It makes sense, as he’s going to be the American League MVP, he put up the best season of any baseball player that we’ve seen in over 100 years, and all of that was done with offense being the best part of his game. He’s a top ten pitcher in the big leagues, but he’s an even better hitter.
The Hank Aaron Award is an award given to the best overall offensive performer in the Majors during the season. There’s a player awarded for both the American League and the National League.
Shohei Ohtani was rightfully selected as a Hank Aaron Award finalist due to his 2021 performance for the LA Angels.
Shohei Ohtani was in an LA Angels lineup that had absolutely nobody to hit behind him. He wasn’t protected at all, as Mike Trout went down after just 36 games, Anthony Rendon only played in 58, and Justin Upton got hurt in late June and was never the same. Even Max Stassi found himself on the IL a bunch of times.
Despite this, he still hit .257/.372/.592 (.965 OPS) with 46 home runs and 100 RBI. That home run total is third in the AL (just two bombs behind first), that on-base percentage percentage is in the top five in the AL, his slugging percentage is second in the American League (just nine points behind first), and his OPS was also second in the AL.
He led the league in triples with eight, and scored 103 runs. He can hit at an elite level anywhere in the lineup.
Many will wonder why he didn’t lead the league in more of those categories. However, if these other players had to bat in lineups that were absolutely ravaged by injuries, they would have had worse numbers than Ohtani as well.
The Angels’ lineup was so bad that teams just started walking him, and many times didn’t even try to hide it. They’d just intentionally send him to first. He got the Barry Bonds treatment.
Except…it was even worse than the Bonds treatment. Check this out:
If Ohtani actually had the chance to hit, he’d be even better. That’s why this season was so impressive for him. To put up the stats he did while pitchers didn’t have to throw him anything good to hit is ridiculously impressive.
Especially when considering that none of these other finalists had to start 23 games on the mound, and sacrifice their bodies, strength, and energy that they could have used for their offensive performance. Ohtani did, and he was still one of the very best offensive players in the league.
Also, the award is about the overall best offensive performer. That includes who the players are as baserunners. Ohtani was named by baseball managers, scouts, and execs as the best baserunner in the AL. His 26 stolen bases were top five in the American League.
It’s something that just continues to add on to his resume. He deserves to be in this position, and I’m glad to see him get the recognition he deserves.