Sep 2, 2022 - Sports

Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani vie for American League MVP

Photo iIllustration of Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and stars.
Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Ronald Martinez, Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the most fascinating storylines to follow as the MLB season winds down is how voters will parse the cases of the only two players that still have a real shot to win AL MVP: Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani.

Where it stands: Judge is heavily favored thanks to his legitimate pursuit of an AL-record 62 HR and the fact that he plays for a potential 100-win team.

  • Yes, but: Ohtani shouldn't be viewed as merely the second-most likely to win this race. Not when he's putting together a season that may exceed even last year's unanimous MVP-winning campaign.

Let's break it down...

Judge: The Yankees outfielder is, quite simply, engineering one of the greatest offensive seasons of the 21st century.

  • He leads all of MLB in most major categories, including HR (51), RBI (113), OPS (1.062) and WAR (7.7).
  • His 199 OPS+ is the sixth-best mark since 2000 (min. 100 games), behind only Barry Bonds (4x) and Sammy Sosa.
  • Wild stat: Judge joined Babe Ruth (5x) as the only players in MLB history to enter September with at least 15 more HR than anyone else (Kyle Schwarber, 36).

Ohtani: It's easy to forget that what he's doing is about more than "just" being an elite hitter and pitcher: While every other starter gets four days to recover between outings, Ohtani is right back in the lineup the next night.

  • Among AL hitters, he ranks third in HR (30), second in triples (6), fourth in RBI (82) and OPS (.888), and sixth in walks (64).
  • He leads AL pitchers (min. 120 IP) with 12.38 strikeouts per nine innings, and he's got the fifth-most strikeouts (176) and sixth-best ERA (2.67). He's a legitimate top-five Cy Young candidate.
  • Add it all up, and his 7.3 cumulative WAR is second only to Judge.

The bottom line: No matter who wins, let's not take for granted that seasons like these don't come along very often, and we're lucky enough to witness both simultaneously.

Go deeper