There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about the 2021 season of Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. In a lost season for the Angels, he was a constant source of entertainment, putting together one of the greatest individual seasons in baseball history.
After two years of injuries stopped him from reaching his full potential on the mound, he and the Angels came to an agreement. They were going to take the training wheels off and let Ohtani play however much he wanted. In exchange, the team would employ a six-man rotation, naturally limiting his innings as a pitcher.
The plan worked to absolute perfection, as an open dialogue about fatigue between Ohtani and the Angels allowed him to play in 155 games and make 23 starts on the mound.
There were very few awards Ohtani was eligible for that he didn’t win, and even if he is unable to repeat this type of performance in future seasons, 2021 will be one for the history books.
This is the final day of our player review series. Days 10-16 can be seen below and days 1-9 can be found via the day 10 link.
Day 10: Griffin Canning, Dylan Bundy, Justin Upton
Day 11: Alex Cobb, Max Stassi, Mike Mayers
Day 12: Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell
Day 13: Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez
Day 14: Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon
Day 15: Jared Walsh and David Fletcher
Day 16: Raisel Iglesias
What Ohtani managed to do as a batter and a pitcher during the 2021 season doesn’t feel like it should be possible. As Mike Trout said on several occasions, he felt like he was watching a little league All-Star who does everything for his team, but at the MLB level.
Ohtani was loosely compared to Babe Ruth when he first entered the league in 2018, and injuries dispelled that narrative. However, the 2021 season proved that not only were the comparisons apt, he may be even better, as Ruth didn’t have the physical tools that make Ohtani great.
The numbers — both standard and advanced — that define Ohtani’s season are absolutely staggering. Let’s start with the standard batting stats, which are impressive just by themselves.
As a batter, Ohtani compiled a .965 OPS over 639 plate appearances. He had 80 extra-base hits, 46 home runs, 26 doubles, eight triples, and 100 RBIs. He drew 96 walks on the year — a league-leading 20 of them were intentional — and stole 26 bases, a true five-tool athlete on offense.
Moving to standard pitching, Ohtani started 23 games, tossing an Angels-leading 130.1 innings. He went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA, a 1.090 WHIP, and 156 strikeouts compared to 44 walks. His best attribute on the mound — besides a near-100 mph fastball — is that fact that he went from a high-walk pitcher at the beginning of the year to an almost no-walk pitcher by the end.
The advanced numbers are where things get truly crazy for the Angels star. Ohtani had a 152 wRC+ and a .408 xwOBA, both of which were near the top of the league. Per Baseball Savant, Ohtani put up the following batting rankings:
– 97th percentile in average exit velocity
– 97th percentile in hard hit%
– 97th percentile in xwOBA
– 99th percentile in xSLG
– 100th percentile in Barrel%
– 98th percentile in BB%
– 91st percentile in sprint speed
Those numbers are elite across the board. However, none of that even mentions the fact that he pitches, let alone pitches as well as he does. So here are those numbers:
– 81st percentile in xwOBA against
– 81st percentile in xERA
– 85th percentile in xBA against
– 80th percentile in xSLG against
– 85th percentile in K%
– 71st percentile in Whiff%
As a batter alone, he would be among the 3-5 best in the sport this season. As a pitcher alone, he would be in the top 15-20 range. Put them together, you get the unanimous American League MVP, the winner of nearly every player of the year award in existence, a silver slugger, the 16th Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award, and an All-Star appearance in both phases.
Rightfully, fans and players alike are excited to see what Ohtani will do in 2022. But for now, it’s best to just look back and enjoy a historic 2021 season from the Angels — and worldwide — superstar.
The Angels star, general manager Perry Minasian, and manager Joe Maddon have all expressed confidence that he will be able to meet this level of production again next season. Ohtani has also said on multiple occasions that he loves the Angels and wants to continue playing for them amid contract extension talks.
Ohtani has one year left on his contract and a third year of arbitration. The team could agree to a long-term extension this winter, or let him play out the next year of his deal and re-negotiate in the 2022-23 offseason.
Either way, Angels fans can see Ohtani every day for at least the next couple seasons, hopefully even longer.