Most likely, Shohei Ohtani will win the American League MVP this year.
The Los Angeles Angels star has been one of the two or three best hitters in the AL, and his 44 homers rank third in the majors. Meanwhile he’s also been one of the best starting pitchers in the league, with a 3.28 ERA that puts him comfortably in the Top 10, powered by a ton of strikeouts. It’s a combination of elite talents we haven’t seen since Babe Ruth.
During this legendary season, when Ohtani has overwhelmed most of his opponents, the Oakland A’s have been one of the only teams able to keep him at bay.
The A’s got to see a lot of Ohtani this year, since they play in the same division. During their 19 meetings against the Angels, they faced Pitcher Ohtani three times, and Oakland won all three games. Considering the Halos have gone 13-9 overall when he’s pitched, that’s an impressive accomplishment by the A’s.
Granted, that doesn’t necessarily mean Oakland beat Ohtani three times. He was quality in each start, but twice he was outdueled and another time he was scoreless but his bullpen blew it.
- 5/28: 6 ip, 3 runs, 5 Ks, 4 BB, beaten by Sean Manaea
- 7/19: 6 ip, 0 runs, 8 Ks, 1 BB, but Cole Irvin matched zeroes and Angels bullpen gave up 4 runs
- 9/19: 8 ip, 2 runs, 10 Ks, 3 BB, 2 HR, but Frankie Montas was scoreless, then the Angels tied it late but the A’s won in extras
That adds up to a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings, and Oakland batted .162 against him with a 29% strikeout rate, but he was tagged with an 0-1 record with two no-decisions.
The A’s also had to deal with Hitter Ohtani, and far more often since he’s in the lineup every day. But they found success against him there too, limiting him to a modest average 30 points below his season total, with only two homers in 72 plate appearances. The Rangers were the only AL team to keep him to a lower OPS than Oakland’s .723 mark.
- Ohtani, vs. OAK: .226/.319/.403, 94 wRC+, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 27.8% Ks
He did get the better of the A’s a couple times, though. In July his RBI double scored the only run in a 1-0 Angels victory, and in May he contributed to the go-ahead rallies in two different Halos wins.
But for the most part, Oakland did an admirable job against one of the biggest stars in the sport this summer, though the matchup will surely continue for years to come. It was a lot of fun watching Ohtani all season, between his incredible abilities and his positive attitude, like when he and Matt Olson shared a smile after an intentional walk on Sunday. It’s even more fun to beat the best.