Shohei Ohtani has reached heights that were unimaginable when he first made that transition to MLB and joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. Nearly everyone had heard the legend of the Japanese Babe Ruth, a two-way superstar that was both a Cy Young pitcher and a Silver Slugger at the plate, but many were skeptical of whether those skills would transfer to the U.S.
However, no one who spent any time watching Ohtani’s five years with the Nippon Fighters could be surprised. A player with an accurate 100-mph fastball as well as the power to hit 46 home runs is not only rare, it’s quite literally the first of its kind.
Fighters manager from 2013-17 — Ohtani’s five years with the club — Hideki Kuriyama was not the least bit surprised that Ohtani’s five MLB seasons have gone this way. He described the feeling of seeing the former Fighters superstar continue his dominance in the Major Leagues, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“I had him for five years as his manager — and for me, it’s a more of a relief to see him succeed in the way he has,” Kuriyama said through interpreter Grace McNamee. “It’s more of a relief than feeling happy or satisfied. I think I’ll be happy when he’s done with baseball and [can] see all the things he’s accomplished.”
“I’m not surprised,” Kuriyama said. “He basically cleared everything that I asked him to do in Japan. If I put up a ceiling, he always reached that ceiling. And I’m sure he’ll continue to accomplish things that are further than that.”
Kuriyama describes Ohtani perfectly in the second part of the quote. It seems as though any time the baseball world feels Ohtani has accomplished the absolute most impressive thing possible, he turns around and breaks another record, sets another milestone, or does something truly baffling on the diamond.
Just take the past week as an example. Ohtani secured his 10th win of the season as a starter. After being unable to reach this feat last season, he became the first American League or National League player since Babe Ruth to hit 10 home runs and win 10 games in a season.
He also hit his 118th career home run, surpassing Ichiro Suzuki for the second-most home runs by a Japanese-born player in MLB history. He also already has set his career high for strikeouts, collecting his 157th in his most recent start, despite pitching 19 less innings so far than 2021.
Fans of baseball can sometimes take for granted the history they get to witness with Ohtani nearly every time he steps on the field. But Kuriyama and the Fighters know exactly what it means to see Ohtani up close and personal.
Patrick Sandoval frustrated with walks
Patrick Sandoval, another young and promising Angels starter, held back very little when criticizing himself for a lackluster start. He allowed just two runs, but gave up five hits and four walks in the process.
Sandoval has had some command issues all season long, and knows he needs to fix it if he’s going to realize the potential the Angels saw during his breakout 2021 campaign.