Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays

Shohei Ohtani deserves AL MVP even if Vlad Jr. wins Triple Crown

With under a month left in the MLB season, the AL MVP race is heating up between Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Two days ago, Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit his 45th home run of the season, putting him just one home run ahead of Shohei Ohtani for the MLB lead. It also helped Vlad Jr’s pursuit of the illusive Triple Crown as he now leads the AL in batting average, home runs, and is tied for third in RBI. He trails the leader, Salvador Perez, by only six.

When this happened, MLB fans and media couldn’t resist the urge to ask, if Vlad Jr does capture the Triple Crown, should he be awarded AL MVP over two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani?

The answer is no, he should not.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr is having a great season

Let’s be clear, Guerrero is having a great year. Whether he gets the Triple Crown or not, his 2021 season has been special. With 17 games to go on the Blue Jays’ schedule, he’s batting .315 with 45 home runs and 103 RBI. He also leads MLB in hits with 171 and runs scored with 114. He impresses in a ton of other advanced analytics if you’re into that stuff.

If he does go on to actually win the Triple Crown, he will be the first to do so since Miguel Cabrera in 2012. Prior to that, it was last won in 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox did it. It has only ever been done 12 times by 10 men across both leagues, in the over 100-year history of baseball. That speaks to how hard and impressive it is to do.

Guerrero Jr. Is doing this for a contending team, in the heat of a playoff race. In majority of years, he would be a shoe-in for AL MVP. Unfortunately for Guerrero’s trophy case, this special season didn’t take place in the majority of other years he would have won it. It took place in a year where someone is doing something even more special and rare than a Triple Crown.

Shohei Ohtani is the MVP

That someone is Shohei Ohtani. That something more special and rare than a Triple Crown is being an elite two-way player.

The home run race between the two is what reignited this conversation. So comparing the two’s batting numbers:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr: .315 BA, 45 HR, 103 RBI 

Shohei Ohtani: .257 BA, 44 HR, 94 RBI

It is clear Guerrero has the edge, and would be understandable why some may say he is the AL MVP. Then you remember that Ohtani pitches. Not like a position player throwing lollipops in a game that has gotten too far out of hand. But like a starting pitcher for his team, the best one at that. One of the best in the league.

This season on the mound, Ohtani has pitched 115.1 innings, with a 3.36 ERA.

Much was made of how rare a Triple Crown is. What Ohtani is doing is even rarer. The only true comparison is Babe Ruth.

For as special as Guerrero’s season has been and will be if he tracks down the Triple Crown, it can’t compare to what Ohtani is doing. With the hitting relatively close, there is nothing Guerrero can do to contribute the impact that Ohtani has on the mound. Vlad Jr is an elite hitter. Ohtani is an elite hitter and an elite pitcher, and two is still more than one.

Fortunately for fans and Vlad Jr, both he an Ohtani are young, 22 and 27 respectively. For Guerrero that means he will have plenty of other opportunities to win an MVP award. But as for this year, he may have to settle for a Triple Crown.

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