Will Shohei Ohtani be moving up the batting order soon?
By Ryan Falla
LA Angels superstar two way player Shohei Ohtani has lit up the MLB in his debut season. His offensive stats eclipse that of even Mike Trout. With the first month of the baseball season soon to come to a close one can only wonder if the cautious handling of Ohtani may loosen up and see him moved up in the batting order into a higher leverage role.
Shohei Ohtani has been one of the best players in Major League Baseball during the early 2018 season. It seems as if no other player in the MLB has even close to the same kind of drawing power as Shohei Ohtani, even Angels longtime center fielder Mike Trout.
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With good reason, Shohei Ohtani has torn open his 2018 campaign like no other. With an OBP of .424 he’s getting on base almost half the time, and in only 20 AB’s he’s already collected 25 Total Bases. With men on base he’s hitting a clean .400 and slugging .933, a clear factor in why he’s been so exciting to watch at the plate.
A lot of the Angels roster has been exciting to watch in the batters box, through there are some who have been struggling to some concern. One of the biggest struggles from the Angels lineup is coming from Kole Calhoun, the Angels right fielder who is currently hitting .231 on the season.
Calhouns struggles go beyond his ability to put bat on ball, and with him currently manning 5th and 6th in the Angels batting order with the 5th spot taking most of his AB’s. Even when he’s putting wood on the ball he’s still struggling immensely. He’s slugging a mere .308, indicating that he’s struggling to drive the ball in any consistent and meaningful way. To further his troubles is the fact that he isn’t really getting on base, indicated by his .254 OBP.
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Those are some seriously disheartening numbers, especially when you consider he’s been offering offensive protection to Albert Pujols most of the season. Pujols is actually having a solid start to the season, batting .282 with 3 HR’s and 9 RBI’s, he’s even cut down on his strikeouts with 11 K’s to his 71 AB’s this season. While he’s doing good the structure of the batting order also gives the impression that he could be reeling in higher quality AB’s if he had sizeable protection behind him.
This is why Shohei Ohtani needs to be moved up in the batting order, slotted right between Albert Pujols and Andrelton Simmons. With Andrelton “most hits in baseball” Simmons hitting behind Ohtani we would see a strong domino effect of pressurized pitching situations for the pitcher facing that middle-of-the-pack order.
Placing Ohtani behind Pujols practically creates a tighter strike zone for pitchers when facing him, and with the legendary first baseman cutting down on strikeouts this season you’re given very little leeway as a pitcher. Not only does this benefit Pujols, it also applies to Ohtani with Simmons behind him. Now, there is the argument that keeping Ohtani in the lower order offers him less exposure in high pressure situations, but when you look the games Ohtani has hit in you’ll see most of his big hits came in tight situations.
Statistically the majority of his AB’s have come in High Leverage situations, with Ohtani appearing in 6 games featuring High Leverage AB’s. In those AB’s (11), Ohtani is hitting .455 with a clean 1.000 SLG%. Even when looking at it in a simpler fashion the numbers still jump off the page. Ohtani has all of his homeruns in 2 out situations while batting a clean .500 in 14 AB’s. Eighteen of his Total Bases have come from his 2 out hits, with his 1 out and no out TB totals at 2 and 3, respectively.
Shohei Ohtani has recently been hitting 7th in the lineup, which is an improvement, yet that offers no assistance to the middling Calhoun. It appears flipping Ohtani and Calhoun in the batting order provides the team with the even more opportunities for success than they’ve already had.
The fact of the matter is that something has to happen with Calhoun to provide him with better opportunities to work out his issues rather than keep him struggling in the middle of the order. Logically speaking, Ohtani would naturally fit into the 5th slot anyway unless Scioscia decides to bat Simmons at cleanup which is a definite possibility.
With the Angels going into Boston for what looks to be an intense series with a fired up Red Sox team Scioscia will need to slip Calhoun out of the spotlight hitting 5th. Given Ohtani’s performance against Kansas City Royals, a series in which he came out with both his first Major League double and triple, we may be seeing him hitting even higher in the lineup
We might even be seeing him hitting cleanup by seasons end. That would definitely be something to see.