If the thought of Shohei Ohtani the hitter has made you hyped for the 2022 season, don’t forget that this is only half of the equation. Like his offensive numbers, Ohtani’s pitching stats were incredible last year, and fortunately it doesn’t look like that is going to change anytime soon.
Another Cy Young caliber season may be in store for Shohei Ohtani if the projections are right.
- ZiPS: 21 GS, 111.7 IP, 3.63 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 132 K, 10.6 K/9, 42 BB, 3.4 BB/9, 2.4 WAR
- Steamer: 28 GS, 165 IP, 3.70 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 192 K, 10.48 K/9, 57 BB, 3.13 BB/9, 3.1 fWAR
- 2021 Stats: 23 GS, 130.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 156 K, 10.77 K/9, 44 BB, 3.04 BB/9, 3.0 fWAR
Like with his hitting projections, Ohtani’s pitching numbers are all incredibly similar to his production in 2021. However, more so than with hitting, pitching projections tend to be even more conservative, meaning that Ohtani is set for an even greater leap forward in terms of pitching quality in 2022 if these numbers are accurate.
To get a sense of just how cautious these projections are, let’s look at how two of the league’s best pitchers currently fare in them.
Going by Steamer, Gerrit Cole currently leads all AL starters with a projected 3.29 ERA, while Jacob deGrom is the only starter in all of baseball with a projected ERA below 3 (there were eight qualified starters with sub-3 ERA’s last year). Cole and deGrom are also the only two starters projected to have above 5 fWAR, even though there were seven such pitchers last year.
So rest assured, if you think Ohtani being marked for an ERA in the high 3’s or a fWAR in the low 3’s is something to worry about, don’t be. Ohtani’s projected 3.70 ERA is still the ninth best in the AL, while his 3.1 fWAR is tied for seventh, easily making him a top-10 pitcher in the league.
Another significant thing to point out are his starts and innings totals. ZiPS is a bit closer to what you’d expect from a cautious estimate, but Steamer is predicting a much bigger year for Ohtani.
With a full, healthy season under his belt, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ohtani get a bit more leeway with regards to his overall workload. Whether that’s pitching deeper into games with pitch counts regularly topping 100 (he only did this four times in 2021), or skipping fewer starts due to fatigue, there are plenty of ways in which Ohtani can reach 28 starts and 165 innings pitched next season.
Considering that Ohtani was snubbed by the AL Cy Young voters last year due to his lack of starts and innings, this bodes incredibly well for his chances of adding yet another award to his mantle.
Speaking of awards, unsurprisingly, these projections make Ohtani the early favorite to repeat as AL MVP in 2022. ZiPS has him finishing with 6.3 zWAR, while Steamer is slightly better at 6.6 fWAR.
Not only are both of these the highest totals in the American League (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is second in both with 5.9 zWAR and 6.1 fWAR), but they are also better than the actual fWAR totals of the players who finished second-fifth in 2021 AL MVP voting.
Just think about that for a second. The conservative, baseline estimates for how ShoTime will perform in 2022 are already better than how the rest of the AL’s top players actually performed last year.
If there is nothing else you take away from all this, just remember that in a time of great uncertainty, there is one thing we can be certain of; Shohei Ohtani is, and will continue to be, the best baseball player on the planet.