The 2023 MLB season was full of surprises and changes, and very few people could have predicted the outcome when it was all over.
At least after the season ended, the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America could all agree on one thing: They had no doubts about the Most Valuable Players for each League, nor the Rookies of the Year.
In fact, they were unanimous in their selection and their praise, and with excellent reasons. Each of the MVPs had a historic season, and it’s the first time since voting began in 1931 that each League’s MVP was selected unanimously.
Let’s look at why the Baseball Writers’ Association of America made these selections.
American League MVP: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels. DH, starting pitcher. First on all 30 ballots.
Image Credit: Jeffrey Hayes
Interesting side note: Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, both with the World Series Champion Texas Rangers, were 2nd and 3rd in MVP voting.
These days, Shohei Ohtani is perhaps the biggest star in Major League Baseball. There is no one like him, because there is no other starting pitcher who is as good a hitter and who is in the starting lineup when he’s not on the mound.
There has been only one other player like that: Babe Ruth, who played about 100 years ago with the Yankees and who eventually stepped off the mound to become the home-run king of his day.
Ohtani won his second MVP award in three years, playing for the underachieving Los Angeles Angels, who had a dismal season. (Aaron Judge took last year’s AL MVP, powered by his 62-home-run season; he probably disrupted three consecutive MVP wins for Ohtani.)
In 2021, Ohtani was also selected unanimously for the MVP award, making him the only player in MLB history to have two won two unanimous MVP selections.
On the mound, he had a 10-5 record in 23 starts, with a .314 ERA. He had 162 strikeouts in 123 innings...despite his season ending in early September due to an elbow injury. Opposing batters hit only .184.
At the plate, he was even more impressive and was the League’s best hitter. Despite playing only three games and not hitting a home run in September, he won the AL home
run crown with 44, his first time as League leader. He led the American League in on-base percentage and total bases; he was the MLB leader in slugging percentage (.654), OPS (1.066) and OPS+ (184); he had the most wins for a team, and had the highest batting average too, hitting .304 for the 2023 season.
He’s a free agent now.
National League MVP: Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves. Right fielder. First on all 30 ballots.
Image Credit: Wikimedia
Interesting side note: Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, both with the Los Angeles Dodgers, were 2nd and 3rd in MVP voting.
Quite simply, Ronald Acuña Jr. had a monster year for the Braves. Not only did he lead the League in a number of batting categories, but he set records that few have ever come close to attaining.
And when it was announced that he was the NL MVP this year, he was playing Winter Ball in his hometown in Venezuela. He led his League in the following categories:
- Hits – 217 (MLB leader)
- Runs – 149 (MLB leader)
- Total bases – 383 (MLB leader)
- OPS – 1.012 (AL leader)
- On-base percentage – .416 (AL leader)
No one has led their League in the above categories since Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox in 1969. The other four players to ever do it were Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial and Nap Lajoie—all Hall of Fame players.
Acuña’s batting average of .337 was second in the Majors. With 41 home runs, he was fifth in the Majors. Oh, and Acuña also led the League in another category, which made his season historic—he stole 73 bases.
That was truly historic—no player in MLB history has ever stolen 70+ bases and hit more than 40 homers. In fact...
- No player has ever hit 40 homers and stolen 60 bases
- No one has ever hit at least 40 dingers with 50 stolen bases
Also unanimous: The ROYs, Rookies of the Year.
Perhaps like Ohtani and Acuña, these two League rookies will soon be MVPs. Surely, they showed enough promise and generated the statistics that earned them unanimous selections as the Rookies of the Year.
American League: Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles. Shortstop/third base.
Image Credit: Ian D'Andrea
In 150 games, the Orioles’ Henderson had 28 home runs, nine triples (tied for third in the Majors) and 28 doubles. He helped his team win more than 100 games. After a slow start, he was the AL Rookie of the Month in June and took that momentum to finish the season strong. His nine triples were six more than those of any other teammate. He was the first Oriole to win Rookie of the Year since Cal Ripken Jr. did it more than 30 years earlier. It was only fitting that Ripken announced Henderson’s win.
National League: Corbin Carrol, Arizona Diamondbacks. Outfielder.
Image Credit: Jeffrey Hyde
In 155 games, Corbin hit 25 home runs, 10 triples (second in the Majors) and 30 doubles. He also stole 54 bases, third-most in all of baseball. He became the first rookie ever to reach the 25-50 mark with home runs and steals. He hit righties and lefties equally well, and his average on the road was right about his season average of .285 at home. He helped propel his team from a NL Wild Card spot to the World Series, where they lost to the Texas Rangers.
Other Award Winners
Cy Young Award
American League – Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
National League – Blake Snell, San Diego Padres
Comeback Player of the Year
National League – Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs
American League – Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox
Resources: mlb.com/news/mlb-mvp-award-winners-2023; mlb.com/awards; mlb.com/news/rookie-of-the-year-2023; mlb.com/news/ronald-acuna-jr-ties-braves-modern-era-stolen-base; baseball-reference.com/acuna; baseball-reference.com/Ohtani.
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