Shohei Ohtani had already shown that he could be one of the most exciting players in baseball in 2021, but health had proven to be a hindrance.
Could you really stay healthy for an entire season? Could he have spent a whole year as a starting pitcher? and put everything together on the plate? It seemed possible, but far from inevitable.
A bettor in Nevada saw a high ceiling, and on March 19 he bet $ 30,000 on Ohtani with bookmaker William Hill, now Caesars Sportsbook, to win the AL MVP, according to ESPN. Odds: 30-1. Today, Ohtani is a huge favorite to win the AL MVP. And yes, maybe, when he wins, that bettor will pocket $ 900,000. And according to the ESPN report, William Hill will suffer a seven-figure loss if Ohtani wins the award.
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“It’s going to be the biggest loss in that type of market,” said Adam Pullen, assistant director of operations for Caesars Sportsbook, according to ESPN. “It will stand out as a line item, when you see the prize bets and a huge handicap.”
Caesars won’t be the only book to face great loss. SuperBook risk manager Randy Blum told ESPN that the bookmaker will face a “five-figure” liability with Ohtani lined up to win the award.
“We never expected him to be that type of hitter,” Blum said.
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There wasn’t much that could have predicted the success of Ohtani’s breakup. In 2018, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year, he was down .285 / .361 / .564 with 22 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He also pitched 51 2/3 innings with a 3.31 ERA and struck out 63 batters, but dealt with injuries and ultimately required Tommy John surgery after the season.
Ohtani played 106 games exclusively as a designated hitter in 2019 after he underwent surgery on Tommy John. He still performed well, hitting .286 / .343 / .505 with 18 home runs and 12 steals. However, he struggled at the plate in 2020, cutting just .190 / .291 / .366 with seven home runs and seven steals.
The power seemed real, as did the speed, but Ohtani had yet to put it all together. Through 2021. This season, he was down .257 / .372 / .592 and was third in the American League with 46 home runs and fifth with 26 stolen bases. On the mound, he pitched 130 1/3 innings in 23 starts, posting a 3.18 ERA with a 29.3 percent strikeout rate and an 8.3 percent walk rate. According to Fangraphs, he earned 3.0 WAR as a pitcher and 5.1 WAR as a hitter.
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According to Fangraphs, Trea Turner led the majors in batting WAR with 6.9 and Corbin Burnes led the majors in pitching WAR with 7.5. Neither player reached collective 8.1 WAR for Ohtani.