I never thought it would work. I just never believed in it. I always thought that the Shohei Ohtani experiment would be a sideshow at best. I figured he'd be able to hit a little bit. I figured that at his healthiest, he'd show off some good stuff on the mound, but I never thought that we would see a guy go an entire season both pitching and hitting at an elite level while staying healthy. I didn't know it would happen. I was wrong. And it may go down as the worst take I've ever had.
Shohei Ohtani may have just completed the most impressive season in the history of baseball. In a year, when you saw Marcus Semien, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, and Carlos Correa all having MVP caliber years, Ohtani stands head and shoulders above everybody else. The MVP debate is over. I said it was over back in June when I wrote a blog post about it. The season is now over, and nobody's talking about whether or not Shohei Ohtani deserves the MVP. We're talking about whether or not he just finished the most outstanding season in major-league history. I'm a numbers guy, and the numbers reflect that in terms of value Shohei Ohtani's season is technically less valuable than some recent MVP winners. While he will finish with a 9.0 bWAR, which is absurd, it is technically a lower WAR than what Mike Trout finished with in some of his best seasons. It's a lower WAR than Mookie Betts ended with in the year he won American League MVP in 2018, and it's a more ignoble WAR than what Bryce Harper finished with when he won National League MVP for the Nats back in 2015. I don't believe that WAR is necessarily the end-all, be-all when determining a player's actual true talents. It has about a 75% hit rate when deciding which players are the most valuable in baseball.
I will continue to believe in the numbers. But I still contend that there are still intangibles that advanced metrics cannot measure. There is no advanced analytic capable of taking into account when a guy does something baseball has never seen before. Ohtani put up a borderline MVP caliber season just as a hitter alone. He finished in the top five in baseball in slugging percentage, OPS, triples, home runs, walks, OPS+ and runs created. He also swiped 26 bags because why the hell not? As a pitcher, there is one side to Ohtani's year that is a slight detriment, and that's that he didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for an ERA title. Now, it's also worth noting that this year, starting pitchers pitched fewer innings than they ever have in the past, and for Otani to reach the 130 inning threshold is impressive enough. Ohtani went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA as a starter, but even that doesn't tell the whole story. Ohtani had two bad starts, one against the Yankees on June 30, where he gave up seven earned runs and didn't even make it through the first inning, and another on September 10 when he gave up six runs against the Astros, only going 3 1/3 innings in the process. In his 21 other starts, he posted a 2.35 ERA which would've been the lowest in the baseball among pitchers with at least 125 innings pitched.
What does all this mean? Well, it means that Ohtani finished the year as a top 10 hitter in baseball, and on his worst day, a top 20 pitcher in all of baseball. Was this the most outstanding individual season that a player has had in major-league history? The numbers would reflect that it probably isn't. But was it the most impressive? It's hard to argue that it wasn't.