Los Angeles Angels pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani is more than special.
There are few words to describe the 6-4, 210-pound, left-handed batting, right-handed throwing Japanese superstar. Ohtani is unique. He is unmistakable. He is exceptional. Ohtani is all that and more. He’s captivating. rivets. And he’s fascinating.
Ohtani is an All-Star quality pitcher and All-Star quality slugger molded into a dynamic, electric baseball player. Ohtani is unlike any player in modern professional baseball.
Ohtani will turn 28 in July and is in the prime of his baseball career.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Babe Ruth, the player many baseball fans consider the greatest player of all time, made his way into the Hall of Fame from 1914 to 1933. He hit 714 home runs and lapped 2,214 runs, finishing his career with a .342 in 10,626 plate appearances.
As a pitcher, with 1914-1919 being his most active years on the hill, Ruth started 163 games and pitched 1,221.1 innings. He finished with a 94-46 record, a 2.28 earned run average and a 1.15 WHIP.
Ruth was unique. But that was a different time. Another time. Baseball has changed.
In the modern MLB environment, Shohei Ohtani as a pitcher meets hitters who are bigger, stronger, and living life with advanced nutrition and technological support. These are factors that were not available in Ruth’s era.
As a batsman, Ohtani faces pitchers with the same modern advances as batsmen. Compared to Babe Ruth’s time, Ohtani faces the benefits of advanced statistical metrics and tendencies, as well as players having tremendous access to conditioning facilities and equipment.
Comparing Ruth and Ohtani just doesn’t work.
Before signing with the Angels as an international free agent in 2017, Ohtani played for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League. He played for the club from 2013 to 2017.
These are some of Ohtani’s achievements growing up in Japan and then playing professionally:
– As an 18-year-old in high school, he threw a fastball at 99 miles per hour.
– He threw the fastest pitch in Japanese baseball history at 102.5 miles per hour.
– At the age of 18 he made his professional debut for the Ham Fighters. He played at right field and was named to the All Star Team in 2013. He also appeared as a pitcher.
– In his second year after high school, Ohtani reached a salary of 100 million yen. This equates to $777,205.00 in today’s American currency.
With the Los Angeles Angels:
In 2017, the Ham Fighters sent Ohtani to play with a professional team in the United States. Ohtani drew interest from seven MLB clubs, and the Ham Fighters received a $20 million booking fee from the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani’s chosen team. Ohtani signed a $2.315 million contract with the Angels.
After Ohtani signed his contract, it was announced that he had been diagnosed with a sprained right ulnar collateral ligament, which is located on the inner part of the elbow. Ohtani received a platelet-rich plasma injection to ease the strain and treat the injury.
Ohtani was the Angels’ opening day designated hitter in 2018. He got a single on his first at-bat. He made his pitching debut on April 1, 2018. He worked six innings and took the win.
Ohtani abandoned another start on June 7 with a blistered finger, the second time he had to abandon a start with a blister. The next day, Ohtani was disabled with a Grade 2 sprain, again to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He received the platelet-rich plasma treatment again.
Ohtani returned and had a wonderful rookie season, winning the American League Rookie of the Year award. He hit .285 with 22 home runs, 61 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
As a rookie, Ohtani made 10 starts and finished with a record of 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. His elbow problems limited his pitching performances.
Ohtani, along with Babe Ruth, was the only player with 10 pitching appearances and 20 homers in a season.
After further damage to his ulnar collateral ligament was discovered, Ohtani was recommended by doctors in September after his rookie year to undergo Tommy John surgery. He underwent surgery in October 2018.
Ohtani recovered well, kept hitting and throwing and having gained experience had an amazing 2021 season for the Angels.
Ohtani’s MVP Season 2021:
Ohtani finished last year with a 9.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacements), the highest in the American League. His slugging percentage (.592) was the second-highest in the league.
Ohtani hit 46 home runs, scored 103 runs and drove 100 runs. While he punched 189 times in 639 record appearances, he also walked 99 times. His 20 intentional walks were the highest in the league, which was a true reflection of the respect he earned from opposing pitchers.
Ohtani has eight triples in the past year, which was the highest tally in the American League
On the mound, Ohtani finished with a 9-2 record in 23 starts and covered 130.1 innings. He had an earned run average of 3.18 and a WHIP of 1.09.
For his efforts, Ohtani was named to the American League All-Star Team and won the American League Most Valuable Player Award. He was also honored as an American League Silver Slugger.
According to fangraphs.com, Ohtani is in the final year of his original Angels contract. He will be eligible for arbitration next year and could become a free agent in 2024. If Ohtani remains as healthy as it is now, it’s doubtful the angels will allow it.
Scouting Shhei Ohtani:
After seeing Ohtani as a pitcher and hitter, here are this scout’s thoughts on his diverse talents:
Ohtani’s four-bill fastball averages 96-97 mph on a normal day. He has a very good feel for the pitch, and he can elevate position and make the pitch stand out in the batsman’s eyes.
According to brooksbaseball.net, he throws his fastball 35.93% of his courts.
As this scout has watched him over the years, his most devastating offering is his split finger pitch. He drops the ball amazingly, and batsmen often swing across the field. He can set up the very deceptive split with his fastball. The sinking split-finger pitch usually comes in at 90 mph.
Once the hitter is looking for the fastball or split, Ohtani can come up with a nasty slider, cutter, curve or changeup. All playing fields are qualitatively well above the average of the major leagues.
With six pitches to consider and prepare for, hitters become unbalanced and confused trying to anticipate the next pitch. Changing the batsman’s eye level is critical to Ohtani’s pitching arsenal and overall plan.
Pitching every 6th day of the Angels rotation will hopefully help preserve Ohtani’s surgically repaired elbow. In Japan, Ohtani served once a week, which is their national norm.
As a batsman, Ohtani hits the ball and has considerable power throughout his frame. He can average bat, bat on power, tie runs, score runs, and steal bases. He can do everything that is required of a hard-hitting attacking star.
Since the great Babe Ruth, baseball fans haven’t seen a player who could dominate both on the plate as a slugger and on the mound as the dominating starting pitcher. Shohei Ohtani can do just that.
Ohtani is a miracle. His achievements become legendary.
Pitchers don’t want to face Ohtani as a hitter. Hitters don’t want to face Ohtani as a pitcher.
After Tommy John had surgery early in his tenure as the Los Angeles Angels’ Japanese free agent, Ohtani keeps fans in their seats as they watch him on the mound or at the plate.
Ohtani left the game on May 1, 2022 due to a right groin strain. It will be a condition he and the team will need to monitor closely. It doesn’t seem to be serious.
So early in the new season, Ohtani isn’t having the overwhelming success on offense that he had last year. However, he looks just as good on the hill.
Without a doubt, Shohei Ohtani is a very special baseball player.