Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani incredibly improved on his historic 2021 season that saw him win the American League MVP Award unanimously, but it wasn’t enough to win the award for a second straight year, as he finished second to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.
Judge won the award for the first time in his career, getting 28 of the 30 first-place votes, while Ohtani picked up two first-place votes and 28 second-place votes, as announced on MLB Network on Thursday. Ohtani had another unbelievable season that saw him set numerous milestones as a two-way player, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Judge, who hit an AL-record 62 homers and led the Yankees to the postseason.
“I definitely think I had a better season in 2022 over ’21,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara in an interview with MLB Network. “Especially if you look at the overall season.”
Ohtani, 28, slashed .273/.356/.519 with 34 homers, 11 stolen bases and 95 RBIs in 157 games, while also going 15-9 with 219 strikeouts in 166 innings on the mound. For his efforts as a pitcher, he finished fourth in the balloting for the AL Cy Young Award, as announced on Wednesday.
Ohtani added both a two-seam fastball and second slider to his arsenal during the season, which helped him improve on his 2021 season, as his strikeout rate increased and his walk rate decreased and he reached 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career.
“My slider was really effective and helped me out on the mound,” Ohtani said. “And the sinker just expands my repertoire. And it ended up being a good season.”
Ohtani became the first player in AL/NL history to qualify among the league leaders as both a pitcher (162 innings) and a hitter (502 plate appearances) in the same season. He was also the first player in AL or NL history with 10 wins on the mound and 30 homers at the plate in the same season. Hall of Famer Babe Ruth is the only other player with 10 wins and 10 homers in the same year, when he had 13 wins and 11 homers in 1918. And, fittingly, one of Ohtani’s best performances came at Fenway Park on May 5, when he induced 29 swings and misses, which was the most in a game by any pitcher in the Majors this season.
“It’s always a huge honor to be put in the same sentence as Babe Ruth,” Ohtani said. “And I really love that stadium. It just has a really classic feel and I love playing a stadium like that.”
Ohtani, who is set to be a free agent following next season after he signed a one-year deal worth $30 million to avoid arbitration, became the only player in AL or NL history with both an eight-RBI game and a 13-strikeout game in a career and he accomplished the feat in back-to-back days against the Royals on June 21 and 22.
Ohtani also displayed his speed, as he was the fastest player from home to first in the Majors, per Statcast. And he was the only player in the Majors to tally at least six triples and 34 homers this season, which he did for a second straight year.
As a pitcher, Ohtani led the American League in strikeouts per nine innings and led the league with 10 games with at least 10 strikeouts. Among AL leaders he was third in strikeouts, fourth in ERA and tied for fourth in wins. And as a hitter, Ohtani ranked third in the AL in extra-base hits, fourth in homers and fifth in OPS.
But it was ultimately Judge who took home the award, as he had the edge in Wins Above Replacement and hit 16 more homers than any other player in the Majors.
“I was definitely checking out what Judge was doing every day,” Ohtani said. “Just as a baseball fan but really thinking about the MVP race. It was really fun watching him hit all those homers. It was amazing.”