Does Shohei Ohtani Elbow Injury Open Up AL MVP Race?

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah on August 24, 2023
AL MVP odds

While the MLB season features some hotly contested races down the stretch — AL West, NL Central, NL Cy Young — others are already all but decided. Seemingly, AL MVP fits that bill. After all, Shohei Ohtani sported comically short AL MVP odds since early summer as he puts together another season for the ages. A potential plot twist cropped up, though, as Ohtani is now injured.

After a doubleheader sweep by the Reds that has the Angels in their worst slump of the season, things somehow got worse. The team announced Ohtani tore the UCL in his pitching elbow. He won’t pitch the rest of the season.

Should bettors re-evaluate their positions in MLB MVP betting?

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What’s Ohtani’s Injury Outlook?

Keep in mind that Ohtani pitched the first game of the doubleheader. He exited after just 26 pitches.

However, he played in the late game as a batter. There, he seemed able to perform at his normal level, smacking a double in a 1-for-5 performance.

That offers a key window into what bettors can expect the rest of the season. And a key factor going forward in handicapping Ohtani’s MVP chances.

He’s likely going to keep hitting. That’s critical here because Ohtani the hitter has accrued far more value than Ohtani the pitcher. Here’s how it breaks down starting with his first MVP season in 2021. WAR figures via FanGraphs.

SeasonOhtani Hitting WAROhtani Pitching WAR

On the pitching side of things, Ohtani has finished for the season. And at this point, with another Tommy John already in the rearview, one has to wonder about his outlook going forward. There isn’t a strong track record of players coming out the other side of two TJs.

Thankfully for Ohtani’s career prospects, he’s going to earn a boatload of money eventually either way. And for bettors, handicapping his pitching will be a question to ponder down the road, likely in the 2025 season.

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Can Anyone Catch Ohtani In AL MVP odds?

I expect not.

With 8.6 WAR, Ohtani already surpassed his unprecedented (in terms of the way he got there) 2021 MVP season.

In the past 15 years, no player has won MVP in either league with less than 7 bWAR in a full season besides Bryce Harper (2021). Not only has Ohtani rocketed past that, but the competition has done anything but keep up. The only remote competition appears to come from fellow AL West stalwarts Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Kyle Tucker and Julio Rodriguez. No other player in the AL is on pace to reach 7 WAR, though, according to the FanGraphs projections.

Yes, the Angels falling out of the race could ding Ohtani’s candidacy. But, Ohtani himself and fellow Angel Mike Trout have shown that voters have moved past the idea of MVPs having to come from contenders.

Most likely, Ohtani could sit out the rest of the season and cruise to MVP. The fact he’ll probably add more WAR as a hitter only makes it more clear that the AL MVP race is essentially over.

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