The Los Angeles Angels have a once in a generation talent in Shohei Ohtani, so they are tracking every little detail to make sure he stays healthy.
Since coming over from Japan as a two-way superstar, Shohei Ohtani has experienced his share of injuries: right elbow, left knee cap, left ankle. This is not from a lack of effort in trying to keep him healthy. The Los Angeles Angels have devised an internal system to track Ohtani’s energy level, sleep, soreness, and nutrition, according to Sports Illustrated. In an all-out effort to keep their star player healthy, they are tracking pretty much everything he does.
Beyond counting the number of games Ohtani plays in the field or pitches, they are monitoring the rigor of each game, “down to how many times he dove back into first on pickoff attempts.”
The Sports Illustrated report explains how the Halos use a color-coded system to provide warning to team personnel if their two-way player’s health metrics deviate too far from his baseline.
"If any of the monitors indicate a 5% or greater deviation from Ohtani’s baseline, the Angels issue an internal “yellow light” on him. It’s the signal for everyone involved—trainers, coaches, the manager—to proceed with caution with his workload."
With the explosion of sabermetrics across baseball, teams are investing in new areas to find a competitive advantage. Health science and biomechanics are two of the biggest areas where teams are looking to uncover new truths. It’s one thing to know whether a hitter fares better against fastballs or curveballs, it’s another to understand what makes a player reach their peak performance from a health standpoint.
If you’re a basketball fan, you’ve probably heard the term “load management” used in describing the strategy of resting star players. Baseball offers more opportunities for rest than other sports; it’s not uncommon for an everyday player to take a day off, and pitchers have always thrown on a strict schedule. What is changing are the metrics used to evaluate the “load” or stress put on players during the games they play. This is an area where the Angels are trying to excel.
In fact, the Halos recently hired Dylan Axelrod as their pitching coordinator. Axelrod has worked for Peak Performance Project and Driveline Baseball, two companies using technology and science to help bolster athletic performance.
For the Los Angeles Angels to compete in 2020, they will need Ohtani to produce in both of his roles as hitter and pitcher. How he recovers from Tommy John surgery and maintains his health on the field is paramount to their success. While it seems like a bit from a science-fiction novel, by tracking movements and nutrition and sleep, the Angels are on the cutting edge of learning how to keep their players healthy.