Shohei Ohtani: Japanese Baseball Prodigy Thriving in Major League Baseball
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 first inning against the Washington Nationals at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the Los Angeles Angels in late 2017, Japanese baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani has made headlines with exceptional hitter and pitcher skills. Before he arrived in the United States, Ohtani had already amassed numerous accolades in Japan, including the Japan Series title in 2016, five NPB All-Star selections, Pacific League MVP in 2016, and two-time Pacific League Pitcher Best Nine and Designated Hitter Best Nine in 2016.

Ohtani’s transition to the MLB was smooth, with a remarkable rookie season in 2018 that earned him the AL Rookie of the Year award and the title of the second-fastest Angels rookie to reach 20 home runs, a milestone even the sports betting gurus would have had trouble predicting. Since then, his MLB career has been decorated with numerous awards, including two All-Star selections in 2021 and 2022, MVP in 2021, two Edgar Martinez Awards, and AP Athlete of the Year in 2021.

In a historic feat in 2022, Ohtani, the then reigning American League MVP, became the first player in Major League Baseball history to throw and face a team’s first pitch of the season. Furthermore, he is the first player in the World Series era to qualify for the leaderboards as both a hitter and a pitcher in the same year.

Ohtani’s pitching prowess is a sight to behold, with an arsenal that includes 100mph fastballs, sweeping sliders, and darting splitters, making him a formidable opponent for any hitter. The 2023 season has just begun, but Ohtani is already demonstrating he is an early frontrunner for league MVP. On April 11, 2023, he led the Angels to a 2-0 victory over the Washington Nationals with seven scoreless innings and only one hit.

Despite his impressive performance, Ohtani remains focused on improvement. He shared with that he needs to be more consistent in limiting walks and striving for 1-2-3 innings.

“If you look at the results on paper, it looks great, but I really haven’t had too many 1-2-3 innings. I feel like the only issue right now is the walks. Its kind of weird, because I felt really good in the bullpen this time around so I didn’t think I would give up as much as I did.”

This dedication to growth has led the Angels to consider adjusting their strategy, potentially switching from a six-man pitcher rotation to a five-man rotation. Such a change could provide Ohtani with an additional 3-5 starts over his 28 innings, but it might also result in fatigue or disrupt his current routine.

In 2023, the Angels ultimately decided to implement the five-man rotation, allowing Ohtani more opportunities to dominate games and help the team succeed. To further enhance his performance, the Angels now use PitchCom, which enables Ohtani to call his pitches instead of relying on the catcher. This new approach allows him to make quick and effective decisions, maintaining control over his game.

With Ohtani on their roster, the Los Angeles Angels have an extraordinary talent to build upon in pursuing another World Series title. Over 20 years have passed since their last championship win in 2002. However, the team’s future looks promising, with Ohtani leading the charge.

As the Angels continue to surround Ohtani with consistent talent, they hope to build upon their single World Series title won back in 2002. It has been over two decades, but with a player like Ohtani, they possess the elite talent necessary to compete at the highest level. With the support of his team, Ohtani is expected to achieve even greater heights in his already stellar Major League Baseball career.

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