Modern day Babe Ruth vs. the greatest power hitter of this generation

Evaluating all angles of the race for AL MVP.



New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge hits his fifty eighth homerun during the third inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Kenny Yoo)

ALL RISE, IT’S SHO-TIME! In arguably the greatest MVP race in baseball history, who will take home the highly regarded American League MVP honors?

Both of these superstars have immense talent and are having phenomenal success in the 2022 MLB season, but what makes this competition truly special is the historic success of both players.

Starting off with Shohei Ohtani, this is his 4th year in the MLB with the Los Angeles Angels and he’s playing at a level and style never seen since Babe Ruth, and some may even say better overall than the Great Bambino. In the case of Ohtani, not only does his vast skill set include elite top 10 pitching performance, but also top 10 batting performance. His Angels are in 3rd place within their division with a record of 64-83.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws a warmup pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (AP)

For Judge, coming up on a free agent year, this is his 7th year with the New York Yankees. While Aaron Judge may not be able to be the ace of your favorite team’s starting rotation, he packs a punch with one of the most impressive seasons of a hitter in recent memory. Judge is looking to set the record for most home runs of any American League hitter since its formation in 1901 and reach a triple crown in the AL, with the best batting average, RBIs, and home runs. His Yankees are in first place within their division with a record of 88-58.

For the more basic batting statistics, Judge leads with a .316 batting average in comparison to .268 from Ohtani. Judge also leads in HR and RBI by far with 59 and 127 to Ohtani’s 34 and 89 respectively. When it comes to OPS, which measures players on base percentage plus slugging percentage, Judge leads all of baseball with his monstrous 1.120 OPS. To put that into perspective, that’s the highest OPS in baseball since the should-be Hall of Famer Barry Bonds in 2004. Ohtani’s, while well above average at .894, still pales in comparison.

When it comes to the more advanced batting statistics, Judge obliterates the competition across the league. He ranks in the 98th percentile or better in his hard hit percentage, walk percentage, and even his expected statistics. This means that not only is Judge producing unbelievable numbers, but his style of play is consistent with elite performance, even when he makes outs. This is also put into example with OPS+, which, similar to OPS, measures on base % plus slugging %, but puts into perspective the different time periods, ballparks, etc. It levels the playing field for every player to more accurately and fairly analyze players. With the average OPS+ in baseball being exactly 100, Ohtani has a massive 149 OPS+, meaning he is 49% better than the average major league hitter. However, Judge destroys him again here with his, get this, 213 OPS+. You heard that right, Aaron Judge is statistically over 2 times as superior than baseball’s average hitters. To put that into even more perspective, Mike Trout who has been one of, if not the best player of this generation, has never even surpassed 200 OPS+. Historically, not even Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and Ken Griffey Jr., who are needless to say bonafide legends in the sport, have passed the 200 mark.

So batting is one major facet of the game, but how about defense on the field? Shohei Ohtani, being an incredibly unique two-way player, doesn’t actually play in the field but instead is an exclusive Designated Hitter, or DH for short. This is because, believe it or not, Ohtani is still human even with his practically unprecedented ability to hit AND pitch, playing defense would just be too taxing to add to the resume and keep up with his other elite performing activities on the field. However, Aaron Judge plays center field or sometimes right field practically every day, with 118 of his games being slated at those positions. Using a statistic called OAA or outs about average with 0 being average, we can determine that Aaron Judge is an above average defender with an OAA of 2. Yet, that’s actually below average for his career in which he reached marks of 9 OAA in 2019 where he mostly played an easier position with right field. So, at the very least he’s a good outfield defender.

Now, this is where the debate comes in, pitching. Needless to say, Judge doesn’t pitch and has never pitched (well at least since his high school days when he was a 3 sport star, but that’s beside the point). Shohei Ohtani is doing something that, to put it simply, we’ve never seen, as he even started the All-Star game this year on the mound. Babe Ruth is a common comparison to Ohtani with his dual ability to pitch and hit, but there are a couple of problems with that analogy. First off, Babe Ruth wasn’t nearly as good of a pitcher as Ohtani. The “Big Bam” pitched to the tune of a career 2.28 era, 1.15 WHIP (walks plus hits allowed per inning pitched), and 3.6 K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings), which besides the strikeout rate, are all excellent. However, as good of a pitcher, as he was back then, to put it bluntly, he was playing against literal plumbers. The competition and game as a whole just frankly wasn’t nearly as advanced or competitive due to its lack of technology and with those being the early years. While this lack of competition also detriments Ruth’s legendary hitting legacy, he was still probably a better hitter than Ohtani by a decent amount, racking up a colossal 1.164 career OPS. But the reason I bring to light this comparison is to show that Shohei Ohtani is possibly an overall BETTER player than the often stated best player in history.

Ohtani showcases his stunning ability on the mound with his 2.43 era, 1.04 WHIP, and K/9 of 11.9 in 148 innings this year. Opponents are also hitting just .213 off of Ohtani with a sub-.600 OPS, terrible. He is making professional hitters look like you playing tee-ball with his 5-pitch repertoire including a 4-seam fastball that he can run up to 100mph or more, as well as a wiffle ball-esque slider that is one of the best of its type of any pitcher in baseball and only works to twist batters in knots.

So then finally comes the question, who is the true MVP? This is probably one of the most controversial races of all time and also difficult to tackle due to Judge’s home run pace being unparalleled in this generation and of course Ohtani doing it all on both sides of the ball. Judge is currently the favorite, but it is still much up to debate. With less than 2 weeks to play, we will see who does or doesn’t take even more strides toward that luminous MVP award. They are very different and unique players, but with that being said, I’m going with the player who has recorded the best 2 seasons of any player in history (and counting), and he goes by the name of Shohei Ohtani.