The ball took off from Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s bat at 114 miles per hour. It had an absurdly low launch angle of 15 degrees and it landed just over the fence in left field, 356 feet from home plate. And with that – his 45th home run of the year – Guerrero became the sole possession of the AHL lead. One in front of Shohei Ohtani.
With Guerrero leading the AL on batting average (0.318) until Monday, and currently just four RBIs behind the leader of the AL (103 vs. 107 for Jose Abreu), the 27th triple crown in league history major suddenly seems possible.
It would be the perfect course for a year in which the slimmed down Guerrero realized his enormous potential, positioned his team for their second straight playoff appearance and did it all even as the Toronto Blue Jays were forced to play a game. musical chairs for his home baseball stadium for much of the season. Yet despite his numbers and his team’s accomplishments, Guerrero should be seen as a sizable underdog for Angels two-way sensation Ohtani in the race for the American League’s MVP.
As hard as it may be to imagine, given the reverence the Triple Crown continues to have, such a result in the vote has many historical precedents. Just ask Ted Williams, who won the AL triple crown in 1942 and 1947, to finish second in the MVP vote both years.
This season voters could hardly go wrong.
Guerrero plays for a top team and led the league in points, hits, homers, batting average, base percentage and stroke percentage until Monday. His 6.2 offensive wins over substitution are second in the majors behind Bryce Harper of Philadelphia, and he has the good story of being this year’s All-Star Game MVP.
Ohtani, however, does things that no one has ever done. Freed from limitations placed on him in the past, he has hit 44 home runs and stole 23 goals until Monday, and is 9-2 with a 3.36 ERA as a pitcher. Unsurprisingly, he leads the WAR majors at 7.7.
The last time such a debate took place, voters got a little sentimental, giving the Detroit Tigers ‘Miguel Cabrera the 2012 MVP after winning the triple crown, even though the Angels’ Mike Trout had a significant advantage in WAR. thanks to its baserunning and defense.
Despite the idea in 2012 that a triple crown could not be ignored in the MVP vote, historical precedent says otherwise.
In 1942, Williams led the AL with an average of .356, 36 homers and 137 RBIs. In more modern terms, he had a WAR 10.5 leader in the major leagues. Still, for voters that year, second baseman Joe Gordon’s strong run for the first-place Yankees – though he followed Williams in almost every offensive category – was more important, and Gordon won the MVP quite easily.
In 1947, lightning struck twice. Williams led the AL with an average of .343, 32 homers and 114 RBIs. He scored 125 points, had an OPS of 1.133 and produced 9.6 WAR. This time it was the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio, you guessed it, who beat Williams despite being behind in everything.
This must have been particularly familiar to Williams, who also finished behind DiMaggio in the 1941 MVP vote despite a 0.406 stick. For voters in 1941, the calculation was as follows:
First Place Team + 56 Game Hits> 0.400 Hits
The MVP-less spell that has happened to Williams twice, and could happen to Guerrero this year, has other precedents as well. Lou Gehrig won the AL triple crown in 1934 and finished fifth in the MVP vote – he didn’t even finish first among his teammates. In 1933, Chuck Klein of the Philadelphia Phillies won the NL triple crown but lost the MVP title to Carl Hubbell of the Giants. In 1912, the Chicago Cubs’ Heinie Zimmerman won the National League triple crown and tied for sixth in MVP votes, well behind the winner, Larry Doyle of the Giants.
In some of the other triple crown years, no MVPs were awarded. And in the case of the 10 triple crowns recognized by Baseball Reference in the black leagues, no MVP information is given.
As for 2021, the decision has most likely already been made by most voters. Ohtani or Guerrero would be a good choice for the MVP, but the historic oddity of the season of Ohtani is likely to tip the scales in his favor. A good way to compensate for this potential frustration for Guerrero would be to have a nice long run in the playoffs – something that has eluded Ohtani and Trout so far in their careers, regardless of their greatness.