Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani Named NL, AL MVPs

Wrapping up their awards season, Major League Baseball announced the league’s two most valuable players Thursday. Philadelphia Phillies’ right fielder Bryce Harper took home the National League MVP with 17 of 30 first-place votes and 348 voting points, while Los Angeles Angels’ designated hitter and starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani came away with the American League MVP unanimously (420 voting points).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finished behind Ohtani in the AL MVP voting with 29 out of 30 second-place votes and 269 voting points. The NL MVP race was much tighter, with Juan Soto finishing second with six first-place votes (274 voting points) and Fernando Tatis Jr. in third with two first-place votes (244 voting points). Despite their impressive campaigns, neither winner’s team made the postseason.

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In 141 games, Harper had a .309 batting average with 35 home runs, 84 RBI, 101 runs, 100 walks, and a 6.6 fWAR. His doubles (42), SLG (.615), OPS (1.044), and OPS+ (179) all led the league. This is the second time the six-time All-Star has won MVP, with his first coming back in 2015.

Harper joins Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Barry Bonds as the only outfielders in MLB history to have at least 100 walks, 100 runs, 40 doubles, and 35 home runs in a single season.

Harper, 29, was named the NL Hank Aaron Award winner as well, the second of his career. Harper’s production is a sigh of relief for Philadelphia fans who were worried the superstar would underwhelm after signing a 13-year, $330 million deal in 2019 – which at the time was the highest contract a professional athlete ever received.

An emotional Harper discussed his hard-earned victory, explaining how he had to overcome a gruesome injury when he was hit in the face with a 97 mph pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals back on April 28.

“This year was tough. It started out [with me] getting hit in the face. It was definitely a tough couple days for me, tough couple of weeks for me trying to get back. My teammates were incredible through the whole process of trying to get me back.”

A highly-touted two-way prospect coming out of Japan, Ohtani signed with the Angels back in 2017. While he demonstrated his potential and production throughout his first three seasons, injuries ultimately held him back as he played in just 254 games out of a possible 486. In 2021, Ohtani finally shook off his injury proneness and put it all together for an utterly outstanding performance.

In 155 games, Ohtani hit .257 with 46 home runs — third-most in the league — , 100 RBI, 103 runs, 96 walks, and 26 stolen bases. Ohtani also shined on the mound, starting 23 games while going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA, 156 strikeouts, and 1.090 WHIP. The 27-year-old also sported a league-leading 9.1 bWAR.

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Ohtani is the first Japanese-born player to win the AL MVP since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. After being named the first two-way All-Star in MLB History, Ohtani was presented with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award. It’s the first time commissioner Rob Manfred has selected a recipient since taking the role in 2015.

For Major League Baseball, Ohtani’s emergence was very much needed. The sport’s inability to properly market its biggest stars has been well-documented for quite some time, and Ohtani offers the ability to catch the attention of both younger and global audiences.

Among the other major MLB award winners include Gabe Kapler and Kevin Cash as the NL and Al Managers of the Year, respectively; Jonathon India and Randy Arozarena as the NL and AL Rookies of the Year; and Corbin Burnes and Robbie Ray as the NL and AL Cy Young winners.