We all know that Shohei Ohtani is amazing, or at least this homer does. After his elbow injury on June 6th, I plunged deep into a nightmare. The water was warm. He missed the remainder of the month and came back a bit slow. After the All-Star Break, his sole purpose was to simply DH. And it was beautiful. Ohtani could be an elite bat if he were to focus just on that. His (hitter) scouting report said he has 70-grade power that’s effortless with a smooth stroke and 45-grade hit tool that is largely due to some swing-and-miss tendencies. But, you have to understand… he’s a top-tier pitcher who obsesses over film. There are few in the league that study more than him; his work ethic is legendary. When can one focus on being a better hitter while you are trying to pitch against 9 other hitters each week?
Hitting is hard preparing for the opposing pitcher each day. Imagine how hard it is studying the other lineup to pitch against during that same time. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about… I mean he, that HE will never fully tell you about. But what if, just for one season, all he had to do was swing a freakin’ bat at some freakin’ juiced balls behind a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, Michael Nelson Trout. What could he do if he was given the time to smooth those rough edges and make adjustments to his approach? It’s pretty clear. The answer is fewer people to prepare against. Less divided prep. More attention to his swing. Caring for himself and his plate discipline, too. Just starting his life… as a pure hitter.
|2018 1st Half||.283||.365||.522||.239||.377||144|
|2018 2nd Half||.287||.357||.596||.309||.399||158|
Last year in the second half he shifted to focusing purely on hitting. As you see there is a noticeable bump in quality of contact: his SLG, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ (weighted runs created) all increased. After bottoming out in June due to injury his exit velo climbed each month from 89.0 to 92.7. His HardHit% climbed from a low 37.5% to 58.7% in September. He hit 3 HR in July, 6 in August, and 7 in September. While totaling only 6 from April to June. Free your mind and your bat will follow.
|2018 vs RHP||.313||.362||.387||.656||.344||.433|
|2018 vs LHP||.222||.323||.300||.354||.131||.289|
Last year, he struggled vs LHP while feasting on RHP slugging a ridiculous .656 with a .344 ISO for the season! Let that sit on your palate for a minute. Savor those fruity notes. For comparison, last year vs RHP Trout had a .338 ISO and Yelich had a .281 ISO. That is really good. So we know he hit righties hard, did he improve against lefties? He went from .157 to .254 vs LHP in the 2nd Half when he shifted to only hitting. There’s improvement! Optimism like that is a revolutionary act.
|2019 vs RHP||.269||.281||.330||.516||.247||.353|
|2019 vs LHP||.311||.462||.396||.511||.200||.382|
This year he has improved against lefty pitchers (albeit a small sample size) further. The wonky BABIPs will balance out more to the lines he had last year as he gets more balls in play; but, there is a clear improvement vs LHP. Ichiro came over already a polished professional bat 27 years old, Ohtani is only 24 (soon to be 25). He is still learning and developing. Early last year he learned to reduce his leg kick to a toe-tap helping a ton for him to handle the inside cheese. Now continuing into this year he is reading lefties much better. He’s making the key adjustments.
May represents extended spring training for him after rehabbing from surgery. June is essentially the beginning of his season. Look at how massive of an improvement that is for him as he builds up to mid-season form. Barrel% 8.8 to 16, FB% 8.8 to 16 are all showing signs of improvement. It is a bit peculiar (word of the day!) that his FB% is so low compared to 24% last year like his avg launch angle that’s under 2 compared to 12.3 last year. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna do what you all think I’m gonna do, and you know, FLIP OUT! When I broke it down game by game, you see a wide swinging range (pun points!) so it’s not a completely different approach. My guess is his consistency will increase and LA will approach what he put up last year.
In his time of being exclusively a hitter, Ohtani has a line of 57/24/69/11/.283/.351/.554 in 376 PAs. Over a full season of 600 PAs that equates roughly 80/33/95/15/.283. That’s basically the career average of Paul Goldschmidt. He’s a young star just entering his prime sitting in a clubhouse including Trout and Pujols he can talk to for hitting advice. Give me some of that. Are you ready Jerry? Show me the money. Show. Me. The. Money. SHOHEI THE MONEY!