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Angels’ Shohei Ohtani finishes 2nd to Yankees’ Aaron Judge for AL MVP

There was no repeat for Shohei Ohtani.

Although Ohtani said he believed his 2022 season was better than the one that earned him a unanimous American League MVP Award in 2021, he came up well short of New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge this time.

Judge, who set a league record with 62 home runs and made a run at the Triple Crown, won the award by taking 28 of 30 first-place votes.

Ohtani received the other two first-place votes, and he was listed second on the other 28 ballots. The Houston Astros’ Yordan Alvarez finished third (22 third-place votes).

Angels beat writer Sam Blum, of The Athletic, and L.A.-based Associated Press writer Greg Beacham were the only two voters to pick Ohtani.

There are two voters representing each of the 15 cities in the AL, with votes tabulated on a system that rewards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third on down to one for 10th.

“There are a lot of numbers that could back up my argument, or the argument of the voters that picked Judge,” Blum wrote in a piece explaining his vote. “Let me first state the very basic reason I picked Ohtani to win. He hit at a very high level. He pitched at an extremely high level. He had the best season of all time.”

The case for Ohtani was simply that he performed as a two-way player at a level not seen by anyone else since Babe Ruth more than 100 years ago.

On the mound, Ohtani was 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and a league-leading 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, improving on last year’s totals in each category. He finished fourth in the AL Cy Young Award vote.

At the plate, Ohtani’s performance was slightly down from 2021. He hit .273 with 34 homers and an .875 OPS for an Angels team that finished 73-89.

Judge was the best hitter in the majors, finishing with an OPS of 1.111. The 6-foot-7 outfielder also helped the Yankees to 99 victories and a division title.

Now a free agent, Judge broke the AL record of 61 homers set by Yankees slugger Roger Maris in 1961.

The tallest MVP in major league history, Judge also led the majors in runs (133), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.111), extra-base hits (90) and total bases (391) to help the Yankees win the AL East. He tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and was second in the AL with a .311 batting average.

“It’s tough to put in words,” Judge said in an interview on MLB Network, surrounded by his beaming wife, parents and agents. “It’s an incredible moment. A lot of hard work to get to this.”

Judge acknowledged feeling “extremely nervous” about the announcement.

“You never want to assume anything,” he said.

Although there was much debate about the award in the final months of the season, it ended up not being close.

“I went back and forth until about late September,” Dan Connolly, the Baltimore Orioles beat writer for The Athletic, wrote in an email. “Ohtani is something we haven’t seen before in my lifetime. But neither is 62 homers in the AL. Once it seemed likely Judge would hit that number, and be close to a Triple Crown, I figured I’d be selecting Judge and then Ohtani. So, it was always close for me, but when Judge picked up the record I felt a little more confident in my choice.”

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote in an email that he wrestled with his vote before settling on Judge.

“What Ohtani did was remarkable again, another amazing season like we’ve never seen before,” Topkin wrote. “In any other year, I would think he would be the clear winner. But what Judge did this year was truly historic, and carried a team that needed his help to the postseason.”

Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote in an email that she felt it was important not to take Ohtani’s season for granted. Ultimately, she leaned on the fact that Judge’s 11.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was significantly higher than Ohtani’s 9.5, according to FanGraphs.

“It was a very difficult decision to make – both had a great MVP case and I would’ve felt comfortable voting for either,” Helfand wrote.

Angels center fielder Mike Trout finished eighth, returning to the leaders after the first time in his career that he didn’t finish in the top five. Trout missed most of 2021 with an injury. He missed a month in 2022, but still hit 40 homers and produced a .999 OPS.

Full voting results can be seen here.

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