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Angels' Shohei Ohtani Named 2021 AP Male Athlete of the Year

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2021

Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Following Shohei Ohtani's historic 2021 season, the Los Angeles Angels pitcher and designated hitter won the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year award Tuesday.

The 27-year-old star was the unanimous American League MVP after enjoying a season for the ages.

In his fourth MLB campaign, Ohtani hit .257 with 46 home runs, 100 RBI, 103 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. As a pitcher, he went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings.

In addition to winning the AL MVP Award, Ohtani made the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger Award for the first time last season.

Ohtani showed flashes of brilliance in his first three MLB seasons after previously starring in his native Japan, but he struggled to put it together over a full season largely because of injuries.

The two-way marvel stayed healthy in 2021, however, appearing in 155 games and making a massive impact both at the plate and on the mound.

Two-way players have been a rarity in Major League Baseball over the past several decades, and it has been even longer since a player possessed a skill set similar to Ohtani's.

The closest example is legendary Baseball Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, who was both a position player and hitter with the Boston Red Sox before being traded to the New York Yankees.

More than 100 years ago in 1919, Ruth hit .322 with a league-leading 29 home runs, 113 RBI and 103 runs scored for Boston while going 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA as a pitcher.

Ohtani's 2021 season was more dominant, though, as he hit for significantly more power and struck out 10.8 batters per nine innings compared to 2.0 for Ruth.

Even though the Angels failed to reach the playoffs in 2021, Ohtani enjoyed one of the most unique and remarkable seasons in MLB history, making it difficult to pass him up for the award.

Ohtani broke a three-year streak of NBA players winning AP Male Athlete of the Year. Either an MLB or NBA player has won the award the past nine years.

Ohtani is the first Japanese athlete to win the award and only the second non-American athlete to win it since 1988.

He joins countrywoman Naomi Osaka as an AP Athlete of the Year, as the tennis star was named the AP Female Athlete of the Year in 2020.

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