- Shohei Ohtani is the first player to start a game while leading the MLB in home runs since Babe Ruth did it over 100 years ago.
- Ohtani was named to the AL All Star team as a hitter and is also the starting pitcher for the game.
- Nevada sportsbooks have a big liability on Ohtani winning the American League MVP Award.
We talked about the unique skill set of Shohei Ohtani in our preview of the 2021 MLB All Star Game. He’s the first player since Babe Ruth to start a game as a pitcher while leading the Majors in home runs and while he didn’t win the Home Run Derby this year he’s currently the favorite to win the American League (AL) MVP Award. He’s a -350 favorite at BetOnline.ag and only one other player–Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.–is anywhere near him:
ODDS TO WIN AL MVP AWARD
Shohei Ohtani -350 Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. +225 Xander Bogaerts +4000 Aaron Judge +5000 Carlos Correa +5000 Marcus Semien +5000 Matt Olson +5000 Rafael Devers +5000
While Ohtani’s performance this year has been great for baseball fans the same thing can’t be said for Nevada sportsbooks. In a July 11 story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Todd Dewey reports that the city’s bookmakers are staring at a seven figure loss should Ohtani win the AL MVP award. The -350 current price on Ohtani comes with an implied probability of 77.8% meaning there’s little that sportsbooks can do at this point other than try to mitigate their potential loss by attracting interest on other players. When Ohtani is a nearly 80% theoretical front runner to win the MVP award that isn’t easy to do.
William Hill is often criticized by Nevada ‘wise guys’ for their reticence to take big bets. That makes their situation a bit ironic as they’re sitting on a potential loss of nearly $1 million USD on the Ohtani MVP wager. Before the current MLB season, William Hill took a $30,000 wager on Ohtani at 30-1 to win the MVP. There’s a $900,000 payout right there. William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bodanovich says anyone betting $30K at 30-1 is a very rare occurrence:
“That Ohtani bet is rarefied air. We’ll never see that again. I’ve never heard of anyone betting $30,000 at 30-1.”
Ohtani’s current MVP odds in Nevada are similar to those at BetOnline.ag. He’s -300 at William Hill, -275 at Stations Casinos and -320 at BetMGM. MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback can’t recall any player being such a perceived ‘lock’ to win the MVP award in July:
“I don’t think there’s ever been such an odds-on favorite in July to win the MVP.”
The LVRJ article reviewed Ohtani’s mind blowing first half numbers:
Ohtani entered Sunday atop the majors in homers (33), extra-base hits (55) and WAR (5.5) while batting .276 with 70 RBIs and 12 steals. The fourth-year player, who turned 27 on July 5, also is 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts and has 87 strikeouts in 67 innings.
Westgate sportsbook manager Randy Blum said that his team didn’t think Ohtani could pull off this type of stat line when he came over from Japan:
“We’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s just been amazing what he’s been able to do. We’re the first to admit that we didn’t think he would ever be able to hit like this in the majors when he came over from Japan. We thought he eventually would transition to a full-time pitcher. We were dead wrong. He can hit.”
Ohtani’s only viable competition–at least on the betting board–is Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Guerrero is the only other player with single digit odds. At Station Casinos, they’ve made their betting board neater by offering only three wagering options–Ohtani, Guerrero at +210 and ‘any other AL player’ at +1100. The Westgate’s Blum thinks that the only thing that can stop Ohtani from winning is injury. He also points out that Guerrero could have a career season and *not* win the MVP:
“If Ohtani doesn’t get hurt, I don’t see how he can lose. The hype is so crazy for Ohtani right now. It’s amazing that Guerrero could actually win the Triple Crown and he probably won’t be the MVP.”
Guerrero has a legit shot at the Triple Crown this year–he’s leading the AL in batting average (.332) and RBIs (73) and is second to Ohtani in home runs (28). To put the rarity of a Triple Crown win into context–since Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski won back to back AL Triple Crown awards in 1966 and 1967 only one player has been able to lead the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012. Since the end of WW II, it’s been done five times by Yaz, Robinson, Cabrera along with Micky Mantle (1956) and Ted Williams (1947). Interestingly–if Guerrero pulls off the Triple Crown and *doesn’t* win the MVP award he’s in good company. Yaz, Robinson, Cabrera and Mantle all won the MVP in their Triple Crown seasons. Williams–considered by many to be the best pure hitter in baseball history–lost by one vote to the ‘Yankee Clipper’ Joe DiMaggio.
Here’s the voting results from Baseball Reference.com along with the 1947 stats for both men:
Williams did win the MVP in 1946 and 1949, DiMaggio won the MVP in 1939, 1941 and 1947. He was also married to Marilyn Monroe for a time and that’s definitely worth something.