If Shohei Ohtani is not the Los Angeles Angels’ best hitter, he’s No. 2 behind one of the best to ever do it — and yet, the 23-year-old Japanese superstar has been featured in just half the team’s games as a batter, slashing an absurd .346/.414/.769 with three home runs and one triple, a three-run job stroked on Thursday night.
Ohtani Shoing off his wheels. pic.twitter.com/VbD9IHSeWn
— MLB (@MLB) April 13, 2018
Ohtani turned on a 97-mph Brandon Maurer fastball and tattooed it into the gap. Ball left the bat at 106 mph. He could’ve gone into third standing up, too. Legitimate 99th percentile speed. The numbers are dizzying, and they all say the same thing: He’s quite good.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 13, 2018
Ohtani has been about as impressive on the mound through two starts, posting a 2.08 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings, bringing his total games played to just nine out of a possible 14.
The two-way star, and basically everyone who enjoys baseball and whose favorite team isn’t playing the Angels, wishes he’d play more.
“I talk to the medical staff every day, and they see how I’m doing, my strength level, to see if I can play that day,” the pitcher and designated hitter said, via a translator, after the team’s 7-2 victory on Wednesday.
“It’s the beginning of the season, so I think they are being pretty careful with me right now. Once the season gets tougher and the schedule gets tougher throughout the summer, hopefully I can make them want to play me more. I would like to play more. If not, that’s what it is. I have to follow what they have to say.”
Look, I get it. Though he’s making the league minimum, the Angels have a lot invested in Ohtani, having paid his Japanese team $20 million to allow him to play stateside, and what he’s doing as a pitcher and a hitter is unprecedented in the modern game. So I understand the caution, particularly because the Angels are sitting pretty at 11-3, good for first in the American League West.
But that last part can change, fast. The Angels’ bats are pounding teams into submission, but the back end of their rotation is being held together by a thread. If that comes undone and the Angels — who have their other superstar, Mike Trout, locked up for only two more seasons after this year — see their window start to close, hopefully we’ll get more of the Ohtani we crave.