- Vlad Guerrero has been the best hitter in the majors this season
- Shohei Ohtani’s two-way prowess is dominating the MVP conversation
- Could the Toronto slugger still win the 2021 AL MVP award?
The AL MVP race was one of the tightest in the league for much of the 2021 season. Once Mike Trout hit the IL, Shohei Ohtani and Vlad Guerrero were neck-and-neck at the top of the AL MVP odds from mid-May to early July.
Since then, Ohtani has become a massive -750 favorite, even though Guerrero continues to hit the cover off the ball. Here is where the American League MVP odds sit as of Wednesday, August 11.
AL MVP Odds
|Player (Team)||Odds at DraftKings|
|Shohei Ohtani (LAA)||-750|
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr (TOR)||+550|
|Rafael Devers (BOS)||+4500|
|Matt Olson (OAK)||+5000|
|Marcus Semien (TOR)||+5500|
|Jose Altuve (HOU)||+6000|
|Xander Bogaerts (BOS)||+7000|
|JD Martinez (BOS)||+10000|
|Aaron Judge (NYY)||+10000|
|Jose Ramirez (CLE)||+10000|
|Jose Abreu (CHW)||+10000|
|Giancarlo Stanton (NYY)||+10000|
|Yordan Alvarez (HOU)||+10000|
|Bo Bichette (TOR)||+10000|
|Byron Buxton (MIN)||+10000|
|Carlos Correa (HOU)||+10000|
|Nelson Cruz (MIN)||+10000|
|Mike Trout (LAA)||+10000|
|DJ LeMahieu (NYY)||+15000|
|Yoan Moncada (CHW)||+15000|
|George Springer (TOR)||+15000|
Odds as of Aug. 11, 2021.
If you only tracked the odds – and not the stats – you would be under the impression that, sometime in early July, Guerrero’s production tailed off and Ohtani’s ramped up.
You might also think that Ohtani’s Angels were making a playoff push while Guerrero’s Blue Jays played out the string.
Neither are true.
Guerrero Jr has continued to be the most-productive hitter in either league, and his Blue Jays are in the thick of the AL Wild Card race.
Ohtani’s Angels, meanwhile, are fourth in the AL West and 7.5 games out of the second Wild Card.
But Ohtani has not only been mashing at the plate this year, leading the majors in home runs (37), he’s also been excellent on the mound and, vitally, managed to stay healthy.
Ohtani vs Guerrero Comparison
The value that the Angels are getting from Ohtani on the mound is significant. He has managed to make 16 starts this season, already six more than his previous high, pitching 86 innings in the process.
That isn’t enough to qualify for the ERA title, but his 2.93 earned-run average would place him 13th in the majors and fourth in the AL. His 1.09 WHIP would be sixth-best in the American League.
Perhaps the easiest way to conceptualize his value as a pitcher is through WAR. According to ESPN’s WAR calculations, Ohtani ranks 21st among pitchers in the MLB at 2.9 WAR. Add that to his 3.9 WAR as a hitter and defender, and he leads the majors by a wide margin at 6.8 total WAR.
Can Guerrero Catch Up?
Strictly looking at WAR, it will be virtually impossible for Guerrero to catch Ohtani by season’s end, unless Ohtani suffers a season-ending injury within the week. However, if Ohtani has an unproductive final six weeks, there could be an opening for Guerrero to win some headlines and the MVP award in the process.
In addition to maintaining (or slightly increasing) his current level of play, Guerrero will need to lead Toronto to the postseason. The Jays are currently 2.5 games back of Boston for the final Wild Card with the Yankees in between.
But Toronto has three games in hand on Boston and two on New York. FanGraphs gives the Jays a 45.5% chance to make the playoffs. (Baseball Prospectus has them down at 32.2%.)
Guerrero’s chances of winning the award are not great. Ohtani has been more productive overall, plays in a bigger market, and is a legit two-way player the likes of whom we haven’t seen in a century. But this is still a race, and at +550, Guerrero only needs a 15.4% chance to justify a wager. I’m not personally betting any of my own money against Ohtani, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for sprinkling a little Guerrero.