Shohei Ohtani put it all together in 2021 and the Los Angeles Angels' two-way superstar earned himself the American League Most Valuable Player award Thursday, receiving all 30 first-place votes for his historic campaign.
The 27-year-old hit 46 home runs with 100 RBI at the plate and went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 23 starts as a pitcher and becomes the first two-way player to win the MVP award since its inception in 1931.
“American fans, the U.S.A. baseball, is more accepting and welcoming to the whole two-way idea compared to when I first started in Japan, so it made the transition a lot easier for me,” Ohtani said through translator Ippei Mizuhara. “I’m very thankful for that.”
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finished second in voting, placing second on 29 of the 30 ballots, while Blue Jays teammate Marcus Semien came in third.
Ohtani is the second Japanese-born player to win an MVP award, joining Ichiro Suzuki (2001).
“MVP is something I was shooting for,” Ohtani said. “I think every player is, as long as they’re playing baseball professionally.”
Ohtani hit an MLB-best 33 home runs in the first half and was the first two-way starter in All-Star Game history. He pitched a perfect first inning and had two plate at-bats a day after participating in the Home Run Derby for the first time.
Ohtani signed with the Angels prior to the 2018 season and won AL Rookie of the Year with 22 home home runs 326 at-bats and a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts – but underwent Tommy John surgery and didn't pitch again until 2020. A left-handed hitter, Ohtani got 384 at-bats in 2019 (18 HR, 62 RBI, 12 SB) but struggled in the shortened 2020 season, batting .190 in 44 games.
Guerrero Jr., the runner-up, hit .311 with an MLB-best 48 home runs for Toronto. Semien hit .311 with 48 home runs and 111 RBI
Some other statistical highlights of Ohtani's 2021 season:
– First player in history with 100+ strikeouts as a pitcher and 10+ homers as a hitter.
– Sixth player to hit 45+ home runs with 25+ stolen bases in a single season
– Seventh player with 45+ home runs and 8+ triples.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of doubters, especially from my days in Japan, but tried not to let that get to me, let the pressure get to me,” Ohtani said. “I just wanted to have fun and see what kinds of numbers I could put up and what type of performance I could put up.”
With Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper winning the NL award, this is the first year since 1987 that neither league's MVP has played on a team that reached the postseason.
Contributing: The Associated Press