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June 18, 2024

Shohei Ohtani is having the greatest baseball season ever

By JOSH FELTON | September 4, 2021


Merson / CC BY-SA 2.0

Los Angeles Angels pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani is having the greatest baseball season ever.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani entered the league in 2017 as the most hyped baseball prospect since Bryce Harper. The moment he agreed to a deal with the Angels, the baseball community knew what time it was.

Unless you were alive 100 years ago, you have never seen anything like what Ohtani has done this year. Ohtani is the first two-way star baseball has seen since Babe Ruth over a century ago, and even Ruth was not this dominant as a two-way player in his career. For all of modern baseball history, players have specialized in one particular aspect of the game: pitching or hitting. Position specialization has made it to where baseball players are either great at pitching or great at hitting, no in-between. Ohtani is breaking the norm of baseball and making it look easy.

This season Ohtani has been putting on a show. As of the publication of this article, Ohtani has surpassed 40 home runs on the year and is the first player to do so this season. Ohtani is the fourth player in Angels franchise history to accomplish such a feat, putting his name with his all-time-great teammate Mike Trout. Ohtani’s the only left-hander to do so for the Angels. Not only is he crushing homers every week, but he has 22 stolen bases on the season, making him the second-fastest player to reach 40 homers and 15 stolen bases in MLB history. The only player in Major League history to do it in fewer team games was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998.

Noticing a trend here? Ohtani’s season is comparable to some of baseball’s greatest players.

We are witnessing the greatest season in baseball history.

To add to his incredible season, Ohtani is second in the American League in on-base plus slugging (OPS) and first in slugging percentage, meaning he is getting on base with unbelievable efficiency and hitting the ball with force. When it comes to greatest hitting seasons in baseball, 2004 Barry Bonds is at the top of the list. Ohtani is hitting a home run every nine at-bats, the fastest pace since Bonds in ‘04.

Now onto his pitching.

If Ohtani pitched enough innings he would certainly be in contention for the Cy Young Award. Ohtani has an adjusted OPS of 161 and an adjusted earned run average (ERA) of 148 this season. For context, this would be the equivalent of combining the average season from Mickey Mantle and Pedro Martinez into one player. Ohtani this season is 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA, which is near the top of the league. Among pitchers with over 100 innings in the American League, Ohtani is eighth in wins above replacement (WAR) and fifth in strikeout rate, and he ranks fourth in OPS in the MLB. He is near the top of the leaderboard in nearly every major statistic for both hitting and pitching.

As for the Babe Ruth comparisons, he retired over a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. As a result, the talent gap back then was not as distinct as it is now. The average velocity of a fastball in the 1920s was around 85 mph; now it is 93. Ruth was the best baseball player of his time, and he is arguably the greatest baseball player ever. He has left behind one of the biggest legacies in professional sports, but Ohtani has taken Ruth’s two-way play a step further than even he could imagine in a league with overall improved talent.

It’s a shame that Ohtani’s season is being somewhat overlooked by the national media because of the Angels' abysmal record; what he is doing is not only good for the game of baseball, it is unprecedented and marvelous to witness.

Cherish what we are witnessing by Shohei Ohtani. This is the greatest season in baseball history.

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