NEW YORK -- Shohei Ohtani had a season to remember, and that’s why he was selected as the 2021 Baseball Digest/eBay MLB Player of the Year.
Ohtani received 16 first-place votes from a 19-member “blue-ribbon” panel of longtime baseball observers, which included writers, broadcasters, former players, managers and executives. Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. received two first-place votes, while Royals catcher Salvador Perez received one.
Ohtani was a two-way performer, which hasn’t been seen since Babe Ruth pulled the trick in the early 20th century. At the plate, Ohtani was a bona fide slugger, hitting 46 home runs and driving in 100 runs. On the mound, it’s safe to say that he was the ace of the Angels’ pitching staff, winning a team-leading nine games with a respectable 3.18 ERA. In 14 of his 23 starts, the right-hander worked at least six innings.
Scherzer went a combined 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA, which ranked second in the Majors among ERA qualifiers. He was at his best over his final 11 starts of the season with Los Angeles, going 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings.
Scherzer, 37, was dealing all season, posting a 0.86 WHIP which was the lowest in the Majors. He also topped all ERA qualifiers by limiting opponents to a .185 batting average. On Sept. 12, Scherzer became the 19th pitcher in MLB history to reach 3,000 strikeouts in a start against the Padres in which he threw an immaculate inning (nine pitches, three strikeouts) and took a perfect game into the eighth inning. His immaculate inning was the third of his career.
Four closers recorded more saves, but Hader was nearly perfect in 2021. He blew only one save opportunity all season for a 97 percent success rate that was highest among all relievers with more than five saves.
Hader, who began his fifth big league season with a stellar 2.54 career ERA, posted a 1.23 ERA that was twice as good as his career mark. Mets left-hander Aaron Loup was the only reliever (minimum 50 innings pitched) who turned in a lower ERA than Hader in 2021, though the eight runs allowed all season by Hader was the lowest among MLB pitchers who worked at least 50 innings.
Hader, 27, didn’t allow a run in his final 21 appearances after July 28, fanning 37 batters in 20 1/3 innings and converting all 13 of his save chances. For the season, Hader fanned 102 batters in 58 2/3 innings, reaching triple-digit strikeouts for the third time in four years, falling short only in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Hader is the second Brewers pitcher to be named MLB Relief Pitcher of the Year, joining Devin Williams (2020).