The 2021 season has largely been a disappointment for the Los Angeles Angels, but that doesn’t mean the year has been a total wash as Shohei Ohtani is in position to potentially take home his first career American League MVP Award.
The two-way star enters play Monday batting a stellar .271/.363/.653 with 25 doubles, five triples, an MLB-best 39 home runs, 86 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 457 plate appearances across 113 games.
For as talented as he is offensively, Ohtani also has shown flashes of being a dominant starting pitcher. In 17 starts this season, he is 7-1 with a 2.93 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 1.09 WHIP over 92 innings with 112 strikeouts against 39 walks.
Those are statistics any pitcher would be pleased with but Ohtani believes there is plenty of room for improvement going forward, per Daniel Guerrero of MLB.com:
“Physically, I feel really good, but I feel like I’m getting better each outing and I still haven’t hit my potential yet,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I think I have room to get better going forward.”
With roughly six weeks remaining in a lost season, some have wondered whether the Angels will give Ohtani more rest in between or starts or perhaps even shut him down to limit the chances of him sustaining an injury.
Angels manager Joe Maddon shut down that speculation and revealed he will not hold Ohtani back from potentially going deeper into his outings:
“I’m not holding back,” Maddon said. “He’s hitting nice numbers and I don’t want to push it too much. He might even get better at that because his command got so much better. … I appreciate what he’s saying, but it’s hard to do better than he has.”
The most innings Ohtani has logged in a start this season is seven, which he has done five times since debuting three years ago. Of the five, three have come this season, indicating the Angels are becoming more comfortable pushing him in his outings.
After a solid first half, Ohtani seemingly has taken his game to the next level since the All-Star break. Over his last four starts, the 27-year-old is a perfect 3-0 with a minuscule 1.44 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in 25 innings of work.
Ohtani has allowed two runs or less in six consecutive starts and looks to keep that streak going when he faces the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Ohtani finding success in leadoff spot
Ohtani put up monster numbers at the plate in the first half, and though some regression was expected, he has uncharacteristically struggled since the middle of July.
However, he appears to have found his stroke again after being moved to the leadoff spot, hitting two home runs in his last four games since the change.