Shohei Ohtani: Why the Angels Need His Bat More Than His Arm

The Los Angeles Angels need to quit pitching Shohei Ohtani for good and make him a first baseman.

In 2018, Shohei Ohtani came over and lived up to the hype as a two-way star from Japan. He started off the year with a 4-2 record through nine starts and a respectable 3.10 ERA. He had all the makings of a star on the mound.

A day after his June 6th start in 2018, Ohtani would land on the IL with a UCL strain.  At the end of the year he would have Tommy John and not pitch at all in 2019. This season he has been shut down from pitching after an 0-2 start with only 1.2 innings pitched.

Through all of his injuries, Ohtani has still been able to hit and to keep missing him in the lineup because of pitching injuries is unjust.  Ohtani needs to quit pitching for good and learn first base to benefit not only his career but the Angels franchise.

Shohei Ohtani, for all of what he has gone through on the mound, has still been able to deliver at the plate.  Not counting this year, because of the odd circumstances, he is slashing .286/.351/.532 through 210 games.  Pitching injuries and starts where he doesn’t hit have cost him 114 games at the plate.  To take a bat like that out of the lineup just to get hurt on the mound is no different than making a bad trade or any other negative franchise-altering decision a team could do.  It’s not a bust of a signing if the Angels get a top hitter in baseball out of it, but it will be a bust if they continue to waste his talents at the dish.

According to CBSsports.com, “Ohtani has been taking flyballs in the outfield and grounders at first base, but he will be confined to designated hitter duties this season due to his elbow injury that is also preventing him from pitching.”  I know what it said here, but it’s hard to imagine that did not pertain more to outfield than first base.  So, let’s look at some reasons why Ohtani should play first for the Angels moving forward.

Less strain on his arm 

I feel like this is self-explanatory.  Ohtani just needs to limit his throwing of a baseball to bang-bang double plays and warm-up grounders to the infield.  A UCL strain nine games into his big league career followed by Tommy John and now what is happening this year is enough to warrant justification for first base.

It’s an open position 

I like to think the Angels are a competent enough franchise to not really consider Tommy La Stella or Albert Pujols as locks to be everyday first basemen.  Albert is almost 41 and it’s not like he’s performing at a Gold Glove-caliber and Tommy can play anywhere.  There is no reason Shohei Ohtani should not just be penciled in at a position that will keep his bat in the lineup every day, have La Stella be able to play at any other need, and limit Pujols to DH duties.

It’s the perfect season to experiment 

Nobody can just go in and play a new position and just go win a Gold Glove overnight.  The Angels have one of the worst records in the majors and with a pitching staff that does not look like they are going to turn anything around this year, there’s no reason to at least give Ohtani reps over there.  Who cares if he makes errors or needs time to learn what’s his ball and what’s the second basemen? Better he learns in a shortened season with nothing to lose and everything to gain instead of the start of a year where they hopefully have obtained some arms to compete.

There are just more reasons to make him a first baseman than there is to keep him in the rotation to just hope he doesn’t get hurt again.  The Angels have a chance to have a three-four-five every day of Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani for the next four years and I don’t think they should waste it or take it for granted.

As hard as this is to take in for some, Shohei Ohtani never pitching another game in the majors is not a waste of him being signed.  What is a waste, is putting taking him out of the lineup to likely get shelfed again. The Angels signed two potential superstars for the price of one with Ohtani and his contract is team-friendly through 2024 anyway.  How many other clubs can say that? None.

Next: What trade chips will the Angels have at the deadline?

Don’t waste a potential perennial All-Star bat just because he was supposed to be a perennial All-Star pitcher too.

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