When Shohei Ohtani burst on the scene as a two-way player in 2018, naturally, the comparisons to Babe Ruth began. No player had done what Ruth did until Ohtani came along.
The accolades came pouring in for this incredibly talented player who was doing things that no one had done since the early 20th century.
When Ruth was acquired by the Yankees before the 1920 season, it was determined his hitting greatly outweighed his value as a pitcher, so he became a full time position player and pitched only five times during his tenure in New York. How did that work out?
Ohtani may have reached that point as well.
Ohtani has become one of the game’s most dangerous hitters. He’s a lethal combination of power and speed who can “wreck” the game from the batter’s box.
Ohtani last pitched on August 23rd, when he lasted only and inning and a third. Afterwards, it was revealed that he sustained a UCL tear in his elbow. He tried to continue playing but suffered an oblique injury that shut him down in the first week of September.
Ohtani underwent a “successful procedure” on his elbow last week (may have been his second Tommy John surgery but his camp is not using that term) and will solely be a hitter next season.
Is it really worth it to have Ohtani keep pitching if it’s going to affect his hitting? Yes, Ohtani pitching and hitting is great for the game but as you saw this season, the workload was already starting to wear on the 29-year old.
There was always some logistical concerns when using Ohtani as a two-way player. The Angels kept the right handed pitcher on extended rest (pitching every 6th day, instead of five) so depth in the rotation is needed to accommodate his usage, even when he’s been healthy. The Angels have struggled finding consistent pitching which is why Ohtani was their ace in the first place.
Ohtani was expected to get a record setting contract, maybe as much as $500 million dollars in free agency, but this injury has to be a concern for a team that may be interested in his services. Ohtani joined the Angels in part because they were one team that was going to allow him to hit and pitch. Will any potential suitors approach it the same way?
Ohtani’s reps are insisting that their client will continue to be a two-way player in the future, but he won’t pitch in 2024. Do you pay him on the premise that he will return to being a two-way player in 2025 and beyond?
The consensus is labeling the Dodgers as the favorite to sign him this winter, but at what price. The Giants, who were in play for Aaron Judge last winter, will be in the mix and you can get be sure that reports of perceived interest by teams like the Mets and Yankees will begin to be posted. The Japanese superstar reportedly prefers to play on the West Coast, so there’s some doubt that the local teams would even have a chance to sign him.
There has been some who have suggested making Ohtani a closer. If he’s in the lineup as a DH, there could be a problem with him getting time to warm up to close a game. Let’s say its the bottom of the eighth. Ohtani’s team has a one run lead and he’s due up in the inning. How can he warm up to pitch the ninth?
It was inevitable that Ohtani would have to give up pitching at some point because he is one of the best hitters in the sport. This injury could speed up that progression.