On the 8th of December 2017, the LA Angels announced Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani as the newest international star to join the big leagues. Ohtani arrived in Anaheim on a tidal wave of momentum. Ohtani’s hype was off the scale due to him being one of the unique players around. Ohtani was a two-way player in Japan. He pitched and batted with great skill.
His record as a pitcher was phenomenal. Ohtani posted a 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA. Ohtani’s standout pitch was a four-seam fastball that he could unleash at 100mph; that was his calling card.
However, pitching was only one part of his spectacular repertoire. Ohtani launched 48 home runs with 166 RBI’s. When Ohtani signed for the Halos, the baseball world waited with excitement to watch the first legitimate dual-threat in the majors in over 50 years.
Early Promise, Inconsistency, and Tommy John Surgery
With all the expectations and pressure, Ohtani started his career solidly. He singled in his first at-bat, he pitched six innings, striking out six for his first win, and he launched a moonshot homer all in his first month. Ohtani continued to impress in his first season with ball and bat. He hit 22 home runs while going 4-2 on the mound. Ohtani became the first player since Babe Ruth to start ten games and launch 20 home runs.
Those numbers helped Ohtani win the AL Rookie of The Year Award for 2018. He won that award despite his season prematurely ending due to Tommy John’s surgery.
In 2019 Ohtani did not pitch at all, and like in 2018, his season ended due to injury. There were some highlights, though; he became the first Japanese player to hit for the cycle, plus Ohtani hit 18 homers and 62 RBI’s.
In the truncated 2020 season, Ohtani bottomed out. His batting average was below .200, he pitched one game surrendering an infinite ERA, and another injury shut him down. It seemed like Ohtani would never fill his potential over a 162 game season.
The Resurgence in 2021
After his difficult 2020 season, the Angels organization gave him a shot of confidence by re-signing him to a two-year $8.5 million deal. That faith seemed to inspire Ohtani. In the opening series against the White Sox, Ohtani started on the mound and batted on Sunday Night Baseball. The Japanese native shone as he blew 100mph fastball after fastball for four innings and deposited a 115mph home run in that game.
Ohtani’s slugging percentage is currently .623, while he’s hit nine homers with 22 RBI’s. Ohtani’s swing is humming right now; the maximum exit velocity reached in 2021 is 119mph. The lefty is pulverizing the baseball.
On the pitching side, Ohtani’s started four games with one win to his name with 30 strikeouts and a 1.39 WHIP. The most significant positive for Ohtani on the pitching side is that his fastball is working. After the injuries, there were questions surround could he pitch with velocity. So far this season, he is; 52.3% of his pitches are fastballs. Lastly, he is pounding the zone with the heater. Ohtani is a power pitcher; it is great to see that the power is still there after the surgeries.
The Bottom Line
In 2021, Ohtani became the first player in over 100 years to start a game while leading the league in homers. After a month of play, Ohtani’s demonstration that he is becoming the two-way sensation that the world expected him to be. Ohtani’s health is still a question mark; nevertheless, Ohtani is doing the two most challenging things in sports. He’s hitting fastballs out of the ballpark while he’s pitching at an elite level. Savor every at-bat and every start, watching Ohtani is watching history in the making.