Shohei Ohtani wins AL Rookie of the Year award after historic two-way season

Shohei Ohtani has proven you don’t need a functional pitching elbow to win the Rookie of the Year award.

The 23-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher and designated hitter, didn’t see his first season in MLB go exactly according to plan, but Ohtani’s attempt at history and his impact on his team was still enough to be named AL Rookie of the Year.

Ohtani received 25 first-place votes on ballots from the Baseball Writers Association of America, topping Miguel Andújar and Gleyber Torres, both of the New York Yankees, to win the award. Andújar received the other five first-place votes and 20 second-place votes.

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Here are the full standings from the BBWAA. You can see the individual ballots on their website.

(BBWAA)
(BBWAA)

In winning, Ohtani became the fourth Japanese-born player to win Rookie of the Year, joining Ichiro Suzuki (2001), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Hideo Nomo (1996).

While we expected to see more from Ohtani as a pitcher this season, his elbow troubles sidelined him for parts of the season and eventually called for Tommy John surgery. Despite his UCL injury, he was able to keep hitting for the Angels as a DH. It was a two-way story unlike anything MLB had ever seen before — a story that will now include a significant piece of hardware.

The main debate for this ballot was whether Ohtani’s two-way impact was better than the traditional impact of Andújar and Torres. The numbers and the votes agree: Yes.

As a hitter, Ohtani finished the season slashing .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs. Both Yankees youngsters made compelling contributions too. Andújar had 31 more RBIs, a higher batting average (.297) and five more homers than Ohtani. Torres hit .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs.

To distill that down to Wins Above Replacement, Fangraphs ranked them this way: Ohtani 2.8 WAR, Andujar 2.7 WAR and Torres 1.9 WAR. For Ohtani, of course, that’s only part of the story.

As a pitcher, he accumulated another 1.0 WAR going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. Added all together, voters decided Ohtani’s body of work had a bigger impact than the Andújar and Torres.

Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani was named AL Rookie of the Year, topping Yankees stars Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. (AP)
Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani was named AL Rookie of the Year, topping Yankees stars Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. (AP)

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