Shohei Ohtani

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Shohei Ohtani (大谷 翔平)

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Biographical Information[edit]


Shohei Ohtani, also called Shohei Otani, was a first-round pick in Japan in 2012. He set numerous records in Nippon Pro Baseball before moving to Major League Baseball in 2018.

Ohtani was 0-1 in the 2012 World Junior Championship, with 16 strikeouts, 8 walks, 5 hits and five runs in 10 1/3 IP. In the 5th/6th place game, he fanned 12 and allowed just two hits in 7 innings but was outdueled by South Korea's Geon-wook Lee. He was timed at 99.4 mph in high school and was drawing interest from numerous MLB teams. He said he planned on going to the US instead of playing in Japan. One team still picked him in the 2012 NPB draft, that being the Nippon Ham Fighters. After much negotiation, he wound up signing with the Fighters after all instead of trying his hand in the US. This marked a somewhat similar course to a 2009 Hanamaki Higashi alumnus, Yusei Kikuchi, who also initially said he would go to the US instead of playing in Japan.

Ohtani was used as a rookie in both the outfield (leading the Fighters with 51 games in right) and at pitcher. The unusual two-way role was historic in lots of ways. He was the second Nippon Pro Baseball rookie drafted out of high school the prior year to be used as both a pitcher and position player, following Kikuo Tokunaga in 1951; Ohtani was the first to start in both roles. He was the first NPB pitcher since Takao Kajimoto in 1963 to bat 3rd, 4th or 5th and the first rookie hurler to do so since Junzo Sekine in 1950. He was the second player, following Osamu Takechi (also 1950), to start a game at pitcher, bat in the heart of the order (3rd through 5th) and get a hit and RBI in that game. He missed time during the year with a right ankle sprain and right cheekbone fracture. The fans voted the high-profile rookie into the All-Star Game despite mediocre numbers. For the season, he was 3-0 with a 4.23 ERA with 33 walks to 46 K in 61 2/3 IP and hit .238/.284/.376 in 204 plate appearances. He had 7 outfield assists to one error. His 8 hit batsmen tied Manabu Mima, Tadashi Settsu, Hideaki Wakui and Ryoma Nogami for 5th in the 2013 Pacific League. He did get 4 of the 233 votes for the 2013 Pacific League Rookie of the Year Award, tying Tatsuya Sato for a distant second behind Takahiro Norimoto.

He was better on both ends of the ball in 2014, hitting .274/.338/.505 with 10 HR in 212 AB and going 11-4 with a 2.61 ERA and 179 K in 155 1/3 IP. He tied Yuki Nishi and Kenichi Nakata for 4th in the PL in wins, was 3rd in ERA (behind Chihiro Kaneko and Takayuki Kishi) and third in strikeouts (after Norimoto and Kaneko). He started 2014 NPB All-Star Game 2 on the mound for the PL. He allowed a hit to Takashi Toritani, fanned Tetsuto Yamada, gave up hits to Wladimir Balentien and Matt Murton (an out on the play on Murton's hit, presumably Toritani at home) and then retiring Shinnosuke Abe on a grounder. Kaneko relieved in the 2nd but Ohtani got the win. He was the second-youngest starter to win a NPB All-Star Game, at age 20; Masaaki Ikenaga was 19 when he won in 1966. He was the 4th-youngest pitcher to win; the other two were relievers before Ikenaga in '66. He was timed at 162 km/hr (100.7 mph) to set a record for fastest pitcher at a NPB All-Star Game, topping Marc Kroon's mark (from 2008) by 1 kmph. He finished third in the 2014 Pacific League MVP voting, behind Kaneko and Yuki Yanagita. In the 2014 Nichi-Bei Series, he pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning in the opener, retiring Alcides Escobar, Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist in order; Yuji Nishino closed out the 2-0 win. He then started game 5 of the Series with NPB up 3 games to 1 against the MLB. He struggled, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, a hit batsmen and two runs in four innings, though he did fan 7; he took the loss against Matt Shoemaker.

Ohtani started 2015 NPB All-Star Game 1 for the PL. He went two innings and fanned two, allowing one run (on a double by Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and a single by Jose Lopez), relieved by Nishi with a 1-0 deficit. The PL would lose 8-6 but he got a no-decision. He finished the season 15-5 with a 2.24 ERA, 196 strikeouts and only 100 hits in 160 2/3 IP. He led the PL in ERA (.14 over Nishi), tied Wakui for the most wins and was second in strikeouts (19 behind Norimoto, though he threw 34 fewer innings). He rarely played the field but did see some action at DH, hitting .202/.252/.376 with 5 HR in 109 AB. He made the Best Nine as the PL's top hurler. He finished third in MVP voting again, placing behind Yanagita and Shogo Akiyama for the 2015 Pacific League MVP.

Ohtani was dominant for the Japanese national team in the 2015 Premier 12. He hit 100 mph while blowing away eventual champion South Korea (10 K, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 R in 6 IP) before Norimoto relieved. Facing South Korea again in the semifinals, he was even sharper (11 K, 0 BB, 1 HB, 1 H in 7 IP). He did not give up a hit until Keun-woo Jeong singled in the 7th and had the most whiffs in a game for the first Premier 12 ever. Norimoto relieved with a 3-0 lead but he and two other relievers combined to allow four in the 9th to blow it as Japan fell in a shocking defeat. He led the event in ERA (Scott Diamond had 12 innings with a 0.00 ERA to Ohtani's 13) and strikeouts (one ahead of Chun-Lin Kuo) while allowing the lowest average by a starting pitcher. He was named the All-Star SP for the event (Sho Nakata was the only other member of Samurai Japan to be picked for the All-Star team).

He was stellar on both ends of the ball to open 2016 (.347/.455/.646, 11 HR in 144 AB; 8-4, 2.02, 140 K in 116 IP). He got nearly double as many votes as any other pitcher for the PL for the 2016 NPB All-Star Game; he had 300,025 while #2 Shota Takeda had 158,008. He could not pitch in the event due to a blister on his finger but wound up starring as a DH. In Game 1, he batted for DH Yuya Hasegawa and lined out in the 8th against Scott Mathieson. Starting at DH and hitting 5th in Game 2, he homered off Shoichi Ino in the 5th to start the PL comeback from a 3-0 deficit. He singled against Ryo Akiyoshi in the 7th and scored on a hit by Kenta Imamiya for a 4-3 lead. Coming up with a 5-4 deficit in the 8th, he singled off Shinji Tajima to bring in Shogo Akiyama with the tying run. He thus produced three of the PL's five runs in the 5-5 tie, earning him game MVP honors. He hit 165 km/h (102.5 mph) on the radar gun during the year, breaking Marc Kroon's NPB record of 163 kmph. He finished the year at .322/.416/.588 with 22 HR in 382 PA on offense and 10-4, 1.86 on the mound with 174 K in 140 IP. He tied for 8th in the PL in wins, was third in strikeouts (behind Norimoto and Kodai Senga) with a significantly better strikeout rate than either of those hurlers), would have led in ERA had he qualified (Ayumu Ishikawa led at 2.16; Ohtani was 3 IP shy of qualifying), would have been second in average if he had qualified (52 plate appearances shy; Katsuya Kakunaka led at .339), would have ranked 4th in OBP (between Akira Nakamura and Haruki Nishikawa), would have led in slugging (.065 ahead of Yanagita), would have led in OPS (35 ahead of Yanagita) and was 8th in home runs (every other player with 15+ had at least 50 more plate appearances). He led Nippon Ham to the 2016 Japan Series, but lost the opener to the Hiroshima Carp; he fanned 11 in 6 innings but allowed 3 runs, two on a homer by Brad Eldred and one on a steal of home by Seiya Suzuki. Down 2 games to 0, he came up big as the DH in game 3, getting 3 hits, a run and a RBI. In the bottom of the 10th, he singled off Daichi Oserato score Nishikawa with the winner; Nippon Ham would take the next three games to win their second Japan Series title. Teammate Brandon Laird would win the Series MVP. Ohtani had hit .375/.412/.625 with four doubles, doing more on offense than on the mound for the Series. He made the Best Nine as the top pitcher in the PL - and as the top DH. He topped 4-time Cuban MVP Alfredo Despaigne easily at DH (190 votes to 47; 3 others combined for 8 votes) but the vote at pitcher was closer (he had 111 of 245 votes, Ishikawa 69 and Tsuyoshi Wada 61). He was the run-away winner of the 2016 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, getting 253 of 254 first-place votes (Naoki Miyanishi got the other one) and one second-place vote. He had 1,268 vote points, to 298 for runner-up Laird.

In 2017, he played in 65 games, hitting .332 with 8 homers and 31 RBIs while going 3-2, 3.20 with 29 strikeouts in the mound. In September, it was revealed that Ohtani would ask to be posted at the end of the season in order to play in Major League Baseball in 2018. However, before that could happen, he had surgery on his right ankle in early October. The injury had originally occurred in the 2016 Japan Series, and had cost him a chance to play in the 2017 World Baseball Classic in addition to restricting his playing time during the season. There was some question as to whether he would be able to be posted, as it took some time for MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball to renew their agreement on the operation of the posting system in the fall of 2017. The two sides eventually came to an agreement on November 21st; had they been unable to do so by December 1st, it would have meant that the system would be suspended for at least a year. Given his young age, he was subject to the bonus rules attached to international signings, severely limiting the amount of money he could command off the bat; he was also limited to signing a minor league contract for the time being. It also meant that a number of teams which had already spent most of their bonus pool were in fact excluded from bidding for him. As the amount of money needed to sign him was very small, meaning no team could claim he was out of its price range, he tried to narrow the number of potential bidders and avoid landing somewhere that was of little interest to him by explaining he was only interested in signing with a team based on the West Coast. That effectively eliminated two of the most interested teams, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. As expected, he was officially posted on December 1st. On December 8th, after listening to a two-hour presentation by each of the seven teams still in the bidding, he settled on the Los Angeles Angels. He was to be paid a bonus of $2.32 million, in addition to the major league minimum salary. The Angels confirmed that they were open to his playing DH on days he does not pitch. It was revealed a few days later that the results of a physical exam that had been circulated to all interested teams before he was signed had revealed some ligament damage in his elbow and that he was undergoing plasma-rich platelet treatment as a result. Angels GM Billy Eppler minimized the impact of the news, saying that his results were "consistent with players his age" and would not prevent him from pitching in 2018. He received a further honor before spring training started, as he was named the top prospect in baseball by

Shohei Ōtani with the Angels

His first major league baseball spring training did not go so great for Shohei as under the glare of constant media attention, he struggled at the plate, going 2 for 24 in his first three weeks. He wasn't much better on the mound, giving up 9 runs in 2 2/3 innings. Were he not such a high profile player, he would likely have been sent down to the minor league camp at that point in order to allow him to find his bearings in a lower-pressure environment, but the Angels really wanted to break camp with the youngster on their roster. He made his big league debut as designated hitter on Opening Day, going 1-for-5 against the Oakland Athletics, his hit coming on the first pitch he saw. While a number of players made their debut that day, Shohei was the only one to do so as part of his team's starting line-up and can thus be considered the first player to have made his debut in 2018. He then made his pitching debut on April 1st against those same Athletics, and in 6 innings of work gave up a three-run homer to Matt Chapman but little else, walking one and striking out six. He left with a 7-3 lead and was credited with the Angels' 7-4 win. Then, in his first home game on April 3rd, he hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat off Josh Tomlin of the Cleveland Indians; he could have had a grand slam as he had come up with the bases loaded, but Tomlin threw a wild pitch before surrendering the homer, resulting in one of the runners scoring. Ohtani added two more hits before the end of the game, making a key contribution to his team's 13-2 win. He followed with another homer the next day, this one off Corey Kluber, a two-run shot that tied the game. He made it three games in a row with a long ball on April 6th when he connected off Daniel Gossett of the A's. He also picked up another RBI on a walk with the bases loaded in a 13-9 win. He then topped this with a brilliant pitching performance on April 8th, retiring the first 19 A's batters he faced before allowing a one-out single to Marcus Semien in the 7th. He allowed just that one hit and one walk in seven innings, while striking ou 12 and was given credit for a 6-1 win. On April 12th, he hit a three-run triple which was the key blow in a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. His next start as a pitcher was delayed by two days by foul weather in Kansas City and when he took the mound at home against the Boston Red Sox on April 17th, he looked like a mere mortal for the first time, leaving after just 2 innings because of a blister, after allowing a lead-off homer to Mookie Betts (who would hit three on the night). He allowed 3 runs and was charged with his team's 10-1 loss. On April 27th, he homered in the 2nd inning off Luis Severino of the New York Yankees, but then sprained his ankle while trying to run out a ground ball in the 5th. As a result, he skipped his next scheduled turn as a pitcher. He was named the American League Rookie of the Month for April in recognition of his historic contribution on both sides of the ball. He returned to the mound on May 6th with another strong performance, this one against the Seattle Mariners. He pitched six scoreless innings before tiring and giving up a couple of runs in the 7th; by then the Angels had built a commanding lead and he received credit for an 8-2 win to improve to 3-1. On June 6th, he once again had to leave a start early because of a blister problem, this one coming in the 4th inning against the Royals. On June 8th, he was placed on the disabled list with an elbow sprain. The plan was to try three weeks of therapy, including with platelet-rich plasma, but if that did not work, Tommy John surgery was a possibility, which would put him on the sidelines for a full year or more. He was reactivated on July 3rd and he was immediately inserted in the line-up at DH, but it was still unclear if he would return to the mound that season. On July 8th, he hit a dramatic pinch homer off J.T. Chargois of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 7th inning of a nationally televized Sunday night game to break a 3-3 tie and send the Angels on their way to a 4-3 win. he was not in the starting line-up after having fouled a ball off his knee the previous days and was still feeling sore: "It was going to be hard for me to run all out, so I was glad I was able to hit the home run and not have to run too hard," he said through a translator. After he had spent almost three months solely as a hitter, the Angels announced his return to the mound for September 2nd. That day, facing the Houston Astros, he pitched two solid innings before suffering a drop in velocity in the third, when George Springer tagged him for a two-run homer and he left at 2 1/3 innings. He ended up a 4-2 loser. On September 4th, he hit his 16th homer of the year, a significant milestone in that it was his first off a left-handed pitcher, namely Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers. On September 5th, he learned that he would require Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm. That would keep him from pitching until the start of the 2020 season, and it was not clear whether or not it would also prevent him from hitting during that same period. In the immediate, however, his hitting was still sound, as he blasted two more homers in a 9-3 over the Rangers that same day. He hit his 19th homer on September 7th, passing Kenji Johjima who previously held the record for most long balls by a Japanese rookie. On September 25th he announced that he had decided to undergo the surgery, and said that he expected to still be able to bat in 2019 even if unable to pitch. He ended the season by being named the Rookie of the Month for the second time in September, when he hit .310 with 7 homers and 18 RBIs. Immediately after the season ended, he went under the knife. He was then named the winner of the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award.

The surgery performed by renowned sports surgeon Neal El Attrache went well and in January 2019, he was cleared to resume baseball activities, although it was considered unlikely that he would be ready to play - as a hitter - on Opening Day. He made his return to the line-up on May 7th, when he went 0 for 4 as the Angels' DH in a game against the Detroit Tigers. He hit his first homer of the year on May 13th, a two-run shot off Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins in a 5-4 win. On June 13tth, he became the first Japanese player to hit for a cycle in the major leagues when he achieved the feat in a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. He homered off Ryan Yarbrough in the 1st inning, doubled in the 3rd, tripled in the 5th and hit a single in the 7th. He came close to pulling off the feat again on September 7th, as he drove in 5 runs and just missed collecting the triple in a win over the Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately, his season ended early as in September, he had to undergo surgery on his left kneecap, finishing the year at .286 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 106 games as a full-time DH. In December, he was given the "all-clear" for the following season, as his rehabilitation from the Tommy John surgery was now complete and he could start pitching competitively again.

After the start of the 2020 season was delayed by almost four months by the coronavirus pandemic, he became a historic MLB first as the first baserunner to be placed on second base at the start of an inning thanks to the newly-adopted tiebreaker rule. The Angels and Athletics were tied at 3 after 9 innings in their first game of the season on July 24th, and Ohtani, as his team's DH, had made the final out of the top of the 9th, making him the "additional runner" when the 10th inning started. Perhaps weighed down by all the history, he made a blunder, as he was caught between second and third base in a rundown when the first batter, Jared Walsh, hit a ball to the right side of the infield. He was tagged out by third baseman Matt Chapman - the first man to homer off him two years earlier. The Angels failed to score, and Matt Olson hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the inning to give Oakland a 7-3 win. He made his long-awaited return to the mound two days later, on July 26th, but it was an unmitigated disaster as he allowed a single to Marcus Semien, then walked the next three batters to force in a run, then gave up singles to Mark Canha and Robbie Grossman to account for three more runs. He was relieved by Matt Andriese at that point, who allowed Canha to score on a double play grounder as Ohtani ended up giving up 5 runs without retiring anyone. His next start on August 2nd against the Houston Astros did not go much better, as he lasted 1 2/3 innings and walked 5 batters in the 2nd after breezing through the 1st inning on only 8 pitches. After the game, it was announced that he would undergo an MRI after complaining of discomfort. He was shut down as a pitcher for 4-6 weeks. He wasn't doing so well with the bat either, starting off 4-for-27 (.148) on top of his ungodly 37.80 ERA. The result of the exam was a grade 1-2 strain of a muscle in his pitching arm, making it unlikely he would pitch again that season. However, he could still bat, and in his first at-bat after his doctor's visit on August 6th, he homered off Taijuan Walker of the Seattle Mariners. In all, he hit .190 in 44 games, with7 homers and 24 RBIs, his OPS+ falling all the way to 80, not good at all for a player who now limited to DH'ing.

He became eligible for salary arbitration heading into the 2021 season, which would have made an interesting case given his highly unusual career path over his first three years - as well as the uncertainty over his future role. The two sides decided to by-step the process, however, agreeing on February 8th on a two-year deal worth $8.5 million. The Angels were committed to give him one final chance to be a two-way player that season, and if that failed, to move him into a full-time position player the second year. He made the most of his opportunity that spring, as he was dominating on both sides of the ball. He was regularly clocked over 100 mph and dominated opposing hitters on the mound, and was one of the best hitters anywhere in spring training, launching impressive bombs and destroying opposite pitching. On March 21st, he was the first pitcher in memory to also serve as his team's lead-off hitter in a Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres, going 2 for 2 with a walk while striking five in four innings. He was batting .636 at that point. On April 4th, he made his first start of the season and for the first time in the majors was also in the starting line-up as a hitter; he wasn't batting in the 9th spot, but in his usual #2 slot, making him the first pitcher to do so since Jack Dunleavy had done so in 1903. And in his first at-bat against Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox, he crushed a long homer to right field; the ball's exit velocity of 115.2 mph was the highest recorded by an Angels player since the introduction of Statcast in 2015. It was also the first homer by an AL pitcher against an American League opponent since Roric Harrison had been the last pitcher to homer in the 1972 season, the last one before the introduction of the DH. It was also the first homer by a pitcher in an American League ballpark since Ken Holtzman had gone deep during the 1974 World Series. He also lit up the radar gun, hitting 100 mph three times. He had a 3-0 lead in the 5th when he began to tire, allowing a first run on a wild pitch, and then, with two men on, almost getting out of the inning when he struck out Yoan Moncada; however, C Max Stassi could not handle the pitch, then threw wildly to first base, and both runners scored to tie the game. For his part, Ohtani was upended by a sliding Jose Abreu on the strange play, and while he fell hard to the ground, was uninjured. The Angels eventually won the game, 7-4 on a three-run walk-off homer by Jared Walsh. On April 24th, he played the field as a position player for the first time, being inserted in left field in the 8th inning of a 16-2 blowout loss to the Houston Astros, when LF Anthony Bemboom took the mound. On April 26th, he became the first pitcher since Babe Ruth to start a game while simultaneously leading the majors in homers. He won for the first time of the season and also went 2 for 3 as a hitter. As manager Joe Maddon put it: "If you weren't entertained by watching him tonight, you can't be entertained by watching the game of baseball." On May 11th, he started a game on the mound against the Houston Astros, while again batting second, and had one of his best pitching outings, allowing just 1 run in 7 innings, walking 1 and striking out 10, then finished the game in right field as Maddon wanted to have him available for another at-bat in a potentially critical late-game situation. On June 4th, he struck out 10 batters while walking none in a 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners; it was the first time in his major league career that he had not walked anyone in one of his starts. In another mind-blowing fact, in June he became the first pitcher since Nixey Callahan in 1901 to steal 9 bases and strike out 60 batters in one season. On June 23rd, in another first, he batted for himself in a game he started against the San Francisco Giants, while the Giants elected to use the DH, the first time a National League team had used a DH when its AL opponent had declined to do so. Of course, he was tied for the major league lead in homers with 23 at the time, so it's understandable that Maddon wanted him in the line-up. However, the lack of a DH proved costly later on in the game, as it went 13 innings in spite of the use of the tiebreaker rule, placing the Angels at a distinct disadvantage once Shohei had left the game after six strong innings, as with a short bench, pitcher Griffin Canning had to be used in the outfield after an injury to catcher Kurt Suzuki, putting two pitchers in their line-up in extra innings while the Giants had none - San Francisco won the game, 9-3. On June 25th, he hit the first lead-off homer of his career, off Andrew Kittredge of the Tampa Bay Rays, a monster shot off the catwalk at Tropicana Field. On July 1st, he was named an All-Star for the first time, being voted in by the fans as the AL's starting DH, then on July 2nd he hit two more homers to reach 30. This was the most home runs before the All-Star break by any player in Angels history, breaking a record previously held by Mike Trout. He completed this memorable spell by being named to the All-Star team a second time as a pitcher and by being honored as the American League's Player of the Month for June.

He was named the AL's starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, and MLB allowed a special change to the rules, allowing him to also bat lead-off as the DH and to stay in the game after leaving the mound, something that would not normally have been allowed. This was done to ensure would be able to see him both pitch and bat, without putting the league at a huge disadvantage, as would have been the case if he had not been allowed to continue as the DH, as the team would have needed to use a pinch-hitter every time the pitcher's spot came up for the remainder of the game. He had an epic duel with Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals in the Home Run Derby's first round, finally bowing out after the second tiebreaker. In the game itself, he grounded out in both of his at-bats, but had a perfect 1st inning as a pitcher, and ended up as the game's winning pitcher when the AL scored in the top of the 2nd and went on to win the game, 5-2. He repeated as Player of the Month in July, after batting .282 with 9 homers, 19 RBIs and 16 walks. On August 18th, he reached the 40-homer mark while also pitching 8th innings for the first time of his career, improving to 8-1 as a pitcher in a 3-1 win over the Detroit Tigers. On August 28th, he stole his 20th base to become the first player in Angels history to have a 40/20 season, and the first in the AL since Curtis Granderson in 2011. He finished the year at .257 in 155 games, with 46 homers and 100 RBIs. He scored 103 runs, led the league with 8 triples and also stole 26 bases while being caught 10 times (surprisingly, that relatively low figure also led the league). As a pitcher, he went 9-2, 3.18 in 23 starts, logging 130 1/3 innings and striking out 156 opponents. He led the Angels' staff in both innings and strikeouts, and both by a wide margin, as well as wins, in spite of his untraditional usage. Truly, it was an exceptional and unprecedented season, and on October 26th, before Game 1 of the World Series, Commissioner Rob Manfred presented him with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award, one that is given rarely to honor exceptional achievements: it had last been given out in 2014 to honor the various postseason records set by Derek Jeter. He was only the 16th recipient since the award's creation by Commissioner Bud Selig in 1998, and the first to be honored by Manfred since his appointment in 2015. He was the unanimous winner of the 2021 American League Most Valuable Player Award, on a Silver Slugger Award at DH and also received the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award, the first player in Angels history to do so.

Before the 2022 season, the special change in the rules that had been used at the previous All-Star Game that had allowed Shohei to stay in the game as the DH after leaving the mound as the starting pitcher, was made a permanent part of the major league DH rule. It was likely to only be used in games he was starting, but any team could now take advantage of the provision - if they happened to have an otherworldly phenomenon like Ohtani on their roster... On April 7th, he was both the Angels' starting pitcher and lead-off hitter, something that had never been done on Opening Day in major league history. He hit his first career grand slam on May 9th, in the 7th inning off Calvin Faucher of the Tampa Bay Rays in an 11-3 win; it was his second homer of the game, and he had never hit a slam during his years in Japan. It was also Faucher's major league debut. He hit homer #100 of his career on May 14th, off Adam Oller of the Oakland Athletics; he was the third Japanese player to reach the mark, after Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki. On June 21st, he hit two homers and had a career-high 8 RBIs - but it still wasn't enough as L.A lost the game to the Kansas City Royals, 12-11, in extra innings. The very next day, he set another career high, but this one on the mound, as he struck out 13 batters in 8 scoreless innings against KC. It was a completely dominant performance as he allowed just a pair of singles and a walk and retired 23 of the last 24 men he faced in matching the longest pitching outing of his career. He was the first player in MLB history to have both a 8-RBI and 13-K game, let alone to do it on consecutive days. On July 6th, he became the first pitcher to have three straight starts with 10 Ks and no earned runs allowed. On August 31st, he became the first player in history to have 30 homers and 10 wins in the same season - something not even Ruth had achieved. On September 29th, he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning, giving up his first hit to the A's with two outs in that inning when Conner Capel singled; he also went 2 for 4 in the game, extending his hitting streak to 14 games while recording his 15th win of the year and lowering his ERA to 2.35. Aaron Judge was having an incredible season for the New York Yankees, having hit his 61st homer the day before and threatening to win a Triple Crown, but Shohei was giving him a run for his money in the MVP race. He finished the year with incredible numbers: .270 with 34 homers and 75 RBIs and an OPS+ of 145 as a hitter, and 15-9, 2.33 with 219 strikeouts and an ERA+ of 172 as a pitcher. He was the first player since the start of the 20th century to qualify for both the batting race and the ERA championship. He finished second in the voting for the MVP Award, behind Judge, and repeated as winner of the Edgar Martinez Award.

He was the undisputed star of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, leading Japan to its third title in five editions of the tournament and being named World Baseball Classic MVP. He was outstanding both as a pitcher and as a hitter, batting .435 with 10 walks, starting twice on the mound and then, in what was sure to become a signature moment of his career, stepping on the mound in the 9th inning of the finale against Team USA to close out a 3-2 win. He finished the job by striking out teammate Mike Trout on a full count. He had not been asked to close a game since way back in 2016 - which also came in a crucial situation, as the Nippon Ham Fighters needed a win to advance to Japanese Series that time. He was also named to the all-tournament team as both the designated hitter and one of three pitchers, alongside another teammate, Patrick Sandoval of Mexico, and Miguel Romero of Cuba. He had a great start for the Angels on Opening Day on March 30, 2023, pitching six scoreless innings while striking out 10, but still came up empty as the Athletics rallied late to win the game, 2-1. He was the top vote-getter for the American League at the 2023 All-Star Game, as the starting DH, but still well behind Ronald Acuna who led the vote in the National League; fans of the Atlanta Braves had apparently been stuffing the ballot boxes as their protégés finished first or second in almost all of the races in the senior circuit. It was his third All-Star appearance, and it was deserved as he was not only leading the AL in homers at the time, but was his team leader in just about every significant statistical category - both as hitter and as a pitcher. On June 27th, he had another unprecedented performance: a game in which he both homered twice and collected 10 strikeouts in a 4-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. It was his first multi-homer game as a pitcher, and was only the sixth player since 1900 to accomplish the two feats in the same game. He was named the AL Player of the Month for June after hitting .394 with 15 homers and 29 RBIs. On July 27th, he had another mind-blowing performance in a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers: he won the first game by pitching a one-hitter in a 6-0 shutout, then homered twice to lead L.A. to an 11-4 win the second game. By that point, he had 38 homers - six more than his nearest pursuer in the majors, and the Angels had stated that they were not going to trade him as he neared free agency, instead working to add players in order to make a run at a wild card spot. He repeated as AL Player of the Month in July after hitting .282 with an OPS of 1.152 and 9 homers - not to mention his contributions on the mound. One part of his remarkable season ended early as the Angels announced on August 23rd that they were shutting him down as a pitcher for the remainder of the season due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, an injury that was likely to lead to a second Tommy John operation. He continued as a DH for a while after that announcement, but after going 0 for 3 on September 3rd, he missed the following games with what was called a right oblique injury. He still had not returned on September 15th when news emerged that he had cleared out his locker, prompting speculation that he was done for the season - and likely as a member of the Angels as well. Indeed, the team confirmed the next day that his season was over due to the oblique injury, making his final numbers a .304 average, .654 slugging percentage, 44 homers, 8 triples, 26 doubles, 102 runs, 95 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 135 games, in addition to a 10-5 record with an ERA of 3.14 and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings on the mound. He underwent elbow surgery on September 19th and his agent announced that he would ready to hit again in 2024, and to pitch in 2025. Despite missing the final month, his home run total was enough to give him the home run crown in the AL, a first for him, and he was unanimously voted as the winner of the 2023 American League Most Valuable Player Award, his second time winning the prestigious award in three years, as well as the Hank Aaron Award as the best hitter in the AL.

He was the most sought-after free agent on the market that off-season, even if it was known he would only be a hitter in his first season, and a number of teams brought out all the stops in order to bring him on board. On December 9th he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a historic $700 million over ten years - the largest contract ever given out not only in baseball but in North American sports history - and possibly worldwide. The deal was made official on December 11th, and other information became available, the most important being that almost all of the contract - except for $2 million per season - was deferred interest-free until its completion in 2034, and then was to be paid over a ten-year period. This was done at Ohtani's suggestion in order not to impede the Dodgers from seeking other top players to surround Ohtani (when Alex Rodriguez had signed his mega deal with the Texas Rangers two decades earlier, it is exactly what had happened, and he had ended up being paid handsomely to play for a losing team). However, for purposes of luxury tax assessment, the contract was still valued at $46 million per annum, based on the present value of the deferred money. Such a massive deferment was completely unprecedented, but Ohtani could afford it, given his very large outside income from endorsements and other deals. He then had to secure his preferred uniform number - 17 - although he could also have done like in the WBC, where he had worn number 16. Pitcher Joe Kelly was in possession of the number, and rather than just simply ask for a change, he bought Joe's wife, Ashley, a brand new Porsche; there was already some history between the two, as Ashley had put together a campaign on social media to convince Shohei to sign with the Dodgers and no one else. A Dodgers jersey with his name and #17 was already breaking sales records for Fanatics by then.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 2018 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 3-time AL All-Star (2021-2023)
  • 2-time AL MVP (2021 & 2023)
  • 2-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2021 & 2023/DH)
  • AL On-Base Percentage Leader (2023)
  • AL Slugging Percentage Leader (2023)
  • AL OPS Leader (2023)
  • AL Triples Leader (2021)
  • AL Home Runs Leader (2023)
  • AL Total Bases Leader (2023)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2018 & 2021-2023)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2021-2023)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2021 & 2023)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (2021)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (2021 & 2023)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2022)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2022)

AL Rookie of the Year
2017 2018 2019
Aaron Judge Shohei Ohtani Yordan Alvarez
2020 2021 2022
José Abreu Shohei Ohtani Aaron Judge
2022 2023 2024
Aaron Judge Shohei Ohtani tbd


Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "9 ways Ohtani broke Statcast in 2021",, November 23, 2021. [1]
  • Nick Aguilera: "Report: 'Ohtani rule' among potential '22 changes",, March 22, 2022. [2]
  • Greg Beacham (Associated Press): "Ohtani strikes out career-high 13 in Angels' 5-0 win over KC", Yahoo! News, June 23, 2022. [3]
  • Lindsay Berra: "Will 2-way star Ohtani have greater injury risk? Playing two positions would come with additional wear and tear",, December 7, 2017. [4]
  • Barry M. Bloom: "Ohtani will be next rising star from Japan: Two-way player for Nippon Ham features 100-mph heater",, February 10, 2016. [5]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "How rule changes can increase Ohtani's value",, January 30, 2020. [6]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Where Ohtani stands in a return to pitching",, November 6, 2020. [7]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Ohtani's historic night ends on bizarre play: Angels star OK after exiting in 5th on collision at plate",, April 5, 2021. [8]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "'Generational talent' Sho seizes MLB HR lead: Angels phenom belts 27th, 28th homers for 3 blasts in 2 games at Yankee Stadium",, June 30, 2021. [9]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Trailblazer Ohtani in ASG as hitter, pitcher: Two-way sensation rockets 459-foot shot against Orioles",, July 4, 2021. [10]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Ohtani earns historic win with perfect 1st",, July 14, 2021. [11]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Unanimous! Ohtani takes home AL MVP: Two-way star is fourth Angel to win award, 19th to sweep all first-place votes",, November 18, 2021. [12]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Ohtani wins 2021 Edgar Martinez DH Award",, November 29, 2021. [13]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "What else is new? Ohtani makes more history",, April 8, 2022. [14]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Historic 2-game Sho: 8 RBIs, new-high 13 K's! Two-way star baffles Royals over 8 shutout innings",, June 23, 2022. [15]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Ohtani is 1st player with 30 homers, 10 wins",, September 1, 2022. [16]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "200 K's: Another first, and more history for Ohtani: Battling control, weather, 2-way star first to log 200 strikeouts, hit 30 HRs in a season",, September 24, 2022. [17]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Ohtani makes more history to close 'unbelievable' year: Two-way star qualifies for leaderboards as pitcher and hitter in season finale",, October 5, 2022. [18]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Ohtani's locker cleared out; Angels say details to come Sat.",, September 16, 2023. [19]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Unanimous again! Ohtani crowned AL MVP",, November 16, 2023. [20]
  • William Boor: "Ohtani reportedly may come to US after 2017 season",, December 5, 2016. [21]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Ohtani wins Historic Achievement Award",, October 26, 2021. [22]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "A 2-way and a 2-time MVP in Ohtani, Bryce",, November 18, 2021. [23]
  • Michael Clair: "Dream teen: Ohtani's 17-K Jr. High game", "Cut4",, November 26, 2017. [24]
  • Michael Clair: "Ohtani's MVP performance leads '23 All-Classic Team",, March 22, 2023. [25]
  • Ben Cosman: "Shohei Ohtani was named the best pitcher *and* the best DH in NPB's Pacific League", "Cut 4",, November 25, 2016. [26]
  • Simon Drouin: "Shohei Ohtani: le Babe Ruth japonais", La Presse, April 16, 2018. [27]
  • Maria Guardado: "First Ohtani show features homer, no pressure: Two-way Angels star keeping things loose under spotlight in introductory spring workout",, February 14, 2018. [28]
  • Thomas Harrigan and Manny Randhawa: "Ohtani inspiring awe across sports landscape",, May 18, 2021. [29]
  • Richard Justice: "Acuna, Ohtani named Rookies of the Year: Braves OF wins NL honor; Angels' two-way phenom claims AL prize",, November 13, 2018. [30]
  • Matt Kelly: "Ohtani reflects on sensational rookie season: Two-way star credits Ichiro for helping him improve",, November 23. 2018. [31]
  • Dawn Klemish: "Ohtani 1st Japanese-born player to hit for cycle",, June 14, 2019. [32]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Reminder: Shohei Ohtani may end up the greatest bargain in MLB history", USA Today Sports, April 4, 2018. [33]
  • Sarah Langs: "Two-way Ohtani is back! With two-way power",, March 5, 2021. [34]
  • Sarah Langs: "7 Shohei facts about one of the best days baseball has ever witnessed",, July 27, 2023. [35]
  • Oliver Macklin: "Pitch or hit? Ohtani open to both -- or either: Japanese two-way superstar: 'It's not just about what I want to do'",, November 11, 2017. [36]
  • Jonathan Mayo: "No two ways about it: Ohtani one of a kind: Scouts rave about Japanese star's never-before-seen skill set",, September 18, 2017. [37]
  • Jonathan Mayo: "Sho and tell: FAQ about Ohtani, posting system",, November 22, 2017. [38]
  • Jon Paul Morosi: "Pitcher? Hitter? Both! And soon, Ohtani in play: Parties agree to new rules regarding NPB player transfers",, November 21, 2017. [39]
  • Bob Nightengale: "MLB's posting system could delay Shohei Ohtani's dream", USA Today Sports, November 16, 2017. [40]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Angels pull off stunner, win Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes",, December 8, 2017. [41]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Shohei Ohtani, Angels undaunted by rocky spring: 'He's going to wow us,' says Mike Trout", USA Today Sports, March 21, 2018. [42]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Shohei Ohtani’s elbow injury not only a blow to the Angels, but all of baseball", USA Today Sports, June 8, 2018. [43]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Shohei Ohtani's Tommy John recommendation stinks for Los Angeles Angels, baseball fans", USA Today, September 5, 2018. [44]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Angels in uncharted waters with Shohei Ohtani returning from Tommy John surgery", USA Today, February 13, 2019. [45]
  • Jay Paris: Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar, Sports Publishing, New York, NY, 2018. ISBN 9781683583028
  • Jeff Passan: "Shohei Ohtani agrees to sign with Angels", Yahoo! Sports, December 8, 2017. [46]
  • Mike Petriello: "Ohtani might just be a real-life superhero",, July 7, 2021. [47]
  • Mike Petriello: "Greatest season ever? Shohei has a case",, August 26, 2021. [48]
  • Mike Petriello: "Will Ohtani's 2023 be the best season in baseball history? Two-way star has 40 homers and 8.7 Wins Above Replacement",, August 4, 2023. [49]
  • Chad Thornburg: "Two-way star Ohtani reportedly to be posted",, September 13, 2017. [50]
  • Sarah Wexler: "$700M stunner: Ohtani to Dodgers on biggest deal in sports history",, December 9, 2023. [51]
  • Jesse Yomtov: "Angels' two-way star Shohei Ohtani wins AL Rookie of the Year award", 'USA Today, November 12, 2018. [52]

Related Sites[edit]