When Shohei Ohtani made the move from Japan to MLB, he was sought after by almost every team in baseball. He ultimately landed on the Los Angeles Angels — much to the fortune of the city of Anaheim — where he could take his two-way talents to the highest level.
He flashed his potential immediately, winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2018. He pitched 51.2 innings over 10 starts that season, while hitting 22 home runs. Tommy John surgery and other various injuries meant he pitched a total 1.2 innings over the next two seasons. His hitting fell off as well, leading many to believe that his two-way experiment had perhaps failed.
However, even those who were bullish on Ohtani’s ability likely couldn’t have predicted what has happened in 2021. He has exploded onto the scene with what is arguably the greatest season in baseball history.
Anonymous executives from around the league gave their thoughts on Ohtani’s historic 2021 season, from hockey comparisons to recommending routine Ohtani commercials, according to Jayson Stark of The Athletic:
“If he hung it up after this year and he never played again, we’d still be talking about him – forever.”
There has to be a better way to make people aware of how insane this is. How come, every time I turn on a national TV game, I’m not flooded with an Ohtani commercial every 45 seconds?”
Never, in any sport, has there been somebody who made this kind of impact on both sides the way this guy has. I don’t even know who you could compare him to in our game? Ted Williams? I don’t remember Ted’s ERA, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t quite this good.”
“It would be like, in hockey, if Wayne Gretzky and Patrick Roy were one guy,” said one exec. “And some days he’d play center, and he’d be the best center in hockey. And then every once in a while, he’d play goalie and he’d be one of the best goalies in hockey. That’s the only way I could describe this.”
How exactly has he created such a stir? As a hitter, he’s accomplished this by hitting 42 home runs as of Sep. 2, more than anyone in MLB. He also has 22 stolen bases and an AL-best .618 slugging percentage. Offense alone, he’s likely a top-3 AL MVP candidate.
Except he also pitches, and pitches extremely well. In 105 innings, he holds a 3.00 ERA, a 1.057 WHIP, a K/9 rate of 10.9 — which is higher than NL Cy Young candidate Walker Buehler — and has one of the most unhittable pitches in all of baseball, his splitter.
This season, there has not been anything that he hasn’t been able to do. He has defied every lofty expectation put on him and should — without question — be the unanimous MVP this season.
Questions will obviously remain about sustainability, but if the Angels return to full strength next season, they won’t need him to be historically good all the time. They’ll just need him to be himself, as letting him loose this season has been everything L.A. needed and more.
Ohtani takes the mound Friday
After having his last start postponed due to being hit by a pitch on the wrist, Ohtani is now ready to get back on the mound. He’ll do so Friday in the Angels series opener against the Texas Rangers, a team the Halos are 8-4 against this season.