Unanimous again! Ohtani crowned AL MVP

November 17th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- Before the 2023 season had even started, had already celebrated leading Team Japan to the World Baseball Classic title, winning tournament MVP honors along the way.

And now, after another otherworldly season as a two-way player, Ohtani can add yet another accolade to his already impressive collection, as he was named the winner of the American League MVP Award for the second time in his career, as announced Thursday on MLB Network. And he made history in the process, becoming the first player to win multiple MVP Awards unanimously.

Ohtani, who is now the most coveted free agent in Major League history, received all 30 first-place votes from the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He finished ahead of Rangers teammates Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, who were finalists for the honor.

He joins Mike Trout as the only Angels players to win the award more than once and is the first player in the Majors to win two MVP Awards in a three-year span since Trout did so in 2014 and ’16. Ohtani won the award unanimously in 2021 with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finishing second, then was the runner-up in ’22 when Aaron Judge won after slugging an AL-record 62 blasts. 

Ohtani celebrated by giving his dog a high-five after being told on the air that he had won the award, but he wasn’t made available to the media via a scheduled conference call.

“Obviously, I wanted to win it last year, but Judge had a spectacular season and he won it, deservedly so,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuara on MLB Network. “So I wanted to come back stronger this year.”

Ohtani, 29, had another season for the ages and essentially locked up the AL MVP Award by late July, as he had an otherworldly June that gave him a huge cushion in the race while Judge and Seager had injuries hamper their season.

Ohtani also missed most of the final month of the season with two injuries and still ran away with the award. He sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow while pitching on Aug. 23, which shut him down on the mound. Then he suffered a right oblique strain while taking batting practice on Sept. 4 that forced him to end his season as a hitter prematurely. Ohtani ended up getting elbow surgery and won’t pitch in 2024.

“As far as the rehab, it’s going great right now,” he said. “It feels a lot better and faster than the first time I had the surgery. But I can’t rush and I have to take the right steps, and my goal is to come back strong next year.”

Even so, Ohtani's overall numbers were spectacular. As a designated hitter, he had a slash line of .304/.412/.654 with 44 homers, 26 doubles, eight triples, 20 stolen bases, 102 runs scored and 95 RBIs in 135 games. He hit over .300 for the first time in his six-year career, while leading the AL in homers, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (1.066) and total bases (325).

And in 23 starts on the mound, Ohtani went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings. He led the AL with a .183 opponent batting average and was third with 11.39 strikeouts per nine (min. 130 innings).

It marked Ohtani's second straight season with at least 10 wins on the mound and 10 homers at the plate. The only other AL/NL player to accomplish that was Hall of Famer Babe Ruth in 1918, when he won 13 games and hit 11 blasts.

Ohtani’s season was buoyed by his amazing showing in June, which was arguably the best month by a player in Major League history. At the plate, Ohtani hit .394/.492/.952 with 15 homers, seven doubles, three triples and 29 RBIs in 27 games. And on the mound, he went 2-2 with a 3.26 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.

It helped Ohtani get selected to the All-Star Game as both a starting pitcher and a DH for the third straight season. He also won the AL Silver Slugger Award at DH earlier this month.­­

His free agency has now taken center stage. He’s drawn plenty of suitors, while the Angels would love to re-sign him. Ohtani is famously private, so where he signs is still anyone’s guess.

“Obviously, Shohei had three great years, maybe the three greatest years in baseball history,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Wednesday. “He’s somebody we love. We’ll see how the offseason goes.”