The long-awaited coronation for Shohei Ohtani’s once-in-a-lifetime season finally came on Thursday, as the Angels’ two-way sensation was officially crowned the 2021 American League Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.
The only way to close out a historic season.— MLB (@MLB) November 18, 2021
Shohei Ohtani is your unanimous 2021 American League MVP. pic.twitter.com/zlw5aGr68k
Ohtani received all 30 possible first-place votes from the writers, beating out runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien, both of the Toronto Blue Jays, for the honor. He is the fourth player in the history of the Angels franchise to win MVP, joining Don Baylor in 1979, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. in 2004 and Mike Trout on three separate occasions in 2014, 2016 and 2019. He also became just the 17th person in baseball history to win the MVP unanimously, and the first since Bryce Harper did it in the NL back in 2015.
Ohtani’s 2021 season was something the game of baseball hadn’t seen in literally a century, as he was finally able to stay on the field for the whole year and showcase the tantalizing two-way ability that made him one of the most sought-after players in recent memory. Starting with his performance in the batter’s box, Ohtani broke out as one of the most feared power hitters around the league, slugging a career-high 45 home runs and 100 RBI while slashing .257/.372/.592 in 639 plate appearances. He finished near the top in the league in nearly every important hitting statistic, including home runs (3rd), slugging percentage (4th), OPS+ (5th), and wOBA (5th), and he did this as the main focal point of opposing gameplans for most of the season because of the litany of injuries the Angels suffered as a team.
On the mound, Ohtani re-established himself as a front-of-the-rotation type pitcher after throwing only 1.2 innings combined in the previous two seasons. He made 23 starts in 2021, where he posted a sterling 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings. Ohtani the pitcher got better and better as time went on, as he finished out the last three months of the year by recording a 2.82 ERA in 70.1 innings while striking out 73 and walking just nine. His performance on the mound was anything but a guarantee given the tumultuous last couple of seasons that he had endured on that side of the ball, but by the end of the year, he managed to firmly entrench himself as the unquestioned ace of a Halos’ staff that so desperately needed one.
Winning the MVP turned out to be the finale of what was an incredibly busy award season for Ohtani. Since the end of the season, he has won both the AL Silver Slugger Award at DH in the American League and the 2021 MLB Players Choice Awards Player of the Year, been named to TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2021, and became just the 16th person to be awarded the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award, which is given to those who have made a “major impact on the sport” of baseball.
Ohtani’s 2021 campaign was, without exaggeration, one of the most impressive feats that the sport has ever seen, and winning the AL MVP was the last step toward fully cementing it as such. Whether he can repeat what he did this season or not remains to be seen, but at least for now, the things that he accomplished this year stand alone in the long and storied history of Major League Baseball.