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Ohtani vs. Judge, the last of baseball’s great MVP runs

When Shohei Ohtani throws impressively and hits over 30 homers, he could still be the MVP favorite unless another player in his league comes up with something terribly special.

Like hitting 60 home runs, for example.

Ohtani vs. Aaron Judge for American League MVP numbers will be the most debated postseason award this year. Judge is closing in on Roger Maris’ AL record of 61 homers and could win the Triple Crown as well. He did this by playing quite a bit of central ground for a team that is approaching a division title.

Ohtani, on the other hand, is throwing better than he did when he was the unanimous MVP last year. He can even get into Cy Young’s conversation, to accompany his 34 circuits.

According to the Baseball-Reference wins over replacement stat, the two are pretty close. The judge was at 9.9 entering Sunday, with Ohtani at 9.0.

As phenomenal as it is, there are a few factors – both last year and this year – that keep Ohtani’s WAR a little below the Barry Bonds/Babe Ruth stratosphere. In addition to its launch, the Angels are careful not to abuse it. He only pitched 130 1/3 innings last year and has 153 this year. His lack of defensive value also works against him.

It’s just nitpicking, of course. If Ohtani doesn’t win MVP this time, it will have taken a truly spectacular performance to beat him.

Here are some other famous head-to-head MVP races over the years:

1941 (AL): Joe DiMaggio on Ted Williams. Perhaps the most famous MVP run came the year DiMaggio had his 56-game hitting streak and Williams hit .406.

1961 (AL): Husbands on Mickey Mantle. It was a close race even though Maris – who also beat Mantle for the 1960 MVP – hit all 61 home runs to break Ruth’s record. Mantle played a tougher position and while that obviously wasn’t a factor at the time, he had a significant 10.4-6.9 advantage over Maris in WAR.

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1987 (AL): George Bell on Alan Trammell. The Trammell Tigers rallied the Bell Blue Jays for the AL East title, but the Detroit shortstop couldn’t beat the Toronto slugger’s 47 homers and 134 RBIs.

1998 (NL): Sammy Sosa on Mark McGwire. McGwire (70) outlasted Sosa (66) in the home race after the two broke Maris’ record, but the MVP vote was skewed in favor of Sosa. His Cubs made the playoffs and he led the league in runs and RBIs.

2012 (AL): Miguel Cabrera on Mike Trout. In a contentious race pitting traditionalists against new age statistics, Triple Crown winner Cabrera took home MVP – and the vote wasn’t that close. Trout settled for second place despite producing 10.5 WAR as a rookie. After again finishing second to Cabrera the following year, Trout won three MVPs.

GAME TIME

Last weekend, Houston’s Dusty Baker became the fourth manager with a 100-win season in both leagues. Who were the others?

LINE OF THE WEEK

Kolten Wong hit three home runs and led in five points to lead Milwaukee to a 5-1 win over Cincinnati on Thursday night. The Brewers finished Week 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for the NL’s last wild card.

RETURN OF THE WEEK

The Kansas City Royals scored 11 runs in the sixth inning on Sunday to erase a nine-run deficit against Seattle. Kansas City continued win 13-12. Not that we need advanced stats to put this into perspective, but Baseball Savant lists Kansas City’s probability of winning like 0.3% during this sixth inning.

The Royals walked five and seven hits in the inning. Seattle still leads Baltimore by four games for the last AL wildcard — and has the tiebreaker over the Orioles — but if the Mariners miss the playoffs, this game will be hard to forget.

RESPONSE TO NEWS

Sparky Anderson (1970, 1975 and 1976 with Cincinnati, 1984 with Detroit), Whitey Herzog (1977 with Kansas City, 1985 with St. Louis) and Tony La Russa (1988 and 1990 with Oakland, 2004 and 2005 with St. Louis). In addition to that year, Baker did it with San Francisco in 1993, his first season as manager.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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More from APMLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb et https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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