Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani put up one of the most amazing seasons we’ve ever seen and he came away with second place in MVP voting. The remarkable, two-way achievement was historic and deserved every bit the MVP look he got and maybe more, but there were forces that conspired against Ohtani that were out of his control. Let’s virtually saunter through it.
Better season than 2021
Ohtani won the MVP unanimously in 2021, posting a 9.0 WAR season thanks to his exploits with the bat, on the bases and on the mound. He had more offensive production in 2021, but he came close in 2022.
2021: .257/.372/.592, 157 OPS+, 26 2B, 8 3B, 46 HR, 100 RBI, 103 R, 26 SB, 4.9 WAR
2022: .273/.356/.519, 145 OPS+, 30 2B, 6 3B, 34 HR, 95 RBI, 90 R, 11 SB, 3.4 WAR
The big gap there is obviously the home runs and it shows up in slugging percentage as well. Still, he wasn’t too far off in terms of offensive performance this season in his follow-up to the MVP year.
On the mound, it wasn’t really all that close. He was a lot better this season.
2021: 9-2, 3.18 ERA, 141 ERA+, 1.09 WHIP, 156 K, 44 BB, 130 1/3 IP, 4.1 WAR
2022: 15-9, 2.33 ERA, 172 ERA+, 1.01 WHIP, 219 K, 44 BB, 166 IP, 6.2 WAR
WAR isn’t the only stat that matters, but if we added it up, he posted 9.6 this season compared to 9.0 last year. If we used Fangraphs’ WAR, Ohtani had 8.0 last season and 9.4 in 2022. I’m not sure many would argue against the statement that he was better in 2022.
Best two-way performer in history
We can find examples from way back, over a century ago, of pitchers who were able to bring enough value with their bats to exceed 1.0 offensive WAR, such as Walter Johnson’s 1913 MVP season. Don Newcombe produced 2.3 WAR with the bat in 1955 while Don Drysdale put up 2.1 offensive WAR in 1965. Wes Ferrell racked up 2.4 offensive WAR as a pitcher in 1935.
If we sorted for players who pitched in at least five games, 1900 to present, in Major League Baseball, Ohtani and Babe Ruth are the only two players to ever top 3.0 WAR in a season on the offense/position-player side (both twice). Ruth posted 2.1 in 1917, when he was a full-time pitcher (6.5 WAR on the mound), then pushed his offensive game up to a 4.7 WAR in 1918, but he significantly dialed back his pitching, posting 2.3 WAR on the mound. In 1919, Ruth went nuts with the bat and rose to 9.1 WAR, but on the mound, produced only 0.8 WAR and after that…