Angels: Justifying Shohei Ohtani Winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award

The American League Rookie of the Year Award came down to Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Babe Ruth (or at least that’s who some call Shohei Ohtani) and New York Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar. Despite captivating rookie seasons from the two, Ohtani won the honor in a landslide — getting 25 of the 30 first-place votes. The aftermath of this verdict? Either agreement or utter outrage.

There was a legitimate case for Andujar to win the award, and, at first-glance, it would make sense for him to be crowned with the prestigious honor. This notion derives from Ohtani playing 45 fewer games than Andujar, and the third baseman hitting for a higher average. With that said, to make the assertion that Ohtani was unqualified to win the award based on his absence is absurd.

Is it possible that there was a push from Major League Baseball for Ohtani to win the award from the moment he signed with the Angels? Sure, he was the first two-way player MLB could feature in ages and a productive outlet in two aspects of the game (hitting and pitching). Plus, what do commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB benefit from more: an international star bringing a franchise on the West Coast back to life, or a pure hitter deepening an already stacked Yankees lineup?

In the interest of fairness, let’s put behind the scenes hypotheticals to the side and compare Ohtani and Andujar’s offensive production in 2018.

You may not agree with Shohei Ohtani winning AL Rookie of the Year, but it's absurd to say he wasn't qualified. @RPStratakos has more.Click To Tweet

Ohtani: .285 batting average, .361 on-base percentage, .564 slugging, .925 OPS, 59 runs, 93 hits, 22 home runs, 61 RBIs, 37 walks, 10 stolen bases, 102 strikeouts

Andujar: .297 batting average, .328 on-base percentage, .527 slugging, .855 OPS, 83 runs, 170 hits, 27 home runs, 92 RBIs, 25 walks, two stolen bases, 97 strikeouts

Regardless of your opinion on deciphering statistics and analytics to death, voters are stat crunchers; they look at nearly every statistic you can think of. When doing so, Ohtani and Andujar’s production nearly balance each other out.

Andujar played more games than Ohtani, and that should’ve been a more vital element in this vote. With that said, look at the statistics Ohtani had on Andujar. Ohtani had a better on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, drew more walks, and recorded more stolen bases than Andujar. Had Ohtani played the same amount of games as Andujar, he could have been better in more categories, or close to it. At the same time, he could’ve also gone into an offensive drought and hit a wall — which is why you have to be delicate when projecting what someone’s production could’ve been. Alternatively, you can look at the other part of Ohtani’s game: his pitching.

Ohtani’s pitching was an enormous reason for why he won the award. In 10 starts, he showcased the ability to be a reliable starter every fifth day. Posting a 3.31 ERA and recording 63 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings pitched, Ohtani was pitching at an extraordinary level for a rookie. For what it’s worth, he hit just one batter. Now, these totals aren’t Cy Young Award-esque, but they do resemble a competent, top-of-the-rotation starter — albeit it being just 10 starts.

Ohtani didn’t play a single inning in the field (outside of fielding the mound), so, unlike a National League player, you can’t look at his defense as a prominent factor in winning the award. That’s why his pitching is pivotal. In the case of Andujar, you can look at his defensive play based on him being the Yankees everyday third baseman.

While he showcased a strong arm, Andujar was shaky at the corner infield position and a large reason for the Yankees abysmal infield defense down the stretch of the regular season. His 15 errors were tied for the fourth most in MLB for third basemen. That shouldn’t have played a part in this vote?

Who was more productive offensively in the games they played: Ohtani or Andujar? What was better: Ohtani’s pitching or Andujar’s defense? You have to think for more than a tenth of a second for each of those questions, so how can you say Ohtani has no business winning the award?

For those who felt Andujar should’ve been crowned the AL Rookie of the Year, they have legitimate reasoning to back up their thinking. Heck, he recorded an astonishing 47 doubles as a rookie and was one of the more difficult outs in the AL. Meanwhile, Ohtani also had a profound impact on his ballclub. The 24-year-old was viewed as the Angels best pitcher in the beginning of the season, hit behind Mike Trout, and was a reliable source of offense in their order.

Andujar had a superb rookie season, but so did Ohtani. To say Ohtani wasn’t worthy, or shouldn’t have been considered for the award, is outlandish.

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