Shohei Ohtani's pitching struggles should not be of concern yet
Last night was a strange one for Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani. He had a monster game at the plate, recording four hits, drawing a walk, and finishing a double shy of the cycle. That part was great, but Ohtani struggled on the mound, allowing five runs in seven innings of work. The length was great, and the team won, but watching Ohtani give up runs has become a little too customary of late.
Ohtani is going through the worst pitching slump in his MLB career, and perhaps his entire professional career. He's allowed three or more runs for the fourth consecutive start. Ohtani had never done this in three straight in his MLB career, and now he's done it in four.
After posting a 0.64 ERA in his first five starts of the season, Ohtani was looking like the best pitcher in all of baseball. It felt like he didn't have his best stuff, yet he was still mowing down the competition. While things have taken a massive turn in the wrong direction, I still don't think it's super concerning yet.
LA Angels fans shouldn't panic over Shohei Ohtani pitching struggles
It's no secret that what's hurting Ohtani is the home run ball. He's given up eight home runs in his last four starts including three yesterday in Baltimore. That is undoubtedly going to have to change for Ohtani to be successful, and when looking at his body of work, it will.
Shohei gave up just 14 home runs last season and 15 in 2021. He's allowed just 1.0 home run per nine in his MLB career. When right, Ohtani is very hard to square up and go deep against.
Even amidst these struggles, Ohtani hasn't given up more than six hits in a start during this rough stretch. He hasn't walked more than two and he hasn't gone fewer than five innings. The best part is, the Angels are 3-1 in these starts.
I believe the problem is simply location, particularly with his sweeper. For those saying Ohtani is overusing the pitch, he used it just 27% of the time yesterday. He allowed two home runs against it and has allowed five longballs against that pitch because he simply hasn't located it well enough.
Even with his troubles locating, opponents are hitting just .138 with a .162 xBA against that pitch this season. It is one of, if not his best pitch, and is one he should be throwing even with these struggles. Once he stops leaving one or two sweepers per game in the middle of the plate, you'll get back to seeing the Shohei Ohtani we all know and love.
If Ohtani was getting battered around I'd be much more concerned. Ohtani leaving a couple of pitches per game over the middle of the plate obviously isn't ideal, but is fixable for a guy who's as talented as Shohei is. He's not allowing ten hits per game.
After a rough beginning to yesterday's game, Ohtani retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. The one batter he did not get out of course hit a home run, but Shohei showed for most of this game that he's just fine. For now, let's trust the guy who finished fourth in the AL Cy Young balloting last season to get out of this funk.