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Yes, Shohei Ohtani is still a Rookie of the Year frontrunner

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Despite what many would have you believe, he and Andujar are neck and neck

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In hindsight, most people not hung up over the words “Triple” and “Crown” know that Mike Trout was robbed in 2012 and 2013. RBI count and a middling team on Trout’s end alongside the narrative of the first Triple Crown since Yaz convinced “old guard writers” to gyp the actual baseball community and give two consecutive (unearned) MVPs to Miguel Cabrera. Now, half a decade later, it is likely that the writers seek to heavily vote in favor of a Miguel over an Angel yet again.

No one is arguing that Miguel Andujar hasn’t been good for the New York Yankees. Quite the opposite actually as he’s been a very solid player this year. I’m not even going to argue that Ohtani is necessarily more deserving of the award. But with titles like Gleyber Torres vs. Miguel Andujar: who’s the real Rookie of the Year? out there entirely dismissing him, it is probably a good time to explain why he is a candidate, let alone the frontrunner.

Let’s start by throwing the fact that “He’s the first true two-way player in a century” out the window. While it is interesting and will probably influence the writers to some extent, it’s just as much narrative as anything and not a really good basis for an argument. Instead, we’ll use the two players’ respective numbers. I will also not use WAR, even though both Baseball-Reference’s and Fangraphs’ WAR figures support that argument that Ohtani has been considerably better.

Fangraphs

Debunking the difference

The first thing that a Yankees fan will point out is that Ohtani has 215 fewer plate appearances, which simply hinders his argument too much. There is just no way that a player putting up almost identical offensive numbers in a little over half the plate appearances can be anywhere near as valuable, right?

This argument is the perfect segue into the reason that Andujar appears to be running away with the award. Let’s look at the rest of Ohtani’s stats.

Fangraphs

Dan Szymborski converted the 200 batters faced to 200 more plate appearances in his effort to handicap the Rookie of the Year award race a week ago. It may not be an exact science to convert those 200 batters to hitting plate appearances, but fortunately we don’t have to. We’re not projecting him as a hitter across the whole season.

He has had exactly 250 plate appearances of hitting, and 200 pitching. Conveniently, this is just 15 fewer total plate appearances than Andujar has.

First of all, Ohtani’s wRC+ (138), OPS+ (137), and ERA+ (135) are all well above Andujar’s 127. Ohtani’s OPS is also 22 points higher while posting an identical .523 SLG. You have to give Andujar credit for the higher counting statistics with 7 more home runs, 28 more RBIs, and 70 more hits, but you must acknowledge that Ohtani has 61 more strikeouts as a pitcher and an ERA over 49.1 more innings of 3.10 compared to Andujar’s... nothing. If using pitching statistics perhaps seems like a one-sided argument to you, too bad. It is going to be when you have a pitcher-batter hybrid. I would also rebuttal with this abomination of an alternative mindset that is more prevalent than people realize:

Two other key points that are used against Ohtani are his splits against lefties and on the road.

For transparency’s sake, here are the pair’s handedness splits with Andujar first and Ohtani second.

Fangraphs Splits
Fangraphs Splits

The disparity is pretty obvious. Ohtani is 72% better against righties than league average and 53% worse than lefties than league average whereas Andujar looks to be above average against both. It would seem that Andujar has him beat in this regard. Humor me though as I look down just a little further.

Andujar

Fangraphs Splits

Ohtani

Fangraphs Splits

Wow! Who would have guessed that when you take Andujar out of the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium, even considering that he plays in the offense-heavy AL East, he suddenly starts to hit .268/.308/.469 with a 108 wRC+? And while he mashes lefties in Yankee Stadium, removing him from that run-friendly environment has him at .211/.220/.404 against southpaws. Ohtani isn’t good against them either, especially in pitcher friendly Angel Stadium, but his numbers against both away and at home against righties are over 70% above average. Most interesting of all, Ohtani is actually better on the road than he is at home with the marine layer, despite all of the home runs he has hit at home.

It’s almost as if you can cherry pick any split you want to make your argument. If someone wants to argue handedness in favor of Andujar, you can just as easily argue home/away splits in favor of Ohtani.

Let’s quickly review a few other arguments against Ohtani.

“Ohtani doesn’t play in the field.”

Andujar has -19 Defensive Runs Saved (3rd worst among all position players in the MLB) and a -20.8 UZR/150 (Worst among all position players in the MLB). He has actually costed them so much defensively that, depending on which site is more your flavor, you could argue that he might have been more valuable to the Yankees as a DH.

“Andujar has been way more clutch.”

Baloney.

First of all, Ohtani’s combined WPA is double that of Andujar’s. Ohtani’s clutch score is also higher. Then there’s the fact that in high leverage scenarios, Ohtani’s slash is .438/.550/.875. Andujar’s is .394/.405/.545 which is... cute, to say the least. With runners in scoring position, Ohtani is batting .360/.467/.740 against Andujar’s .268/.333/.464.

“But Andujar is a Yankee and plays under big lights.”

Well, you got me there.


While it may appear that way, I’m not arguing that Ohtani necessarily deserves it more than Andujar. Obviously as a homer, I’m going to feel that way. It is mandatory that he be considered a frontrunner alongside Andujar, however. With him returning to pitch again soon, I’m very excited to see who of the two will take home the award.