Ever since Shohei Ohtani came to the United States and signed with the Los Angeles Angels prior to the 2018 season, he was one of baseball’s most popular players. He not only sparked conversation with his ability to pitch and hit, but he brought with him a massive contingent of fans from Japan.
From 2018-2020, Ohtani was an extremely popular player, but he hadn’t put up the production that many were expecting. He won the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year award, but Tommy John surgery and other injuries derailed his pitching opportunities.
That was until 2021, when he exploded back onto the scene as a full-time two-way player. Ohtani’s 2021 season is one for the history books, and it was commemorated by nearly every major award a single player can win in one offseason.
It also led to plenty of traffic to his Baseball Reference page. In a study showing the most popular Baseball Reference pages in each state, Ohtani was the top searched name in nearly half of the United States, according to Talkin’ Baseball:
Most popular Baseball Reference player page by state
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) December 16, 2021
Ohtani’s dominance on the West Coast is to be expected. But what’s surprising about this map is his popularity on the East Coast. He was the top-searched player in nearly every Atlantic-bordering state, further proving how much he had a grasp on the national conversation.
One of his newest Angels teammates, Noah Syndergaard, had some fun with the map, posted to Twitter. He reacted to it shortly after it was made public.
The Shonited States of America https://t.co/0izMDe2FYm
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) December 16, 2021
Ohtani now heads into 2022 with high expectations and plenty of eyes on him. He has long said that he feels his 2021 season is sustainable, and that it’s just about staying healthy for him to do his best work.
For now, he can enjoy being baseball’s most popular player by a long shot. His popularity is something that should sustain even if he’s not hitting 46 home runs and striking out 150 batters every year.
Angels ranked fourth-most improved team
An ESPN survey analyzing each team’s pre-lockout free agent moves tried to rank all 30 teams by the amount that they improved. They did this by running thousands of World Series simulations before free agency and after the lockout.
In that study, they showed that the Angels were the fourth-most improved team based on the increase in pennants won in the before and after simulations.