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The 2021 IBWAA Awards (My Ballot): AL MVP (2 of 2)

It’s week two of my releasing my ballots for the various end-of-the-season awards across Major League Baseball. These are the same ballots/players that I submitted to the IBWAA before the postseason began.

Today is our final day as we finish going through all the American League Awards, now with my Top-5 for the AL MVP!

 

Preface:

For the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America), voters get to vote for the Top-10 players for the MVP, the Top-5 pitchers for the Cy Young, the Top-3 players for the Rookie of the Year, Reliever of the Year, and the Top-3 managers for the Manager of the Year awards.

 

Number Five:

Name: Jose Ramirez

Team: (The Final Year of the) Cleveland Indians

Hitting Line: 152 Games, .266/.355/.538 (.893 OPS/141 OPS+), 36 HR’s, 103 RBI’s, +6.7 bWAR/+6.3 fWAR

Jose Ramirez has quietly been one of the best players in the MLB for the past 5 years while consistently running up high votes for the AL MVP. He was the runner-up in 2020 and was 3rd in both 2017 and 2018, yet I never really think or hear about him until it comes time to vote at the end of the season. I guess that’s part and parcel of being an Indian. Tangent aside, J-Ram had the AL’s 5th best bWAR, 3rd best bWAR (among hitters), 9th best SLG, 6th best OPS, the 7th best OPS+, and he had the 6th most extra-base hits. His defense helps him gain that extra value (he ranked positively by both BBRef and Fangraphs), but his offense was closer to middle-of-the-pack for MVP candidates. Thus, I think 5th was a solid placement for him.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Four:

Name: Marcus Semien

Team: Toronto Blue Jays

Hitting Line: 162 Games, .265/.334/.538 (.873 OPS/133 OPS+), 45 HR’s, 102 RBI’s, +7.1 bWAR/+6.6 fWAR

One of two players who played in all 162 games this season (the other being Whit Merrifield), Semien is showing that his 2019 season may not have just been a fluke after another season where he should easily be Top-5 in the AL MVP voting. Semien had the 3rd best bWAR in the AL and the 2nd best fWAR (among hitters). He combined this with top-defense (8th best by BBRef’s dWAR and Fangraphs’ Def), the 7th best SLG, 10th best OPS, 4th most Home Runs, and the 10th most RBI’s. He was one of 4 players in the MLB (all from the AL) to hit 40+ Home Runs and have 100+ RBI’s. Speaking of…Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Three:

Name: Salvador Perez

Team: Kansas City Royals

Hitting Line: 161 Games, .273/.316/.544 (.859 OPS/126 OPS+), 48 HR’s, 121 RBI’s, +5.3 bWAR/+3.4 fWAR

I’m overvaluing Salvador Perez. He’s another one of the 4 players in the AL who hit 40+ Home Runs (he led the MLB with 48) and 100+ RBI’s (he led the MLB with 121). Yet while doing this yet he had just the 10th best oWAR and 27th best fWAR (among AL hitters). Somehow, I’m overvaluing Salvador Perez. He had the AL’s 5th best SLG, and he’s a catcher who played 161 games (though to be fair only 124 were as a catcher). I know I like to highlight the big Home-Run guys with votes that are probably better than they should be (I had Luke Voit as 5th for AL MVP last year; he finished 9th), but I think Salvador Perez deserves some more love for what he did on a Royals team that won just 74 games.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Two:

Name: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Team: Toronto Blue Jays

Hitting Line: 161 Games, .311/.401/.601 (1.002 OPS/169 OPS+), 48 HR’s, 111 RBI’s, +6.8 bWAR/+6.7 fWAR

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had the grandest of expectations on him before he even made it to the MLB, he was just 20-years-old at the time and after hitting to a 106 OPS+ it was considered a disappointment. Well, 2 years later, that same kid who “underwhelmed” many, in his 3rd MLB season and at 22-years-old just led the AL in OBP, SLG, and (obviously) OPS. He also had the most Home Runs (tied with Perez, #3), the highest OPS+, the most total bases, and the most runs scored and fWAR (among hitters) while also placing Top-10 in bWAR (4th), AVG (3rd), Hits (2nd), RBI’s (5th), and Walks (6th). He was the talk of the MLB during the entire season and quite nearly hit for the triple-crown (he was .008 short on AVG and 10 RBI’s shy). At just 22-years-old an MVP seems very probably for his future, but unfortunately 2021 wasn’t his year because…Embed from Getty Images

 

Number One:

Name: Shohei Ohtani

Team: Los Angeles Angels

Hitting Line: 155 Games, .257/.372/.592 (.965 OPS/158 OPS+), 46 HR’s, 100 RBI’s, +4.9 bWAR/+5.1 fWAR

Pitching Line: 23 G, 9-2 Record (.818 WP%), 3.18 ERA (141 ERA+, 3.52 FIP), 130.1 IP, 1.090 WHIP, 156 K’s (10.8 K/9), 44 BB (3.0 BB/9), +4.1 bWAR/+3.0 fWAR

With a total bWAR of +9.0 and an fWAR of +8.1, Shohei Ohtani clearly separated himself from the rest of the American League competition by over 2.0 bWAR and by nearly 1.5 fWAR! It just goes to support that old saying that when you’re a solid pitcher and one of the leagues best hitters…well, actually, this has never happened at the same time before (or at least not since Babe Ruth). Shohei Ohtani is an incredible baseball player. In simple terms, he was the 2nd best AL hitter (by OPS+) and he was the 9th best pitcher (by ERA; min. 100 IP). In other terms, Ohtani had a better ERA than Gerrit Cole while hitting more Home Runs than Aaron Judge. Because it’s fun to come up with these comparisons, Ohtani also got on base at a higher clip than Mookie Betts while throwing strikeouts at a better rate than Zack Wheeler and stealing more bases than Ozzie Albies. Yes, he was *THAT* good.

Shohei Ohtani as a batter had the 5th best AL OBP, 2nd best SLG, 2nd best OPS and OPS+, hit the 3rd most Home Runs, had the 3rd most walks, 5th most stolen bases, and he hit the most triples! Honestly, I’d love to and I want to talk about Ohtani’s 2021 forever, but at this point the picture is pretty clear. As a hitter alone, he wouldn’t he an MVP (though likely a Top-10 pick). As a pitcher alone, he is a down-ballot Cy Young pick. However, doing them both at the same time puts him far and above his competition.

If you want to read more about Ohtani’s pitching relative to the AL, I addressed it in this post, here.

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