player, especially when you’re excelling as much as Ohtani. In five separate games this year, he drove in two or more runs while allowing less than two. While Judge can only help with his bat and defense (if the ball gets hit his way at the right time), Ohtani provides that extra boost. Yes, the Angels have been lackluster this season, even with two all-world talents in Ohtani and Mike Trout. Even with a combined OPS+ of 317 between the pair, the Angels rank third-to-last in the AL in standard OPS, and even with Ohtani’s pitching the roster is sixth out of 15 teams in ERA with 3.80. Meanwhile, the Yankees rank first and second in the AL in those categories, respectively. New York has a stacked roster, and Judge definitely feeds off of that as well as builds the rest of the team up, but Los Angeles is not that same competitor, to no fault of their stars.
Evan: I disagree as I believe that Ohtani certainly does get the respect he deserves in both pitching and hitting. If Judge wasn’t the best hitter in the American League by a landslide, Ohtani most likely would be receiving his second MVP award. Yet that’s not the case and Judge is running away with mostly every hitting category in the American League. That means that if you don’t give it to Judge this season, you would be taking it away from the best hitter in the American League. Is Judge only able to impact the Yankees with his bat and glove in the outfield? That’s correct, but don’t think for a second that New York would be in the same position they are currently without Judge. While Judge does feed off of New York’s roster, he has added much more than he has benefited this season. Take Judge’s 7.4 oWAR for example as how good the Yankees star has been with his bat this year. If you take him off of New York’s roster, which could very well be a reality next season, this team would be fighting for third place in the AL East if we were to use this year’s standings. If Ohtani was playing just a little bit better than he has this season, it would be a much closer match. However, there’s no way that baseball voters can ignore Judge’s phenomenal performance this year and he deserves the AL MVP award more than anyone this year.