With a spectacular performance in the final stretch of the season, the North American outfielder Bryce Harper has been placed next to the Dominican Fernando Tatis Jr. in the race for the Most Valuable Player award of the National League, while in the American League, the Japanese two-way, Shohei Ohtani, maintains a prudent distance from the Dominican Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the rest of his competitors.
Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres has topped the list of contenders for the award for the past three months and maintains number one status, but now by a slim margin. In the language of the Las Vegas sportsbooks, Tatis Jr. and Harper enter the last two weeks virtually tied in the lines of favorites, however VegasInsider.com already has Harper up (-112) over Tatis +100) .
Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy called 16-1, while Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Washington outfielder Juan Soto were 30-1.
Harper, who won the award in 2015, is fighting for the batting title (hitting .313) and has 33 home runs, 38 doubles, 13 steals, 88 walks, 80 RBIs and 93 runs scored. The Philadelphia Phillies slugger leads his league in WAR (6.3, Fangraphs version), OPS (1.052) and is second in OBP (.428).
Tatis Jr., who has had to deal with a left shoulder injury that inactivated him twice and forced him to move from shortstop to outfield for a long time, is hitting .285 with 39 homers, 28 doubles, 25 steals , 92 RBIs and 94 scored. Fangraphs gives him 5.9 WAR in 118 games.
Harper closed out what became a massive Tatis Jr. lead, hitting .352 with 18 homers, 56 walks, 46 runs scored and 46 RBIs so far in the second half of the season, including .362 with seven homers, 17 pushed and 1,307 OPS in September. Tatis Jr. is hitting .267 with five homers and 16 RBIs in his last 23 games.
In the young circuit, where three players force history to be rewritten, things are different.
In his fourth season in US baseball, Ohtani is putting on a show never seen before in the 161 years of Major League Baseball. As a hitter, the Los Angeles Angels left-handed slugger has 44 home runs, 94 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, 13 intentional walks (leading) and a .952 OPS. In 22 starts as a starting pitcher, he is 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 123.1 innings.
According to Fangraphs, Ohtani is 10th in his league in WAR (4.6) as a hitter and 17th among pitchers, at 2.7, for a grand total of 7.3, a leader in baseball.
But beyond the sum of his statistics it is the ability to execute as a stellar in both facets that makes the performance of the Japanese unique and great. To get an idea, the great Babe Ruth, the last great two-way player (over 100 years ago) never combined 40 home runs at bat and 100 strikeouts as a pitcher in one season. Ohtani could be 50-150.
And then we have a young first baseman from the Toronto Blue Jays, Guerrero Jr., and a veteran Venezuelan receiver for the Kansas City Royals, Salvador Pérez, forcing us to update several pages of the record book.
Guerrero Jr., 22, starts the penultimate week of the regular season as the leader in batting (.321, six points over second) and home runs (46, one over Pérez and two over Ohtani) and fourth in RBIs. (105, eight behind Pérez and the Cuban José Abreu), and in legitimate pursuit of the elusive traditional Triple Crown. Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera (2012) is the only one to have led a league in those three departments in more than 50 years.
Guerrero Jr., who is also the first of the young circuit in hits (178), runs scored (119), OBP (.411), Slugging (.617), OPS (1,029), OPS + (177) and total bases (342) , seeks to be the first player of his age to lead in home runs since Puerto Rican Juan “Igor” González in 1992 and the youngest player in history with 50 homers.
Since the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) began awarding the Most Valuable Player award (1931), four times a hitting Triple Crown winner did not receive the trophy: Ted Williams (1947 and 1942), Lou Gehrig (1934) and Chuck Klein (1933).
Perez, a seven-time All-Star with five Gold Gloves in 10 years with Kansas City, is only the sixth “primarily” catcher (with at least 75% of games at the position) with 40 or more home runs in a season. . Only Hall of Famer Johnny Bench (45 in 1970) had more home runs than Pérez.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, second baseman Marcus Semien, from Toronto; New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge; Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson and Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers get more attention than Perez at the sportsbooks.
Semien is hitting .270 with 40 homers, 38 doubles, 107 runs and 95 RBIs. Judge is hitting .284 with 35 homers and 84 RBIs. Olson is hitting .276 with 36 homers and 103 RBIs. Devers has 34 home runs, 36 doubles, 105 RBIs and 94 runs scored.
For bookmakers, Ohtani (-2,500) is a wide favorite to the MVP, ahead of Guerrero Jr. (+750), Semien (+12,500), Judge (+15,000), Olson (+15,000), Devers (+15,000) ), Pérez and everyone in the American League.