Shohei Ohtani seemed like his own biggest competition most of the year. Not even a season derailed by injuries that affected his two-way abilities could have stopped him from winning his second American League most valuable player award.
“I think the balance of pitching and hitting was really good,” Ohtani said in Japanese on MLB Network's broadcast Thursday. “I think I was able to do that at a higher level. I wasn’t able to play until the end, and I think that might be my only regret.”
Ohtani won the award, given by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, by a unanimous vote. Texas Rangers teammates Corey Seager and Marcus Semien finished second and third in the voting, respectively.
The moment Shohei Ohtani found out he was a 2x unanimous AL MVP. 👏🐶 pic.twitter.com/odQc9rYuSl
— MLB (@MLB) November 17, 2023
Ohtani won his first MVP award in 2021 and finished second in 2022. He is the first player in MLB history to be a unanimous MVP twice. Ohtani's latest award caps a season in which he was also named AL Outstanding Player, in the Players Choice awards, and won his second Silver Slugger award.
“Congrats on an epic year and well deserved MVP,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout, a three-time AL MVP, tweeted Thursday. “Proud of you, brother!”
Ohtani continued to test the limits of his own body and push the boundaries of what baseball players are capable of in his 2023 season with the Angels.
His herculean efforts peaked in a doubleheader with the Tigers in Detroit in July in which he pitched his first shutout in the first game, then hit two home runs in the second game. By Aug. 21, most sportsbooks took the AL MVP odds off the board, with Ohtani considered the overwhelming favorite to win the award. His teammates and former manager Phil Nevin had all agreed before the end of the season that the MVP was Ohtani’s.
“Hands down: Shohei,” rookie shortstop Zach Neto said in September.
Added Nevin: “There’s no way it’s not a unanimous choice this year. It’s impossible.”
The year also showed that despite his seemingly superhuman abilities, Ohtani is very much mortal; he was forced to stop pitching after tearing his right ulnar collateral ligament in a game on Aug. 23, and was unable to continue as a designated hitter after injuring his right oblique during batting practice on Sept. 4.
Ohtani finished his season on the mound with a 10-5 record, 3.14 earned run average, a .184 opponent batting average and 167 strikeouts in 23 starts (132 innings pitched). In 13 of those starts, he gave up one earned run or fewer.
When Ohtani made his final start of the season, he had the best batting average against in MLB and was ranked among the top 10 AL pitchers in seven categories, including: ERA (third), WHIP (1.06, fourth), whiff rate (30.9%, second), strikeouts per nine innings (11.39, second), winning percentage (.667, fifth) and wins (eighth).
At the plate, Ohtani led the American League with 44 home runs, a .412 on-base percentage and 78 extra-base hits, while leading the majors with a .654 slugging percentage and a 1.066 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He also stole 20 bases. Ohtani was the first player this season to reach the 40-homer mark.
He also finished one hit shy of a cycle in three games in which he was the starting pitcher and finished the season the runaway leader in wins above replacement (10.1).
Digging into the numbers, Ohtani is the only player in the majors to hit 34 or more homers and six or more triples and he has done so for three consecutive seasons. He is also the only player to secure 10 or more pitching wins and hit 10 or more home runs in multiple seasons — Babe Ruth had one such season in 1918.
Ohtani, who is a free agent, will spend the rest of his offseason recovering and rehabilitating from his second Tommy John surgery. Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed both Tommy John surgeries on Ohtani (the first in 2018), said he would be able to be a designated hitter again for the start of the 2024 season and would be able to pitch again in 2025.
“My injury is gradually [improving],” Ohtani said. “I feel like it's progressing more smoothly than last time. I think I can go into next season smoothly. I don't want to panic. I feel like I want to be ready to play by next season.”
Ohtani was scheduled to speak to the media in a teleconference after the awards broadcast. But with three minutes remaining in his designated 30-minute session, those on the call were informed that Ohtani would not join because of “circumstances beyond Ohtani’s control.”
Though Ohtani joined the MLB Network broadcast, he has not fielded questions from most of the media since Aug. 9.
Times staff writer Dylan Hernández contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.