In late June, the New York Yankees found themselves with a 52-18 record and were on pace to win 120 games, shattering the MLB single-season win record of 116. At that same time, Aaron Judge was a -115 odds-on favorite to win AL MVP. It was hard to envision a world where, barring injury, someone could unseat Judge as the favorite to win the award.
However, the Yankees have gone a much more pedestrian 10-8 since then, including just 6-6 in their last 12 games. Since the calendar flipped to July, Judge has gone just 8-for-36 (.222). He's been hitless in six of his last 11 games and has just one home run in the month. Perhaps most concerningly, he has missed a few games due to being banged up.
The door was cracked open a tiny bit by Judge's slow stretch, and Shohei Ohtani has barged through. Ohtani was the preseason favorite to win the AL MVP, and he's back on his perch again. He's now a +110 favorite to win the AL MVP for a second straight year.
Ohtani has been on fire
Wednesday was the weekly appointment viewing where Shohei Ohtani took the mound, and he did not disappoint. Going up against Houston, the second best team in baseball, Ohtani threw six innings of one run ball, allowing just four hits while striking out 12. Oh, did I mention he went 2-4 at the plate with a triple and two RBIs?
The outing lowered Ohtani's ERA on the season to 2.38, the eighth best mark in baseball and fifth best mark in the AL. Over his last six starts dating back to June 9th, Ohtani has gone 39.2 innings, allowing just two earned runs while striking out 58 batters. Since June 9th, the Angels are 6-0 when Ohtani starts and 6-19 when he doesn't.
Obviously, Ohtani continues to be one of the more feared hitters in the league in addition to being a legitimate ace on the mound. He's inside the top-25 amongst home run, RBI and OPS leaders across baseball.
Ohtani is doing it a different way in 2022
Shohei Ohtani won the MVP in 2021, and he's the favorite to do it again in 2022 currently at BetMGM. What makes Ohtani so captivating is that he's doing it in a completely different way this season.
Last year, Ohtani had a 9.0 WAR but just 45.6% of that WAR came from his pitching. He captivated the baseball world by slugging 46 home runs, batting in 100 runs and posting a .965 OPS. Most of the focus was on his bat. He was very good as a pitcher, posting a 3.18 ERA over 130.1 innings while striking out 10.8 batters per nine innings. However, most of his MVP case came from his bat.
This year, Ohtani's pitching WAR is responsible for over 65% of his total WAR. He's on pace to pitch over 150 innings, which is a sizable jump from last year. His ERA is down from 3.18 to 2.38, shaving off 0.8 runs year-over-year. He's now striking out 12.7 batters per nine innings, a sizable jump from last year's number.
At the plate, Ohtani's batting average is relatively the same compared to last year, and he's actually on pace to beat last year's RBI total. However, his power numbers are down. He's on pace for 35 home runs compared to the 46 he hit last year. His OPS is down to .841 this year, still very good, but a noticeable decrease from the .965 he posted in 2021.
This highlights just how impressive Ohtani really is. He could have legitimate MVP seasons in back-to-back years doing it in completely different ways. However, will the decrease in power numbers hurt Ohtani's MVP case? Does it make more sense to back Ohtani to win the AL Cy Young at +800 instead?
Judge and the rest of the competition
There's no denying that Aaron Judge is still having an MVP-caliber season. He's the best player on the best team in baseball. Judge is on pace to eclipse 50 home runs and the Yankees were on a record-setting pace until just a few days ago. Judge is currently +165 to win the AL MVP. This is baseball and slumps happen. It's hard to envision this being an extended slump for the Yankees' slugger.
One advantage that Judge does possess over Ohtani is team success. There's varying opinions on how much that should matter in MVP discussions, but most voters do consider it. The Yankees are on pace to win 114 games and run away with the best record in baseball, while the Angels are 11 games below .500 and eight games out of a wild-card spot. The Yankees are World Series favorites at +375 while the Angels are 150-to-1 long shots.
Currently, it feels like a two-horse race for the AL MVP and the betting market seems to agree. Yordan Alvarez going on the IL with right hand inflammation certainly doesn't help things. He currently has the third best odds to win AL MVP at 11-to-1. Here's the current leaderboard in terms of AL MVP odds:
Shohei Ohtani (+110)
Aaron Judge (+165)
Yordan Alvarez (11-to-1)
Mike Trout (12-to-1)
Rafael Devers (15-to-1)
Jose Ramirez (25-to-1)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (66-to-1)
Byron Buxton (80-to-1)
Giancarlo Stanton (100-to-1)