This season in MLB has more or less been the Shohei Ohtani show. He has done his best to keep the struggling Los Angeles Angels afloat – especially with Mike Trout injured -- in the AL West. His individual performance has been nothing short of historic.
Seemingly every other day, there’s a tweet sent about how Ohtani became the first player to accomplish one thing or another. For example, he’s the first player in MLB history with at least 25 home runs, 10 steals and four triples in his first 72 games played.
Shohei Ohtani in 2021: 72 games, 25 HR, 11 steals, 4 triples— Stathead (@Stathead) June 28, 2021
He is the first player in MLB history with at least 25 HR, 10 steals and 4 triples in his first 72 games played of a season.https://t.co/A1xgRwrM5L pic.twitter.com/Vz6pFuc6Fv
And that doesn’t account for his pitching numbers, which are impressive in their own right. In 12 starts, he owns a record of 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 60 innings – a rate of 12.5 K/9, putting him among the league leaders.
Prior to Wednesday night’s outing against the Yankees – in which he allowed seven runs in 2/3 of an inning – he had a 2.58 ERA and hadn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since April 26.
Despite getting roughed up by New York, Ohtani remains the most exciting player in baseball, one we must appreciate. Immediately. The leading vote-getter at DH in the American League for the All-Star Game, Ohtani also paces the majors with 28 home runs and is tops in the AL with four triples and a slugging percentage of .685.
He’s ninth in offensive WAR (3.2), third in RBI (63) and second in total bases (183), and although he won’t contend for the Triple Crown due to his batting average (.277), he’s the favorite to win AL MVP at -145.
And deservingly so. He’s the modern-day Babe Ruth.
Just based on his hitting numbers, he should be the top choice for MVP. He’s doing it all for the Angels at the plate, getting on base, driving in runs, stealing bases (he has 11) and blasting 400-foot home runs on a regular basis.
He’s just hitting his stride, too. In the last two weeks, excluding Wednesday’s start against the Yankees, he’s slugged 11 home runs and struck out 14 batters in 12 innings, allowing two runs.
Shohei Ohtani's last two weeks:— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) June 30, 2021
June 15 • HR
June 16 • HR
June 17 • 6 IP, 1 ER, 5K, W
June 18 • 2 HR
June 19 • HR
June 20 • HR
June 21 • OFF
June 22 • 0/3
June 23 • 6 IP, 1 ER, 9 K
June 24 • OFF
June 25 • HR
June 26 • 1/3
June 27 • HR
June 28 • HR
June 29 • 2 HR
He’s doing things the great Trout hasn’t done, clubbing his 25th home run of the season in the 77th game, making him the fastest Angel to reach that plateau.
And as poorly as he pitched against New York this week, he still managed to make history by becoming the fourth pitcher since 1900 to bat leadoff, the first since Cesar Tovar in 1968.
Shohei Ohtani is the starting pitcher and is batting leadoff against the Yankees tonight.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 30, 2021
He is the 4th player in Modern MLB history (since 1900) to accomplish the feat.
He joins César Tovar in 1968, Al Dark in 1953 and Jim Jones in 1901. pic.twitter.com/62jxFwl4xJ
If Ohtani keeps up his current pace, he’ll hit 52 home runs, drive in 126 runs and steal 22 bases, while also striking out more than 160 batters as a pitcher. Good luck finding a player in MLB history who has ever put up those numbers.
And for that reason, he should absolutely be voted AL MVP in the event that he stays healthy and puts up similar second-half numbers.
If not, we’re going to look back at this historic season 20 years from now and wonder why in the world his magnificent season wasn’t appreciated more. He’s the closest thing to Ruth baseball has had, and he should be recognized for the otherworldly star that he’s become in 2021.
He’s captured the attention of elite athletes across the major sports leagues, has wowed fans every time he’s taken the mound or stepped into the batter’s box, and even has supporters of the opposing team cheering when he clubs a home run.
It feels like a lot of people are talking about Shohei Ohtani but still nowhere near enough people are talking about Shohei Ohtani.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) May 18, 2021
What he’s doing in baseball is insane.
Of course, he’s not the only rising star having a tremendous season. Vlad Guerrero Jr. is third in MLB in batting average (.339), first on on-base percentage (.442), second in home runs (26) and first in RBI (66). In just about any other year, he’d be the midseason favorite for AL MVP.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is also lighting it up in the National League, ranking first overall in the majors in offensive WAR (5.0), slugging percentage (.705) and second in OPS (1.095). He’s the top choice for NL MVP, but even if it were a combined-league award, it’d be tough to knock Ohtani from the ranks as the best player in baseball because of his two-way value.
He should have more wins as a starter, too. In four starts during the month of May, Ohtani had three outings of five-plus innings with three or fewer runs allowed, totaling 27 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings. The Angels scored a paltry five runs in those four games, losing each. In June, he made five starts, four of which included at least five innings pitched and two or fewer runs allowed. The Angels went 3-1 in those games, but Ohtani took a no-decision twice because the team blew a lead and went into extra innings.
He could easily have at least three more wins. The only start he lost was a 3-1 defeat against the A’s where he allowed three runs on only three hits in six innings.
It’s possible we’ll never see a season like this again. As physically gifted and talented as Ohtani is, he might never combine to have so much success both at the plate and on the mound.
MLB should celebrate Ohtani every way it can. He’s going to be in the starting lineup for the All-Star game as the best designated hitter, but he should also get the ball as the starting pitcher for the American League. That’s up to the manager and not the fans, of course, and it’s a golden opportunity to showcase arguably the sport’s brightest star on a stage where fans of every team will be watching.
Let him pitch. Let him hit leadoff. Heck, let him play all nine innings and hope he puts on a show against the best pitchers.
Just don’t let this magnificent season pass us by without being fully appreciated. He’s on a different planet. The future is bright for this 26-year-old star and hopefully, he’s just getting started as a professional hitter and pitcher.
The sky is the limit for Ohtani in Los Angeles.