Shohei Ohtani Comes to the States


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TOKYO, JAPAN – NOVEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani #16 of Japan throws in the top of fifth inning during the WBSC Premier 12 semi final match between South Korea and Japan at the Tokyo Dome on November 19, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

To be able to throw a baseball 100 miles per hour is rare. To be able to throw a baseball 100 miles per hour with pinpoint accuracy and feature three other wipe-out pitches is rarer. To be able to throw a baseball 100 miles per hour with pinpoint accuracy and feature three other wipe-out pitches, and also be able to hit said baseball with a baseball bat is practically unheard of. Enter Japanese prodigy Shohei Ohtani.

That’s right. The 23 year-old Ohtani is what is known as a “two-way player” – he’s a pitcher by trade, but he can certainly hit; he’s already earned the nickname of “Japan’s Babe Ruth”. In five years with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League from 2013-17, Ohtani went 42-15 (.737) with a 2.52 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine. On the other side of the score sheet, he posted a .286/.358/.500 slash line with 48 home runs and 70 doubles through just over 1,000 at bats during the same span.

Let’s compare those stats to the MLB standard for a two-way player, in the form of Madison Bumgarner. In 2014, arguably his best year both on the mound and at the plate, a year in which he won the Silver Slugger Award for pitchers and finished fourth in Cy Young voting, Bumgarner went 18-10 (.643) with a 2.98 ERA and 9.1 strikeouts per nine, putting up a mere .258/.286/.470 offensive line. That’s decidedly worse in both categories than Ohtani, and let’s not forget that his figures were totals from throughout his entire career.

“Well, that’s just because there’s no competition in Japan,” you say. “Of course he was that good over there; that’s Japan, but just wait until he’s up against actual Major League players,” you scoff. And to you I say this: Ichiro Suzuki, the hit wizard himself, has averaged more base knocks per year in the U.S. than in his home country.

Now here’s the kicker: he’s coming to the States. After a long and arduous decision process during which each of the 30 MLB teams presented pitches (including the Pirates), Ohtani has settled on the Angels, which means that he and Mike Trout could potentially bat back-to-back. It also means that Neil Huntington – “We will absolutely do everything in our power to bring him here,” – has failed us once again. At the end of the day, Buccos fans should count their lucky blessings that their favorite joke of a team isn’t in the American League.

All statistics courtesy of