One of the greatest seasons in baseball history has officially received its bow.
Shohei Ohtani was awarded the 2023 American League MVP on Thursday, unanimously winning the honor for the second time in three years.
The two-way superstar somehow reached new levels of dominance this past season. He put up career numbers nearly across the board at the plate, slashing .304/.412/.654 while leading the majors in slugging, OPS and OPS+. He also hit an AL-best 44 home runs despite missing almost all of September.
Ohtani might not have been as stellar on the mound as he was at the plate, but he was still among the game’s elite. He went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA, a 1.061 WHIP and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings over 23 starts. He would’ve finished in the top five in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (11.4), hits allowed per nine innings (5.8) and batting average against (.184) had he thrown enough innings to qualify.
The apex of Ohtani’s season came in June, as he posted arguably the best month in the long history of the sport. He hit .394 with a 1.444 OPS to go with 15 homers and 29 RBIs over 27 games. On the mound, Ohtani had a 3.26 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 10.98 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. A month later, he threw the first shutout of his MLB career.
Alas, the Summer of Shohei did finish in a disappointing fashion. In August, Ohtani was pulled early from starts and missed others because of injuries before suffering a second UCL tear in his pitching elbow. Ohtani appeared in the lineup a few more times following the injury but was shut down for good in the first week of September. He underwent UCL surgery soon after and will not pitch next season, though he aims to be available as a hitter by 2024 Opening Day.
Ohtani’s historic season and MVP victory serve as a prelude to what’s expected to be one of the biggest free-agency signings in the history of North American sports. The 29-year-old officially became a free agent earlier in November, opening the sweepstakes for a player that’s likely to receive the biggest contract ever in baseball, if not all of North American sports.
Where Ohtani will play next will remain a guess for likely the next few weeks, at the very least. But one thing’s for certain: There was no player more valuable than Ohtani in the American League this past season.
Ohtani, who finished as the AL MVP runner-up in 2022, won this year’s race over finalists Corey Seager and Marcus Semien of the Rangers.
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