- Steven Morano
Ohtani: More Than a Man
On Apr. 1, 2023, an April Fools joke circulated around social media regarding the Los Angeles Angels star player, Shohei Ohtani. The joke was that Ohtani, a pitcher as well as a designated hitter, was planning on obtaining a six-fingered glove so that he could pitch from both his right arm and his left. After further reading, the person would find out that the whole thing was a grand joke, but it was so plausible that a person who may have just glanced at it may have assumed Ohtani was planning on doing this…for good reason.
He is the first player in nearly a hundred years to both pitch and bat in baseball games and do it well. There have been outliers of course, Brendan McKay and Michael Lorenzen are recent examples, but neither of those two players have reached the levels of relevancy to stay on a Major League team for a while. Historically, Martin Dihigo, the great Cuban-born player of the 1920s and 1930s who played on teams such as the Homestead Grays, Hilldale Giants and New York Cubans posted a career batting average of .307 with an OPS of .918 and a career ERA of 3.34, but because he was black, he never got the chance to play in the majors because of the color barrier.
The only person that could even think about touching what Ohtani is doing right now is of course, Babe Ruth, widely regarded by some as the greatest baseball player of all time. Ruth and Ohtani are often compared purely on the basis that, earlier in his carrier, Ruth pitched for a brief time. Ruth pitched for six full seasons (with brief appearances on the mound until 1933) before deciding to strictly bat and play the field, in that time, he had a record of 94-46, a posted ERA of 2.28 and 488 strikeouts. For the amount of time, he pitched and what he went on to do, these statistics nicely accompany Ruth’s career 1.164, which is still an MLB record and his 714 career home runs, a record that stood for nearly forty years until Hank Aaron hit his 715th career homerun in 1974.
In 2018, after spending five years with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League, Ohtani finally made the move to Major League Baseball, signing a $545,000 contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Since then, he has been nothing but magnificent on the baseball field, both from the plate and the mound. Since 2018 (with the exception of 2019), Ohtani has posted a 2.83 ERA and a record of 30-14 in just 66 games started with his fastball averaging out at 97 mph with a sweeping curveball being toned down to as low as 71 mph, his arsenal of pitches are truly insane with his fastball variations including a splitfinger, cutter and sinker with a slider that averages out at 83 mph, a batter truly does not know what he is going to be thrown. And that is just his pitching.