With the regular season over, the debate is on for who should win the two MLB league MVPs.
After each Major League Baseball (MLB) season, fans debate over who is most deserving to win their respective league’s MVP title. Why is this such a hot topic of conversation?
The MLB consists of two leagues—the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). The MLB selects two writers from each team’s city to submit a ballot on who they think should win MVP in each league. Once the votes are tallied and the two players are selected, the winners will go down in history with the greats, including the likes of Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson.
This MLB season was a special one on the topic of MVP candidates.
In the NL, baseball fans witnessed an outstanding season from Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. Betts finished top five in the MLB in hits, runs batted in (RBI), walks, runs scored and batting average— the amount of hits a batter gets in a season divided by the number of their at bats.
He also led the MLB in a new statistic that analysts like to use to weigh the skill of players called wins above replacement (WAR), the estimated amount of wins the player added to their team’s record in a season. Betts, who finished with 8.4 WAR, took home NL player of the month honours in August, hitting 11 home runs in 29 games.
While Betts’ season was one to remember, it is hard to overlook one of the most talented offences of all time, the Atlanta Braves—led by first baseman Matt Olson and right-fielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who formed a dangerous one-two punch all season long.
Olson put up his career’s best numbers by far this year, hitting 54 home runs and 139 RBI, leading the MLB in both categories. He also played all 162 games during the regular season—only one other MLB player accomplished that this year. To top off his impressive season, Olson was one of the nine NL nominees for the Hank Aaron Award, granted to the best offensive player in each league. With a season like this, he has a good shot at winning league MVP, but with the talent across the NL this season, it is certainly not a run away.
Meanwhile, Acuña Jr. had one of the best offensive years in MLB history. Acuña Jr. became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs (41 total) and steal 70 bases (73 total) in the same season. To put this into perspective, the next closest player to this performance never got over 50 stolen bases. Acuña Jr., the three-time 2023 NL player of the month winner, finished the year top five in almost every category one can think of and managed to get on base 42 per cent of all plate appearances. Acuña Jr.’s historic year was simply remarkable and is one that should secure him the NL MVP in 2023.
Like in the NL, the AL had no shortage of skill. Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager put together a nice year, leading the AL in doubles and finishing top five in various categories. With a 6.9 WAR in 2023, Seager helped carry his team from 68 wins in 2022 to 90 wins and a playoff berth in 2023. The all-star had a very good year and will be essential to his team’s success in the playoffs.
Despite Seager putting up a personal best year in the statistics department, it does not seem to be a close race between him and the batter/pitcher hybrid who is considered to many as the best all-around player of all time, Shohei Ohtani. Before being shut down late in the season due to injuries, Ohtani finished with a phenomenal 10 WAR to lead the MLB. Not only did Ohtani lead the AL in many of the major offensive statistical categories, but he also had a very solid year on the mound. In 2023, Ohtani won 10 of the 15 games he pitched in, threw a complete-game shut-out, and was the only batter in the MLB to pitch as a starter.
Had the 2022 AL MVP Aaron Judge not sustained the foot injury that kept him on the sideline for two months, we may be having a different discussion about who should win MVP. But with these statistics, especially with 27 games missed, Ohtani could be the clear winner for AL MVP in 2023.
The 2023 season will go down in MLB history as one of the most entertaining to watch. With the playoffs underway, time will tell who wins their respective leagues’ MVP award. Once the World Series concludes, the winners will be announced. World Series Championship or not, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Shohei Ohtani should be making some space in their trophy cabinets.