Angels Top Storylines: Will Shohei Ohtani continue to shine as a two-way star?
As previously mentioned above, Shohei Ohtani makes his long-awaited return to the mound on Sunday, giving Angels fans their first glimpse of the two-way start pitching since his rookie season ended abruptly.
Will the Angels see the same pitcher that put up a 3.31 ERA, a 3.57 FIP, and an 11.0 K/9 in 51 innings in 2018, or will Ohtani be something different? Better yet, will the two-way push be worth the risk?
By having Ohtani pitch, the Angels are committing to using him just once a week on the mound, meaning the team needs to carry a six-man rotation. Likewise, they are also committed to giving him off days both before and after his starts, meaning he won’t be in the line-up those days. Some of those absences will coincide with team travel days, but there will be others where he simply won’t be available.
While the upside of Ohtani in the rotation is huge for an Angels team in need of pitching, he is also a significant contributor to the lineup. After putting up 22 home runs and a 159 wRC+ as a rookie, Ohtani returned to the lineup in 2019 with 18 home runs and a 123 wRC+. That’s a huge bat to lose from the line-up twice a week. It will be especially evident when Trout misses time or on the chance that Albert Pujols or Justin Upton are unable to rebound.
If the 2020 campaign is merely an exhibition, at least it will provide a fair analysis of whether Ohtani’s two-way status is sustainable over the long haul. A six-man rotation is a good problem to have, but can a team maintain it when they’ve struggled consistently to keep five starters healthy?