Ever since Shohei Ohtani decided to make the early jump to the MLB from the Japanese Nippon Ham Fighters excitement has bubbling to a breaking point around the Majors. A multi-talented player who can shred pitching from the plate and blow up hitters off the mound. Everyone around the league shared the same childish excitement of waiting to see the shiny new toy on the block in action. Unfortunately, it may be time to sober your expectations.
Shohei Ohtani has not had the easiest introduction to the Major Leagues. No one really expected him to show up and be the best player in baseball day one, but there was a lot of undeniable excitement towards watching his expansive skill-sets and talents in action.
Once you regard Ohtani’s less than stellar start against the Tijuana Toros, a team that competes on a level comparable to mid-level minor league ball (at best), you can’t truly look at Ohtani’s performances and see him succeeding consistently in the Majors at this point in time. We’ve seen four pitching apperances by Ohtani, and in those apperances he’s given away 18 hits, with 17 runs coming off those hits.
An evaluation of Ohtani goes beyond the stats; when you see him competing it’s clear he’s out of his element. He flat-planes his fastballs, he feeds his sliders into hitters and not away, and he generally cannot get outs without relying on the strikeout. When Ohtani took the mound against the Brewers multiple hitters mentioned his improper application of his pitches, with Jonathan Villar and Keon Broxton describing Ohtani’s fastball as “firm, but flat”
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It’s great to have someone with stuff as phenomenal as Ohtani, yet in application he falls far short of where he should be. His ERA is at an embarrassing 27.00 in 2.2 IP within Cactus League games, yet the stat I feel is even more telling is his Batters Faced within those 2.2 IP, a shocking twenty batters.
Twenty batters, in 2.2 innings. There’s something terribly wrong with those numbers, and at some point that needs to be addressed by the Angels management. Unfortunately it seems they’ve chosen to address his struggles by throwing him further into the fire. This is the one thing I don’t understand about the Angels, how they force struggling players into high leverage spots with the approach that “pressure creates perfection”.
Side note: Albert Pujols ranked #3 in AB’s with RISP during 2017, only behind Paul Goldschmidt and Edwin Encarnacion despite his sub .400 SLG and .241 BA. Yes, he ended up with 101 RBI’s, which proves this front office misunderstands it’s player management when they force poor play into high-leverage spots and cherry-pick their way to justifications. This was only a single example in an ocean of how this team likes to throw talent at the wall and hope for the best.
If the Pujols debacle hasn’t enlightened you into this organizations inner-workings then the future of Ohtani may come as an ugly wake-up call as to how out of touch this team can be. Do you remember the last guy the Angels had that was a “superstar talented, high strikeout machine”?
Precedent’s like that worry me, they haunt me in my dreams. It’s like I’m living in the horror classic “I Know What You Did Last Summer”; I witnessed a murder eight years ago and now it’s coming back to torment us. Sometimes it seems as if Scioscia treats his players as pure commodities, I can’t shake the feeling that the emotional aspect of the game flies over his head.
Scioscia doesn’t manage players, he manages situations. That’s going to be a huge problem with Ohtani, because as it stands the situation is that he’s letting himself get mentally out skilled by his competition and instead of leveling the playing field he’s going to be forced upon an even greater slope.
On Opening Day, against the A’s, Ohtani will be appearing as the clubs DH, despite his .107 BA in 28 AB’s. Two days later he’ll make his first Major League start with that impressive 27.00 Spring ERA backing him up. I understand that it’s “Spring Training”, but does anyone really expect that .107 BA to translate to success in the Majors? Do the Angels care more about the organization than the actual player, Shohei Ohtani?
If they did they wouldn’t force his 27.00 ERA in 2.2 IP and .107 BA into the Major League spotlight. Literally no other player in baseball history would win an Opening Day roster spot with these numbers, but we’re still expected to watch Ohtani continue his Spring Training struggles with the Big League Angels.
Maybe having Ohtani start the season in the Majors will create a hot little bump in the Angels financial structure, but in all truth there’s nothing attractive about taking one of the best potential talents in baseball and forcing them through a grinder.
Once again with the Angels, it’s short-term gain while throwing away regard for the future. This is why the Angels have had no future this entire decade, even with the greatest talent in baseball with Mike Trout.
Doubling down to cover up your mistakes tends to create conditions for a greater catastrophe, and I cannot foresee a greater tragedy than the failure to develop Shohei Ohtani in any meaningful manner.
There is no best-case scenario, there is no worst-case scenario, there is only one outcome. Ohtani will get shelled in his starts, he will be out-skilled at the plate. And once he’s taken that gangland style beating at the hands of the league he will be unceremoniously shoved to the minors to lick his wounds. That is not the way to develop Shohei Ohtani. That is not the way to develop any talent.
For the sake of the Angels future, Shohei Ohtani must be recognized as the developing talent he is and treated as such. Not some piece that must be forced onto the field to justify some irrational ideology.
It’s going to be a rough start to the season.