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Shohei Ohtani Is Somehow Getting Better At Baseball

Please think back to last year’s American League MVP race for a second. You had Shohei Ohtani doing the impossible seemingly every day. He would’ve run away with the MVP award in almost any other season. But in this case, you had Aaron Judge, who had one of the greatest offensive seasons we’ve ever seen. 

People can try to discredit the historical reference (his numbers didn’t approach Barry Bonds territory) but hitting 60 home runs is hard and hell, and it’s hard to do in the most extensive media market when you have a massive microscope held up to you. I bring all of this up because it took Aaron Judge having one of the greatest offensive seasons ever for someone to beat out Shohei Ohtani for the MVP award.

That shit ain’t happening again. 

To say Shohei Ohtani has exceeded expectations is a ridiculous understatement. I'm going to be honest, and this will be a take I'll regret for the rest of my life, but I didn't think it would work. I knew Ohtani would be a contributor when the Angels signed him, but the idea of him being elite as a hitter and pitcher never even crossed my mind. It seemed impossible. Well, Ohtani defies the impossible. 

Let's ignore the fact that he pitches for a second. Let's take his offensive numbers at face value. If you did that, you still have an MVP-caliber player. He's the only qualified hitter right now with an OPS over 1.000. He leads all of baseball in home runs, OPS+, and total bases. The other day against the Rangers, he hit one of the most impressive opposite-field home runs I've seen in a minute. 

This season, Ohtani has essentially been Yordan Alvarez if Yordan Alvarez could throw 100 MPH. On the mound, while Ohtani maybe hasn't been as dominant as we've seen him be in the past (he's been a bit wild this year, leading MLB in wild pitches and hit by pitches), he's still the ace of the Angels staff, and he strikes out 11.5 per nine.

The numbers are public knowledge. I didn't need to write a persuasive argument about why Ohtani is amazing. He's about to be the highest-paid player ever. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that he's incredible. But two things stand out in particular in 2023. Number one is that Ohtani is getting better. The gap between him and the second-best player in baseball is widening. The fact that he did this once is a feat that we'll discuss forever, but we're coming up on several years of seeing something we've never seen in the modern age. 

Given the impact he's had on the game, you can argue he is already approaching Hall Of Fame status. But what makes the 2023 season different for Ohtani (besides the fact that he's about to get PAID) is that the Angels, to their credit, are holding up their end of the bargain. They're currently playing at a 90-win pace, only percentage points away from the last wild card spot in the American League. Now I trust the Los Angeles Angels about as far as I can throw them, but at the very least, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani will play meaningful baseball this summer, which they've rarely done since they became teammates in 2018.

At some point with Ohtani, the novelty will wear off. It SHOULDN'T, but we have this bizarre ability sometimes to get tired of greatness. As long as Ohtani pitches and hits at an elite level, he should be the MVP every season. At some point, that won't be the case. It's very similar to what's happened what LeBron James. I'm a casual NBA fan, but there's no way LeBron doesn't have an MVP since 2013. It makes no sense. When you belong in a league of your own, eventually people try to latch on to something new. Ohtani is in the perfect stage of his career because the "wow" factor hasn't worn off, and it probably isn't going to for a long time. He's getting better, and that's scary to think about.