Shohei Ohtani Winning AL MVP Would Cost US Sportsbook Over $1 Million

Shohei Ohtani had already proven he could be one of baseball’s most exciting players heading into 2021, but health had proved a hindrance.

Could he really stay healthy for a full season? Could he have a whole year spent as a starting pitcher and put everything on the plate? It seemed possible, but far from inevitable.

A Nevada bettor saw a high cap, and on March 19 he bet $30,000 on Ohtani with bookmaker William Hill, now Caesars Sportsbook, to win the American League MVP, according to ESPN. The odds: 30-1. Today, Ohtani is a heavy favorite to win the AL MVP. And if – maybe, when – he wins, that bettor will pocket $900,000. And according to ESPN’s report, William Hill will suffer a seven-figure loss overall against Ohtani winning the award.

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“This will be the biggest loss ever in this type of market,” said Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, according to ESPN. « It’s going to remain a line item, when you see reward betting and a big minus. « 

Caesars won’t be the only book to suffer a heavy loss. SuperBook’s risk manager Randy Blum told ESPN the bookmaker is set to face « low five-figure » liability with Ohtani lined up to win the prize.

« We just didn’t expect him to be that type of hitter, » Blum said.

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There wasn’t much that could have predicted Ohtani’s breakout success. In 2018, when he won AL Rookie of the Year, he battered .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 suffered injuries and eventually required Tommy John surgery after the season.

Ohtani played 106 games exclusively as a designated hitter in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He has consistently performed well, owning a .286/.343/.505 slash line with 18 homers and 12 interceptions. However, he struggled at the plate in 2020, having reduced just .190/.291/.366 with seven homers and seven interceptions.

The power felt real, as did the speed, but Ohtani hadn’t quite put it all together yet. Through 2021. This season, he’s cut .257/.372/.592 and was third in the AL with 46 homers and fifth with 26 stolen bases. On the mound, he pitched 130 1/3 innings in 23 starts, racking up a 3.18 ERA with a 29.3 percent strikeout rate and 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 beating WAR at 6.9 and Corbin Burnes led the Majors in throwing WAR at 7.5. No player has reached Ohtani’s 8.1 collective WAR.

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