Quick Hit October: The Shohei Award!
OK, so I’m listening: A lot of you have asked for more quick hits — short two- or three-minute reads to go along with the usual array of long features, rabbit hole journeys and deep dives that you find here on JoeBlogs.
So, throughout October — as the baseball playoffs kick into gear — I’m going to do a bunch of these quick hits (check out the cool header!) that I hope will bring a little joy to your mornings. Let’s get to it!
The Shohei Award
Everywhere I go these days, people ask who should be the American League MVP. On the one hand, you have Aaron Judge, who is having a season for the ages with those 61 home runs, and he also leads the league in RBIs, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, etc.*
*Though it does look now like he’s going to fall short of the Triple Crown — his average dropped to .311 on Monday night, four points behind Luis Arraez, who sat out Monday’s game with the left hamstring injury that has been hampering him for months. It’s not impossible for Judge to catch Arraez in the final two games, but it’s going to be really hard.
On the other hand, you have Shohei Ohtani, who is having a season that is indescribable.
The MVP question is muted somewhat by the simple fact that Judge WILL win it. I suspect he will win it running away. All the advanced stats give him a sizable advantage. His team is actually winning. The voting probably won’t be unanimous, but it will not be close, Judge over Ohtani.
And that’s OK for two reasons: One, Judge is having a fabulous season, one worthy of the MVP award.
And two — the MVP award is not quite good enough for Shohei Ohtani.
No, baseball needs to create a new award, something really cool and spacy looking, something made of futuristic metal, maybe something that looks like the top of the Frost Bank Tower in Austin or the Nuragic and Contemporary Art Museum in Italy. You would call it The Shohei Award. And every year, you would give it to Shohei Ohtani, because there simply isn’t anyone else in his species.
To go over it once again, Shohei the hitter is batting .275/.358/.524 and he’s top-five in triples, home runs, total bases, OPS+ and runs created. He plays for a team that is THIRTEENTH in runs and yet he’s sixth in runs scored and seventh in RBIs.
OK. So that’s pretty good.
Ohtani the pitcher is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA, and he’s striking out 11.9 hitters per nine innings (tops in the league), he almost threw a no-hitter in his last start, and he’s top-five in strikeouts, ERA, FIP and pitcher WAR. He won’t quite win the Cy Young Award, but he will get down-ballot votes.
And it’s all so absurdly unprecedented. Babe Ruth fans do love to talk about how he was a great pitcher and a great hitter — and he was — but that was also 100 years ago, and even Ruth wasn’t a great pitcher and hitter at the same time. Once the Yankees got him, they made him a full-time outfielder.
We don’t have words for what Ohtani is doing, much less a worthy award. Aaron Judge is having the best season in baseball by the terms we have come to understand. Shohei is doing something altogether different and something only he can do. Judge deserves the MVP award. Ohtani deserves something even cooler.