They say the lights shine brighter in the Big Apple, and Matt Olson made sure to bring his A-game during the Athletics’ series in New York this weekend.
Over three games at Yankee Stadium, Olson went 6-for-14 at the plate, hitting two home runs, driving in four RBI, and even stealing a base while striking out twice.
As of the conclusion of Sunday’s 2-1 loss, Olson ranked third in the AL in home runs (20), third in OPS (.998), tied for third in RBI (53) and eighth in batting average (.305).
To prove just how hard the left-hander is hitting the ball this season, Olson ranks in the top five percent of MLB players in average exit velocity (93.1), max exit velocity (115.3) and expected slugging percentage (.579).
"He's hitting over .300, you don't typically see in this day and age power hitters hitting .300, he's hitting lefties, he's shooting the ball the other way, he's doing everything," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Olson after Sunday's game.
Despite all that, when the first All-Star voting returns were released this past week, Olson ranked seventh among AL first basemen. Players like Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros, Jared Walsh of the Los Angeles Angels, and Ji-Man Choi of the Tampa Bay Rays have garnered more votes for the midsummer classic.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is putting together a monster season, and rightfully is not just the leading vote-getter for AL first basemen, but paces all of the American League.
But make no mistake about it, Guerrero Jr. is the only first baseman playing better baseball than Olson this season.
At the very least, Olson needs to be among the AL reserves for July’s All-Star Game in Denver.
Olson’s impressive batting average, combined with his continued top-of-the-line power numbers, should have him in the AL MVP conversation as well.
Again, if the season ended today, Guerrero Jr. would win the MVP award going away. But the Toronto Blue Jays’ star also is just 22 years old, and has taken full advantage of his team playing its home games in minor league and spring training stadiums throughout 2021 due to COVID-19 international travel restrictions.
In a pitcher-friendly park like the Coliseum, Olson is putting up power numbers better than just about all of his peers in the AL. Not only that, but he is hitting above .300 and playing elite defense.
Baseball is a team sport, but even with Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays’ offense putting up huge numbers, the team is 35-35 and sits fourth in the AL East. Meanwhile, even after the A’s lost two of three in New York over the weekend, Oakland still is in a tie for first in the AL West with the Houston Astros.
There is plenty of baseball left to play in the 2021 season, and a dual-threat player like Shohei Ohtani also belongs in the discussion for MVP.
Given the way the game has changed over the past few years, with home runs and launch angle becoming the most sought-after traits for hitters, Olson’s value to the A’s can’t be understated.
An All-Star selection shouldn’t be a question at this point, but it is time the nation took notice and consider Olson a viable candidate for AL MVP.
Taking a bite out of the Big Apple the way he did this weekend should go a long way toward reaching that goal.