LA Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani is a lot of things. He’s an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, a former Rookie of the Year, and of course an MVP. However, there is still one more individual title Ohtani has yet to add to his ledger, Cy Young winner.
Due to having substantially less innings pitched than the rest of the competition, it was assumed that Ohtani would never be in serious contention for the Cy Young.
However, while it’s true that Ohtani will still finish behind the AL’s top starters in innings pitched, his utter dominance on the mound this season may be too much for voters to ignore.
2022 could very well be the year Shohei Ohtani wins his first Cy Young Award with the LA Angels.
First, before getting into his actual performance, let’s address the innings problem and why it stands as the biggest obstacle in Shohei Ohtani’s quest to win the first Cy Young Award of his career and the first for any LA Angels pitcher since Bartolo Colon in 2005.
Innings pitched is obviously a major factor when it comes to deciding who will win the Cy Young. Since the award’s inception in 1956, only four starting pitchers (in non-shortened seasons) have ever won the award with less than 200 innings pitched.
The good news, though, is that all four have come in the last eight seasons, including both winners in 2021, with reigning NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes’ 167 innings pitched being the lowest total ever by a starting pitcher in a normal season. Plus, Carlos Rodon managed a fifth-place finish in last year’s AL Cy Young voting despite only having 132.2 innings pitched across 24 starts.
Clearly, as starters are tossing fewer innings than ever, voters are starting to put less emphasis on it as a deciding factor. Case in point, no one in the American League even reached 200 innings pitched in 2021.
Keeping that in mind, with 13 starts and 74 innings already this year, Ohtani is on pace for around 28 starts and roughly 150-160 innings pitched. Even if he falls short of officially qualifying for the final leaderboards, this total should still be enough to convince voters to not completely overlook him like in 2021 (23 starts, 130.1 IP) when he was completely shutout with zero votes.