LA Angels: Shohei Ohtani has the ‘most unhittable’ pitch in the majors
By Alfonso Cerna
Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani has become arguably the best all-around player in the majors thanks to his two-way abilities on a diamond. We’ve only seen three starts from Ohtani on the mound this season but that small sample size has provided enough to show he has the most unhittable pitch in baseball, his splitter.
Angels: Shohei Ohtani’s splitter has proven to be baseball’s most unhittable pitch.
According to David Adler of MLB.com, there have been 20 plate appearances ending on Ohtani’s split-fingered and opposing hitters have gone 0-for-19 with 18 strikeouts. The only hitter to put a ball in play against the finishing pitch is Leaury Garcia who grounded out. There has been one player to reach base when that splitter has been used as a final pitch, a walk to reigning AL MVP José Abreu.
As of April 28, Ohtani’s 90 percent strikeout rate (18 of 20 PA) with his splitter was the highest with any single pitch type in the majors with a minimum of 20 swings. The next-highest is Rays starter Tyler Glasnow who’s curveball strikes out batters at a 68 percent clip (25 of 37 PA).
Ohtani’s splitter is also creating the highest swing-and-miss rate of any single pitch in the majors this season with a 74 percent whiff rate. Brewers starter Corbin Burnes has the second-highest at 67 percent with his slider (as of April 28).
What’s just as impressive are the improvements from Ohtani’s splitter since his MLB debut in 2018. During 10 starts in his rookie season, opposing hitters finished 2-for-55 while striking out 35 times. He already has more than half the amount of strikeouts in three starts this season while increasing his velocity as well.
Per Statcast, Ohtani’s average 89.9 mph splitter in 2021 is more than two ticks higher than his average of 87.3 mph in 2018. His splitter also averages 4.2 inches of horizontal movement with a 32.1 inch drop this season. When you combine that with an average 97-mph four-seam fastball that follows an identical path before the drop off, it makes for a very difficult pitch to hit.
Overall, Ohtani has pitched to a 3.29 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.390 WHIP, and 15.1 K/9 in 13 2/3 innings this season. It hasn’t all been perfect, as Ohtani has struggled with command at times and his 8.6 BB/9 shows it.
That being said, you have to remember this is a player who has made just five starts since 2018, and three of those outings have been this season. Coming back from Tommy John surgery (2018) and a major elbow injury last summer are no easy tasks. The struggles from Ohtani we’ve seen thus far are to be expected, but he has still pitched well given the circumstances.
There needs to be patience, which is part of the reason I don’t believe Ohtani should be the savior of this poor Angels starting rotation. It’s asking too much, and it’s unfair given he has thrown the least amount of innings among the current Halos starters.
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Ohtani is a generational type of talent, so I think manager Joe Maddon and the Angels should take advantage of his two-way abilities as long as it’s managed correctly.