Alden GonzalezESPN Editor5 minute reading
Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. were each named their respective leagues’ Most Valuable Players unanimously, marking the first time in the history of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Ohtani, an exciting free agent who is coming off another historic two-way season, became the first player to win the award unanimously twice, having also done so in 2021. Corey Seager and Marcus Semien , the star infielders of the Texas Rangers, finished second and third, respectively, in the American League.
Ohtani received all 30 first-place votes from the BBWAA even though he did not pitch for most of the final two months of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.
Acuna, the dynamic right fielder for the Atlanta Braves, won his first National League MVP award, defeating Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Acuna, a force at the top of a fearsome Braves lineup, combined for 41 home runs with an NL-leading 73 stolen bases, becoming the first member of the 40-70 club. The 25-year-old also led the National League in on-base percentage (.416), OPS (1.012), hits (217) and runs scored (149). His .337 batting average was behind only Luis Arraez (.354) for the major league lead.
Ohtani, 29, led the major leagues with 9.0 FanGraphs wins above replacement (2.4 as a pitcher, 6.6 as an offensive player). He slashed .304/.412/.654 in 599 plate appearances as a hitter, leading the AL in homers (44) and the majors in OPS (1.066) while adding 20 stolen bases.
In 23 starts, Ohtani went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA, striking out 167 batters and issuing 55 walks in 132 innings.
“Obviously I wanted to win it last year, but (Aaron) Judge had a spectacular season and rightfully so, he won it,” Ohtani said, speaking through an interpreter , on MLB Network Thursday evening. “So I wanted to come back stronger and try to win it this year, and I know my rivals, Semien, Seager, they had great seasons, and I congratulate them for winning the World Series. I think it’s awesome.
“My goal was to try and come out on top, and this rewards all my hard work.”
Ohtani arrived in the United States amid much fanfare surrounding his two-way prowess in the winter of 2017, choosing the Angels after attracting interest from virtually every team. But his first three years were hampered by Tommy John surgery, knee surgery and a COVID-19-shortened season, limiting him to serving primarily as a designated hitter.
However, as of 2021, Ohtani has performed simultaneously at an elite level as a pitcher and hitter, becoming the first to do so since Babe Ruth’s brief attempt at taking on a dual role a year ago. century.
Ohtani won the AL MVP unanimously in 2021, then finished second following Judge’s record-breaking home run season in 2022 before winning the honor again in 2023.
Overall, Ohtani hit .277/.379/.585 with 124 homers, 290 RBIs and 57 stolen bases from 2021-23, but he also won 34 games, posted a 2.84 ERA and struck out 542 batters in 428 1/3 innings as a pitcher.
Ohtani learned he tore his ulnar collateral ligament again around mid-August of last season, but he continued to hit. Shortly after the Angels’ season ended, he underwent what is considered a hybrid version of another Tommy John surgery.
“As far as the rehab goes, it’s going really well so far, it’s going really well,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I feel much better and faster than the first time I had this surgery. But at the same time, I can’t rush. I have to take everything slowly and take all the right steps. My plan is to come back strong next time. year.”
In a statement, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery, wrote that Ohtani would be ready to hit at the start of the 2024 season and return to a two-way role by 2025.
Questions once again surround Ohtani’s pursuit of this – but industry executives still expect him to get a free agent contract that tops $500 million.
Acuna won the NL Rookie of the Year award during his age-20 season in 2018 and finished fifth in NL MVP voting during his age-21 season in 2019, clearly establishing himself as the one of the most dynamic forces in sport. But he suffered a torn ACL midway through the 2021 season, forcing him to simply watch from the dugout as his Braves teammates won a championship. The following year, he was certainly no longer himself. The explosiveness that helped elevate him to stardom was lacking. His timing was not good.
Acuna spent the ensuing offseason working diligently on his conditioning and trained with Fernando Tatis Sr., the father of his good friend Fernando Tatis Jr., to lower his hands slightly to alleviate some of the moving parts of his swing and drive his bat through the zone. much faster. This helped make Acuna a more demanding hitter than ever and helped avoid the lulls that befall every player over the course of a long season. During baseball’s six-month regular season, Acuna’s OPS never fell below .900.
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