FOX Sports MLB Analyst
The 2023 American League MVP race is over.
Make no mistake: Shohei Ohtani is winning MVP. And even though he’ll miss the rest of the season as he figures out how to treat his torn UCL and lingering oblique strain before heading into free agency, nothing will happen over the next two weeks to change that fact.
Ohtani will soon claim his second career MVP award, and in my opinion, he’ll do so handily.
There are some other candidates who are deservedly on the fringes of this race, such as Rangers shortstop Corey Seager, who’s put up some great numbers this year. He leads the league in both batting average (.334) and doubles (41) while boasting a career-best 1.041 OPS.
If Seager had put up these numbers over the course of a full season, he would make this conversation a lot more difficult. But it is hard to argue his case considering he’s missed about 40 games over two separate stints on the injured list. Seager is on pace to finish the regular season at about 120 games played, or 15 fewer than Ohtani.
Then, we have to consider Ohtani’s own performance at the plate this season. He finished with 95 RBIs, a .304 average, 20 steals and eight triples, and he currently leads the American League in home runs (44), walks (91) and on-base percentage (.412) and all of MLB in slugging (.654) and OPS (1.066).
Oh, and he was again one of the American League’s better starting pitchers prior to getting injured.
That is why I just do not see any way Ohtani isn’t awarded MVP this year. He would have a great case to win it based on the offensive numbers alone. But he posted a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts across 132 innings while leading the majors in batting average against (.184) and batting average on balls in play (.240).
Shohei Ohtani has locked up the AL MVP despite finishing on the injured list
Ohtani was on track to record baseball’s best season of all time, even better than his 2021 MVP campaign, which I believed then was the greatest season we had ever seen.
Although injuries robbed us of more greatness, and there are some other AL players having great seasons — especially Seager — the news of Ohtani being shut down for the remainder of the year does not affect the MVP race.
It’s already been won.
Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.
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