Shohei Ohtani is the winner of the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award, Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced on Monday. He is the third Angels player to win the award, joining Tim Salmon and Mike Trout.
Ohtani received 25 first-place votes, while Miguel Andujar, the Yankees’ third baseman, received the remaining five to finish in second place. Gleyber Torres, another Yankees infielder, finished in third place.
And despite what a perturbed Yankees fan might try to tell you, the voters, by just about every measure, made the correct choice.
Even setting aside the historic nature of a player whose week can consist of hitting a home run on Tuesday, another on Wednesday, and one more on Friday before throwing seven shutout innings on Sunday (That was his second week in the majors!), Ohtani was simply the best rookie in the AL this year.
Across 367 plate appearances, Ohtani hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 home runs and 10 stolen bases. His 152 wRC+ (where 100 is average) at the plate placed second among qualified AL rookies and eighth among all players with at least 350 plate appearances in 2018. Furthermore, by the same metric, only six rookies this century have had better offensive seasons (minimum 350 plate appearances).
Importantly, Ohtani bested the Yankees’ rookie tandem in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, weighted on-base average, and weighted runs created plus. In other words, all of the relevant statistics agree that, on a per-plate-appearance basis, Ohtani was the best hitter among the finalists. Andujar and Torres had slight advantages in some of the counting stats, like home runs, but that is mostly because they each batted over 100 more times than Ohtani.
The main reason for this gap in plate appearances is, of course, that Ohtani is also a pitcher. His pitching season was cut short due to an elbow injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery, but he still tossed 51 2/3 innings this year. His 29.9% strikeout rate and 3.31 earned run average both ranked second among AL rookie starting pitchers. Neither Andujar nor Torres faced any batters on the mound.
It’s a shame that we’ll have to wait until 2020 to see the complete version of Ohtani again, but, even though his health held him back, attempt number one can be labeled a success. He was one of baseball’s best hitters and a dominant starting pitcher in 2018, something the modern game has never seen.
In short, during his first major-league season, Ohtani lived up to the mythical expectations that came along with his extraordinary talent, and he is undoubtedly deserving of the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
Perhaps the most encouraging part about Ohtani’s 2018 season is that, because of his injury, it was only a preview of what he is capable of. The prospect of a fully healthy Ohtani is making his 2020 campaign look like it will be the year’s most compelling.
All is not lost for Ohtani in 2019, though, because while we will be spending the year patiently waiting for more pitches like this…
…we’ll still be getting to enjoy swings like this:
It’s clear that Ohtani has an incredibly bright career ahead of him; a Rookie of the Year Award is only the beginning.
Featured image via Erik Drost/Flickr.