Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani already threatening NL MVP run in toughest challenge yet

New York Mets v Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets v Los Angeles Dodgers / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

Through Wednesday night's game, Shohei Ohtani leads all MLB hitters in batting average (.371), OPS (1.129), hits (39), and doubles (4). He's also tied with Mookie Betts to lead the Dodgers in home runs (6), triples (1), and stolen bases (5).

Less than 30 games into the season, he's already broken Hideki Matsui's record for career home runs by a Japanese-born player and is likely just days away from breaking his manager Dave Roberts' record for home runs by a Japanese-born Dodger (7). He's also already accumulated 1.8 fWAR to rank third behind Betts and Gunnar Henderson.

Amazingly, he's doing even better at the plate than he was last year, during his second MVP season, when he led the AL in home runs and OBP, and led the league as a whole in slugging and OPS. Of course, he ran away with that MVP because he was also pitching for most of the season, but if he can keep hitting the way he's been hitting, he could really, seriously give perennial MVP candidate Betts a run for his money at the end of the season.

Shohei Ohtani is putting up MVP-caliber numbers for the Dodgers as everyday DH

Ohtani is already technically the only DH to ever win an MVP award, but those 2021 and 2023 honors were always bound to take his work on the mound into account as well. This year, although he seems to be making good progress on his throwing arm after UCL surgery last year, pitching is completely out of the cards. If he were to win MVP, he'd be the first pure DH to ever do so. Even if he finishes with votes but doesn't win, he'll be in a league with only David Ortiz, who got tantalizingly close as an everyday DH in 2005 but was beat out by Alex Rodriguez.

The numbers Ohtani has been putting up might seem unsustainable, but they look very much like the offensive numbers he ended the 2023 season with, and that was when he also needed to focus on an entirely separate skillset within the game. Although Betts certainly has an inherent leg up because he plays the field and is also hitting like a maniac to start the season, if anyone was going to give him some healthy competition for his second career MVP, it was always going to be Ohtani.