Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuña Jr. Setting Pace for Best MLB MVP Seasons Ever

  • Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. have massive leads in the MVP race
  • Ohtani has the greatest impact on winning in baseball and is on pace for 57 homers
  • Acuña Jr. is the captain of the MLB’s best team and could join the 40/40 club
  • At their current pace, Ohtani and Acuña could become the greatest MVPs ever
Ohtani shirt
Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. are on pace to have arguably the greatest combined seasons of any MLB MVP winner ever. [Image:]

Ohtani, Acuña put stranglehold on MVP

As the MLB All-Star Game prepares to take center stage Tuesday night, MVP candidates Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. are putting together two of the most unforgettable seasons in league history.

The MLB All-Star break is a period just over halfway through the season intended to provide players with a resting point, as well as a time for mental refocusing before the decisive push for the postseason. 

Ohtani and Acuña have put so much separation between themselves and the field

As the term “halfway” implies, the remainder of the story of the 2023 MLB season should be nearly just as unknown as it is known—but as it pertains to the MVP race, Ohtani and Acuña have put so much separation between themselves and the field that short of a devastating injury, it seems impossible for either one of them to miss out on being named the most excellent player in their respective league.

Showtime Shohei

The MLB MVP was introduced in 1931. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America selects one player from both the National League and American League to win the award.

Robert “Lefty” Grove and Frankie Frisch were the inaugural winners, and Aaron Judge and Paul Goldschmidt are the most recent pair to take home the honor. Judge slid into seventh on the single-season home runs total with 62 during the campaign, while Goldschmidt slugging (.578) and OPS (.982), was second in batting average (.317), and was fifth in home runs (35).

Two amazing seasons, but also two that are being outdone by this year’s front runners.

Ohtani is in pole position in the AL at -800 on DraftKings sportsbook. For comparison, Judge was around +120 at this time last year. Ohtani, a 29-year-old pitcher-batter for the Los Angeles Angels, is also the league leader in home runs and is on pace to hit 57 by the end of the season. That would tie him for 16th in the single-season record.

7-4 as a pitcher with a 3.32 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and the fourth-highest K/9 rate

He’s also hitting a team-high .302 at the plate, is third in RBIs, and leads the league in both slugging (.663) and OPS (1.050). But Ohtani is a special case because, in addition to all of that, he is 7-4 as a pitcher with a 3.32 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and the fourth-highest K/9 rate in the AL (11.8). 

Ohtani also has a dominant lead in wins above replacement (WAR), which estimates that he has added 6.5 wins to his team’s total on his own. Second place on the list has a WAR of 5, which means that Ohtani has an estimated 130% greater impact on winning than the second-most impactful player in the game.

Acuña the dynamo 

Even as the Japanese-born Ohtani has stolen headlines not only in America but also across the globe, one man has managed to keep pace with him in terms of overall dominance: Ronald Acuña Jr.

In MLB, Acuña is first in the league in runs scored (79), second in batting average (.331) and OPS (.990), third in OBP (.440) and SLG (.582), and 11th in home runs (21).  He also leads the MLB in offensive WAR (five to Ohtani’s four) and is (-330) at DraftKings to take home the MVP. 

What makes Acuña even more special is his speed. He’s second in stolen bases with 41 (and only two off the leader in three fewer games) and is on pace to join the highly selective 40/40 club.

At his current pace, Acuña will hit 38 home runs and steal 75 bases

Only four players in league history have joined the 40/40 club, which requires players to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season. At his current pace, Acuña will hit 38 home runs and steal 75 bases.

If he can get the necessary two extra home runs, he will likely smash the best-combined home runs + stolen bases of 40/40 members of 88, set by Alex Rodriguez in 1998.

Acuña is also the lead-off hitter for the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. Runner-ups in the NL in 2022, the Braves ripped off 27 wins in their final 32 games heading into the All-Star break. They set a franchise record for home runs in a three-game series during that stretch and are on pace to hit more home runs than any team in a single season in MLB history.

The greatest pair in MLB history?

Ohtani and Acuña’s dominance cannot be discounted as one-offs, nor as just another year of dominant play from a couple of baseball’s best. Ohtani was second in the MLB in WAR last season and has been as steady as a two-way force as can be, while Acuña, despite suffering several injuries, has been one of the most electrifying players in the league when available.

They are also clearly both leading the way in the popularity rankings among fans: ranked Judge’s 2022 MVP season (62 home runs, .311 AVG, 1.111 OPS) as the seventh-best individual season in league history. If this year’s frontrunners continue their pace, they will have arguably even better seasons than that. 

there is a growing feeling that this is the best year for combined MVP winners

What makes this year so special is that both men are doing it during the same 162-game schedule. While they both still have an incomprehensible amount of work to do to catch Barry Bonds’ 2002 campaign, widely regarded as the best ever, there is a growing feeling that this is the best year for combined MVP winners that the MLB has ever had.

Both the Braves and Angels have 73 games left on their schedule, during which time all eyes will be on Ohtani and Acuña. It would take a monumental choke job for either one to bottle the MVP, and the true target is now reaching baseball immortality as the greatest pair to ever grace the diamond.

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