Welcome to the Sho
| Evan Saacks
You need to know about Shohei Ohtani.
Tonight he will participate in the MLB Home Run Derby. He was selected to the All-Star Game as a DH. These things aren't very surprising considering he leads the majors in home runs (33) and slugging percentage (.698). Here's what's surprising: he's pitched 67 innings where he's accumulated 87 strikeouts, earned a 3.49 ERA and was selected for a second All-Star slot as a pitcher. In his last start before the All-Star Break he pitched 7 innings, allowing only 5 hits to the Red Sox, one of the AL's best teams. Tomorrow night he will be the American League's starting pitcher in the All-Star Game.
He might be the best baseball player we've ever seen.
After graduating from high school in his home country of Japan in 21012 Ohtani hoped to sign directly with a major league team. While his stats weren't otherworldly, he did throw a 99 mph fastball as an 18-year-old. Despite meeting with a few MLB teams, Ohtani eventually reached a deal with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, the same team MLB star Yu Darvish had played for.
Here Ohtani was able to hone his craft as both a pitcher and hitter, something he likely wouldn't have been able to do playing professionally in America. He eventually put up gaudy numbers and was routinely selected as an All-Star. In 2014 he threw a 101 mph pitch, the fastest in the history of Japanese baseball. Then he threw a faster one two years later. Then he started to get MLB attention again. Then he hit a home run through the roof of the arena.
After the 2017 season Ohtani was courted by all 30 MLB teams. On Dec. 8, 2017 at the age of 23, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim? Are they still doing that??). By this point it was well-known what a force he was both on the mound and at the dish. The excitement over his MLB debut ranged from hyperbolic to dismissive. Either way, people knew this wasn't any ordinary debut.
His rookie season was explosive, but sometimes inconsistent. Ohtani battled ocassional injuries and growing pains, but was still the runaway pick for AL Rookie of the Year. Despite the solid start, he underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the season, meaning it would be awhile before he could pitch again. While Tommy John didn't prevent Ohtani from hitting, other injuries shortened his season. Then the COVID-shortened 2020 season never gave Ohtani the chance to fully realize his two-way potential. Now just three months into the 2021 campaign, the Shohei Ohtani we were promised has arrived.
running out of adjectives https://t.co/O18CH2U9ub— TIGERAIRE (@tigeraire) July 7, 2021
Smashing homers on a near nightly bases while also throwing scoreless innings, Ohtani is the closest thing we've seen to Babe Ruth. Since the Angels aren't a staple on national TV and are outside the Playoff picture currently, the next two nights will be an important stage to see Shohei Ohtani, who might just be the best baseball player on the planet right now. If he's not, give it a few games and he'll produce another stat we've never seen before.