Entering the 2021 Major League Baseball season, a Los Angeles Angel was the favorite to win AL MVP: Mike Trout. However, the three-time winner had his season cut short by injury and another Angels player, dual-threat Shohei Ohtani, won the AL MVP. He is +300 to repeat with Trout at +350 and Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero at +400 and then there’s a big dropoff on the MLB odds.
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Ohtani claimed all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and became the fifth unanimous MVP since 2000, joining Mike Trout (2014), Albert Pujols (2009), Barry Bonds (2002) and Bryce Harper, who won unanimously in 2015 with Washington. Guerrero Jr. captured 29 of the 30 second-place votes by the BBWAA, with the remaining vote going to Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals.
Ohtani became the Angels player to win the illustrious hardware, joining Don Baylor (1979), Vladimir Guerrero (2004) and Trout (2014, ’16 and ’19). He also was the second Japanese-born player to earn the honor, joining Ichiro Suzuki, who won AL MVP as a rookie in 2001.
At the plate, Ohtani hit .257/.372/.592 with 46 homers, 26 doubles, eight triples, 100 RBIs, 103 runs and 26 stolen bases in 155 games. He became is one of two players in American League history with 45+ HR and 25+ SB in a season, joining Toronto’s Jose Canseco (1998).
And on the mound, Ohtani made 23 starts and went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings. He also saw time in the field for the first time in his career — playing six games in right field and one game in left — to get more at-bats after coming out of the game as a pitcher.
In his 13 home starts on the mound, Ohtani went 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA (78.1 IP – 17 ER) and 93 strikeouts. He became the sixth starter in MLB history to finish a season unbeaten at home with an ERA under 2.00 (min. 13 home starts), joining Dallas Keuchel (2015), Jose Fernandez (2013), Kenny Rogers (1998), Orel Hershiser (1985), Tex Hughson (1944).
Trout, 30, suffered a right calf injury last May 17 and did not play the rest of the season. He was his usual productive self before the injury (.333/.466/.624 in 36 games), but calf injuries are tricky and can be slow to heal, and the injury ultimately ended Trout’s age 29 season. Trout and the team held out hope until September before officially shutting things down, again with an eye towards an early start on getting Trout fully healthy for the 2022 season.
Trout is “100 percent” recovered, his agent, Craig Landis, said. The Angels have discussed moving Trout to from center in an effort to keep him healthy following the calf injury. It’s not only that Trout bowed out of the 2021 season after straining a calf in mid-May. Staying on the field has been a problem for Trout going all the way back to the 2017 campaign. In the last four full seasons, excluding the 60-gamer of 2020, he averaged just 106 games played per year.
Guerrero Jr. finished last season with 48 homers, surpassing Eddie Mathews (47 in 1953) for the most home runs in a season by a player age 22 or younger. The 48 homers tied Salvador Perez for the MLB lead, and eclipsed George Bell (47 in 1987) for 2nd most in franchise history, trailing only Jose Bautista’s 54 in 2010.
The All-Star game MVP also led the Majors in runs (123) and total bases (363) while tops in the AL in OBP (.401), SLG (.601) and OPS (1.002). Among all MLB batters, Guerrero ranked 2nd in OPS, 3rd in hits (188), 3rd in OBP, 3rd in SLG, T-3rd in XBH (78), 5th in AVG (.311), T-6th in RBI (111) and T-8th in walks (86). He reached base safely an AL-high 280 times and finished with a 6.7 WAR (FanGraphs) to lead AL hitters and rank 2nd in the Majors.
The only other players under +2000 to win AL MVP are Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (+1500) and young Rays shortstop Wander Franco at +1800. Judge turns 30 in April and is coming off his best season since 2017. His future with the Yankees could be tied in part to the outcome of the current collective bargaining agreement negotiations and the competitive-balance tax, since he would almost certainly be in line for a deal that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of Gerrit Cole’s $36 million.Expert AL MVP PickGuerrero at +400