Angels News: Shohei Ohtani Wants To Cut His Walk Rate
MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Angels
Apr 11, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws to the plate in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A 7-8 start for the Los Angeles Angels has the team looking to improve early in the 2023 season, and as they sit third in the American League West, Shohei Ohtani wants to improve even more to help his club.

In the final year of his current contract, Ohtani has more incentive to perform as he approaches a record-breaking free-agent deal as the unicorn of Major League Baseball. At the plate, he’s carrying a 166 wRC+ in 47 plate appearances with three homers and eight RBI, while also holding a 2-0 record with a 0.47 ERA in three starts on the mound.

According to Sarah Valenzuela of the L.A. Times, Ohtani isn’t content despite his low ERA:

“I mean just look at the results on paper, it looks like it looks great,” he said through a Japanese interpreter Tuesday, “but I haven’t really had too many one, two, three innings as much as I would. Feel like those one, two, three innings will give the offense more momentum.”

Ohtani has a 16% walk rate, a huge spike in his career average, and the increase in traffic he has to work around accounts for his 4.53 xFIP. But the two-way star isn’t concerned with these hiccups early in the year:

His walks, which are slightly up compared with the same time last season, Ohtani considers one of his things to work on early this season.

“It’s kind of weird because I felt really good in the bullpen this time around,” Ohtani said of his pregame prep, “so I thought I wouldn’t give up as much, but I did.”

Ohtani has been able to buckle in it when runners reach base, leaving baserunners on at a 95.2% clip. He’s yet to allow a homer in 19 innings, but the length of his starts isn’t as long as the team could use:

“Right away, you’re worried about a number [of pitches] and all that and I say that but I’m really not worried about anything he does,” manager Phil Nevin said of the leadoff walks.

“Other than one inning last year, innings just don’t get away from him,” Nevin continued. “He makes adjustments on the fly and kind of figures out real quick what’s working for him that day and what’s not and applies it, and as you see took us through seven tonight and a big outing.”

Once Ohtani figures out his command problems, the bullpen will benefit from the extra inning or two he’ll tack on with the cutdown on wasted pitches.

Shohei Ohtani sets Angels record in most recent start

In his second start of the season, Ohtani put his pitching wizardry on display once again, logging eight strikeouts over six innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits in a tightrope game for the Angels’ ace. After closing the door, the team secured his name in franchise record books.

Following his outing, Ohtani logged his 10th consecutive start allowing two or fewer runs, setting the Angels’ new record. It was previously held by Ryan, who had a nine-game streak from 1972-73.

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