He has the lowest ERA among starters in the Majors since the start of July (1.58), and hitters are batting .183 against him in those last six starts. Sarah Langs of MLB.com dove deep into why Ohtani has been so dominant in a recent article.
Angels fans should have all the confidence in the world for the game tonight against the Baltimore Orioles. He can’t be stopped, regardless of who he’s pitching against.
Langs points out that the key to it all is Shohei Ohtani’s ability to now go deeper into ballgames for the LA Angels.
She ties Shohei Ohtani’s recent lengthy starts to his lack of walks allowed for the LA Angels in July.
In his first 12 starts, Langs highlighted that he only went over six innings once.
"In that time, he had a 13.6% walk rate, and walked four or more batters in five of his starts.In the six starts he’s made since July began, he’s walked four batters … total, with a microscopic 2.7% walk rate, tied for second-lowest in that span (min. 5 starts)."
His ability to not give out any free passes anymore is clearly leading him to more efficient innings, which is helping him get deeper into his starts. She mentions how he averaged five innings per start coming into July, and has since averaged six and two-thirds.
She also tracks how he’s gone about attacking hitters. She showed how he went from throwing his four-seam fastball 53.2% of the time to 41.1% of the time, and how he went from throwing his slider 14.3% of the time to 24.9% of the time.
She thinks that’s been such an important decision because his slider allowed just a .243 batting average. His four-seamer was allowing a .234 batting average.
She applauds Ohtani for keeping hitters honest by not throwing a certain pitch over half the time and upping a pitch that was actually working pretty well for him. He was only allowing a .378 slugging percentage with the slider, which is just 0.001 more than that four-seam fastball.
She points out that Ohtani has now only allowed five hits in plate appearances that end with a slider from Ohtani in these last six starts.
Langs also talks about why the slider has helped him cut down on the walks:
"In his first 12 starts, he went to the four-seamer even more frequently in three-ball counts, at 62.9% of the time. And of course, fastballs are usually the go-to league-wide in such counts (64.2% for 4/2-seamers and sinkers). But in his last six starts, he’s thrown a slider 50% of the time when he’s been in a three-ball count."
Lastly, she wrote about Ohtani’s best pitch; his splitter. She points out that while he’s using it less frequently (which I suppose is because his slider has become so effective), it’s still just as filthy.
She wrote that he hasn’t allowed a hit in the last 21 plate appearances that have ended with an Ohtani splitter.
I like her overall breakdown of the splitter too:
"Overall for the year, Ohtani has allowed just an .075 batting average in at-bats ending on splitters, the lowest for any pitcher on any pitch type this year (min. 80 PA ending on pitch type). And he’s induced a 53.7% whiff rate on swings against it, eighth-highest on a single pitch type (min. 100 swings at pitch type), up there with Jacob deGrom’s slider and Craig Kimbrel’s knuckle curve."
This was truly a phenomenal article from Sarah Langs.
Ohtani has been magnificent on the bump all year, but has been lights out in particular in these last six starts.
He has now even entered Cy Young discussion, and will have another opportunity to plead his case for it in his start tonight.