Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani

It’s about time I looked away from the D-Backs and said something about the guy who’s been causing a sensation this season. That would be Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels.

He’s turned out to be quite a power hitter this season. As of this writing, he was 41-.264-89. He also has 20 stolen bases.

You’d think that would be enough and would make him a star. However, Ohtani has proven effective on the pitcher’s mound as well. In 19 starts this season, he’s 8-1, 3.00

Obviously, this is one case where you don’t want to intentionally walk a batter in order to pitch to the pitcher.

The Angels have used him as a pitcher and designated hitter this season. They’ve even had him play the outfield on occasion. It turned out his strong, accurate arm served him well. Angels’ Manager Joe Maddon wants his arm on the mound, but he also wants his bat in the lineup as well.

Earlier this year, Ohtani made history by making the American League All-Star team as both a pitcher and a batter.

A native of Japan, Ohtani is a big (6 feet-4 inches tall, 210 pounds) and intimidating presence. It’s not like he came out of nowhere. It’s been no secret he has a lot of talent. He showed that when he started playing professional ball in Japan. He was the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year, when he went 22-.285-61 in just 104 games.

There have been comparisons between Ohtani and Babe Ruth, and the comparisons are valid. In the years he was with the Boston Red Sox, Ruth was quite a pitcher before he was switched permanently to the outfield. In five seasons, he went 90-46, 2.28. His best year may have been 1916, when he was 23-12, 1.75. In 1918, the year he first led the American League in home runs with 11, he was 13-7, 2.22.

Ruth might have achieved even more in 1918, but the season was cut short by World War I.

Even in 1919, when he played regularly as an outfielder, he found himself on the pitcher’s mound several times. He went 9-5, 2.97

While Ruth is mostly remembered as an offensive player, he was also an outstanding defensive outfielder. His throwing arm was strong and accurate, and it was known in the American League that you did not run on Ruth’s arm. The Rawlings Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence weren’t introduced until 1957, long after Ruth had retired and nine years following his death. If they had existed when Ruth was a player, he probably would’ve added a few of them to his other awards.

From what I’ve read, it looks like Ohtani was quite a defensive outfielder when he was with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan.

Only time will tell if Ohtani will last. There have been many great players, including Mel Ott, Al Kaline and Johnny Bench, who had incredible years early in their careers, but were never quite able to match those numbers in subsequent seasons. They had some great years, but never as good as that early one. It remains to be seen how Ohtani will do.

At least for this year, Ohtani is the man everyone is talking about. No matter what happens in the future, he will have given Angels’ fans and all baseball fans a season to remember.

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