There is Only One MVP (Special from the IBWAA)
By Ray Kuhn (Special from the IBWAA)
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in September 2022.
The objective of major league baseball teams is to win games. I know that is incredibly simple, and stating the obvious at the highest level, but it is important for the journey we are about to take.
Next, we need to be reminded about what the definition of “valuable” is.
If we were having this conversation 30 years ago, this would be the point where you would press pause on the article and grab a dictionary off the shelf. Since the majority of us do not have one handy, I will save you the trouble and instead look to the one definition that helps to prove my point as it describes valuable of being “of great use or service.”
In this case, that use or service we are working towards is winning major-league baseball games. That is measured by the standings at the end of the regular season and if we are trying to determine which players are most valuable, it would be those that played the largest parts in their team’s success.
Before we stop with the definitions and general statements, it is important to remember that there is a large difference between being the best and being the most valuable.
There is no way that any baseball player in 2022 can come close to competing with Shohei Ohtani, and quite frankly, it is not even a fair competition. What Ohtani is doing while pulling double duty at the plate on the mound is unprecedented and his performance in either role is enough to classify him as an elite player which makes the combination truly other-worldly.
Entering play Tuesday, Ohtani was hitting .271 with 34 home runs, 93 RBI, 87 runs, and 11 stolen bases and truly stands on his own. Not to be outdone on the mound, Ohtani has a 2.47 ERA with 14 victories while striking out close to 12 batters per nine innings.
I am not sure you will find anyone who is not completely floored and impressed by what we are seeing out of Ohtani or anyone who would not refer to him as the best player in baseball based on his performance.
The only problem though is that Ohtani is not making the Angels any better than they would be without him. Yes, he has 14 victories and has driven in 93 runs while scoring 87 times and those are very real contributions, but the Angels are 34 games out of first base, so how valuable can Ohtani really be?
Across the country, the Yankees clinched the AL East on Tuesday and it was in large part due to the contributions of Aaron Judge. Regardless of whether or not Judge breaks any home run records this season, 60 home runs through Tuesday is no small feat.
Judge is far from one-dimensional as he is very much in contention for a Triple Crown with a .315 batting average while scoring and driving in 128 runs to go along with a 15.7 per cent walk rate. We have seen Judge in center field this season, and playing well at that, while also spending time at lead-off as he continues to show he is a complete player.
It should also be noted that Judge has been the only Yankee to stay healthy all season but has not negatively impacted his performance as he carried New York’s offense without much in the way of lineup protection at times.
Judge has been the only consistent part of the Yankees’ season and to flirt with a Triple Crown while also trending towards home run immortality takes things to the next level. In most seasons just one of those factors would be enough for Judge to be a slam-dunk candidate for the MVP award, so all three truly blow things out of the water.
Ohtani’s performance is still unprecedented, but it is not like we see performances like Judge’s on a regular basis. We were lucky to have the privilege of watching both this season, but is clear who is the most valuable as winning continues to be objective here.
Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Ray is always interested in talking or writing about our great game.