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Shohei Ohtani is the Runaway Leader in Total Runs

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I got asked during an interview the other day about my early feelings on the AL MVP race.

Putting aside the idea that there’s a lot of baseball left, if we were going to answer the question of ‘Who is the AL MVP?’ right now, by the data, the answer is clearly Shohei Ohtani.

Using Total Runs, which combines a player’s hitting, pitching, baserunning, and defensive value and takes into account the difficulty of the position(s) he plays, and how much he plays, Ohtani tops the list.

Most Total Runs – 2021 Season

Player Team Total Runs
Shohei Ohtani Angels 93
Marcus Semien Blue Jays 72
Carlos Correa Astros 72
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blue Jays 71
Gerrit Cole Yankees 69
Jake Cronenworth Padres 67
Ronald Acuña Jr. Braves 67
Cedric Mullins Orioles 67
Zack Wheeler Phillies 67

In fact, the gap between Ohtani and the No. 2 players, Carlos Correa and Marcus Semien, is 21 runs. That’s the same separation as that between Correa/Semien and the players tied for No. 53 overall.

You can view a longer version of the leaderboard here.

Ohtani ranks eighth in the majors in Runs Created, the offensive component of Total Runs, just behind Matt Olson and Xander Bogaerts. Ohtani co-leads the majors in home runs (23), ranks fifth in OPS (.984), and has 10 stolen bases.

What vaults him past everyone else is that he’s a highly-credible starting pitcher as well, as impressive a two-way player as MLB has had this side of Babe Ruth. Ohtani has a 2.58 ERA in 59 1/3 innings.

Ohtani ranks tied for 37th in Pitching Runs Created with Adam Wainwright, Taijuan Walker, José Urquidy, Aaron Nola, and Mike Minor. One thing that is holding Ohtani back from ranking higher is that he ranks outside the top-100 in the majors in innings pitched.

Even so, a Top-10 hitter and a Top-40 pitcher is an incredible baseball player.

Correa and Semien rank where they do because each has starred offensively and defensively, and they get rewarded for doing so as middle infielders. Correa ranks ninth in the AL with a .922 OPS and also ranks fifth in the league in runs scored (53). Semien ranks fifth in the AL with 18 home runs and has handled the move from shortstop to second base seamlessly. He’s third among second basemen with 6 Defensive Runs Saved.

Guerrero also fits the description of incredible baseball player, one who leads the majors in on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.664), and is tied with Ohtani for the lead in home runs. Guerrero and Ohtani are each having the kind of season that was dreamed about as a best-case scenario at the time of their MLB debuts.

The Total Runs leaderboard is useful beyond the assessment of the AL MVP race. It can show just how crowded the NL MVP race is at the moment.

Jacob deGrom and Fernando Tatis Jr. are popular choices among their fan bases. That's fair because on a pitch-to-pitch or at-bat-to-at-bat basis, they're the best in the game. But both have missed enough time due to injury that they aren’t among the NL leaders in Total Runs.

Instead, the No. 1 spot in the NL is shared by Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr, versatile Padres infielder Jake Cronenworth, and Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler.

Acuña has among the gaudiest offensive numbers in the NL (his .996 OPS ranks third in the league). Cronenworth leads the NL in games played, ranks ninth in the league in Total Bases, and is tied for the MLB lead in Runs Saved among second basemen. Wheeler has been fantastic for the Phillies. He ranks eighth in the NL in ERA (2.36) but third in innings pitched (99 1/3).

They've been great but none of them have been a match for Ohtani.

Another player on the Total Runs leaderboard, Cedric Mullins of the Orioles, joined us to talk about his impressive 2021 season. Check out the latest episode of The Sports Info Solutions Baseball Podcast here.

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