By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
In 2021, shōhei ohtani put together perhaps the best complete season in baseball history, becoming the unanimous winner of the American League MVP Award.
What kind of encore can you produce for such a virtuoso performance?
Well, without much fanfare, and despite not keeping up with last year’s offensive numbers, Ohtani is currently putting together a 2022 campaign that still ranks high on the list of the best seasons we’ve seen.
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Perhaps the two-way phenomenon of the Angels is putting the the second best season we’ve seen — behind only his MVP year that redefined the numbers we consider possible for a single player.
On Tuesday night in Anaheim, Ohtani’s superhuman abilities were on full display.
In the bottom of the sixth inning of a fight against the Royals, Ohtani hit a three-run homer that no doubt brought the Angels within two runs.
Then he came up in the bottom of the ninth, with LA down three and two men on board, the stage perfectly set for him to do something special.
Which, of course, he did.
On a 2-2 count, Ohtani hit a three-run home run on the night, tying the game. He stood up and admired the explosion to right field for dramatic effect.
Although the Angels went on to lose the game 12-11 in 11 innings, Ohtani finished the night 3-for-4 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
As usual, the performance sent our FOX Sports research team into the record books to contextualize stats that have rarely been seen before or that no one has ever done to play the game.
Ohtani became the first Angels player with eight or more RBIs in a game since Garret Anderson in 2007 (when he had 10 in a game, which is the all-time franchise record).
He became the first Japanese-born player to reach the eight RBI mark in a game.
He is also one of four players this season with four or more multi-home run games, as well as one of four players to have multiple games of five or more RBIs.
It was a magical night for Ohtani, and I watched in awe.
As I have written before, we are looking at the modern Babe Ruth. There is no better way to describe it than that.
Don’t let Ohtani’s historic 2021 season cloud your appreciation for what he’s doing in 2022. It’s easy to get caught up comparing players to their best seasons and be less impressed when they don’t put up the same numbers.
LeBron James and Mike Trout, two all-time greats who also call Los Angeles home, are examples of that. You can make a very good case for those two being MVPs plus every season they’re healthy. Unfortunately, the award is given to others due to the fact that Trout and James could falter from their MVP years.
It could be easy to have that same philosophy with Ohtani. Don’t let it happen.
And keep in mind that Ohtani is on track to have a higher average and more RBIs in 2022, while also hitting nearly 40 home runs.
Beyond those stellar numbers at the plate, Ohtani is still a very good pitcher, posting a 2.94 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings on the mound.
I think John Smoltz put it best a few weeks ago in my “flying batsPodcast: “If he was just a pitcher, he’s Jacob deGrom.”
And, oh yeah, that incredible performance Tuesday came the night before a game in which he threw eight two-hit innings of ball with one walk while striking out a career-high 13 batters and reaching the ball three times.
Shohei Ohtani is truly amazing in every sense of the word.
Ben Verlander is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports and host of the “flying batspodcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before joining his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick by the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization Follow him on Twitter @benverlander.
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