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Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani batting 2019.08.04(3).jpg
Ohtani with the Los Angeles Angels in 2019
Los Angeles Angels – No. 17
Pitcher / Designated hitter / Outfielder
Born: (1994-07-05) July 5, 1994 (age 27)
Ōshū, Iwate, Japan
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Professional debut
NPB: March 29, 2013, for the Hokkaidō Nippon-Ham Fighters
MLB: March 29, 2018, for the Los Angeles Angels
NPB statistics
(through 2017 season)
Win–loss record42–15
Earned run average2.52
Strikeouts624
Batting average.286
Home runs45
Runs batted in166
MLB statistics
(through May 15, 2022)
Win–loss record16–7
Earned run average3.42
Strikeouts268
Batting average.264
Home runs101
Runs batted in273
Teams
Career highlights and awards
NPB
MLB
Medals
Men's baseball
Representing  Japan
2015 WBSC Premier12
Bronze medal – third place 2015 Tokyo Team
Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani (Chinese characters).svg
Ohtani's name in kanji
Japanese name
Kanji大谷 翔平
Hiraganaおおたに しょうへい

Shohei Ohtani (大谷 翔平, Ōtani Shōhei, born July 5, 1994), nicknamed "Shotime",[2] is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher, designated hitter and outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball's (NPB) Pacific League.

Ohtani was the first pick of the Fighters in the 2012 draft. He played in NPB for the Fighters from 2013 through 2017 as a pitcher and an outfielder. Ohtani recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese pitcher and in NPB history at 165 kilometres per hour (102.5 mph). The Fighters posted Ohtani to MLB after the 2017 season, and he signed with the Angels. He won the 2018 American League (AL) Rookie of the Year Award and the 2021 AL Most Valuable Player Award. Ohtani's 2021 season was formally recognized as "historically significant" and a "major impact on the sport"[3] by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, as he became the first two-way player in the history of MLB with 10+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases as a hitter and 100+ strikeouts and 10+ pitching appearances as a pitcher in the same season while also holding at least a share of the major league lead in home runs in fourteen starts.[3] He was also the first player in MLB history to be an All-Star as both a pitcher and a hitter, as he was a starter in the 2021 All-Star Game in both capacities, as the AL's manager-selected starting pitcher (earning the win) and fan-elected starting designated hitter (as the leadoff hitter).[3]

Early life

Ohtani was born to Kayoko and Toru Otani in Ōshū, Iwate, Japan, on July 5, 1994. His mother, Kayoko, was a national-level badminton player in high school and his father worked at a local automobile manufacturing plant and was an amateur baseball player who played in the Japanese Industrial League.[4][5] The youngest of three children, he has one older sister, Yuka, and one older brother Ryuta, who is also an amateur baseball player in the Japanese Industrial League.[4] In Japan, Ohtani was known as a "yakyū shōnen" (野球少年)—a kid who lives, eats and breathes baseball.[5] Coached by his father, he displayed an aptitude for the game at an early age.[4] He began playing baseball in his second year of elementary school and as a seventh-grader, Ohtani recorded all but one of 18 outs in a six-inning regional championship game.[4][5]

Amateur career

As a teenager, Ohtani could have played baseball for any powerhouse high school team in big cities such as Osaka or Yokohama.[5] Instead, he opted to stay local, selecting Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate Prefecture, Northern Japan,[6] the same high school as pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, whom he admired;[7] Kikuchi competed there as a swimmer[8] and played baseball.[5] Ohtani's high school baseball coach, Hiroshi Sasaki, said that he was a fast swimmer who "could have made the Olympics."[9]

Under Sasaki's guidance, Hanamaki Higashi's players lived on campus, returning home for only six days a year. Sasaki would assign toilet cleaning chores to Ohtani, to teach the youth pitcher humility.[5] Ohtani threw a 160 km/h (99 mph) fastball as an 18-year-old high school pitcher. He threw the pitch in the Japanese national high school baseball championship tournament, commonly called Summer Koshien.[10] In the 2012 18U Baseball World Championship, Ohtani had an 0–1 win–loss record with 16 strikeouts, eight walks, five hits, five runs, and a 4.35 earned run average (ERA) in 10+13 innings pitched.[11][12]

Professional career

Ohtani expressed a desire to move directly to the major leagues after high school and received interest from numerous teams including the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.[10][13][14][15] On October 21, 2012, he announced that he would pursue a career in Major League Baseball rather than turn professional in Japan.[16][17] The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters decided to draft him anyway, knowing that there was a high likelihood he would not play for them. After an exclusive negotiating window between him and the Fighters, Ohtani announced that he would sign with the Fighters and spend some years in Japan before a possible MLB move.[18][19] Hokkaido said it would allow Ohtani to serve as a pitcher and position player; the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had become Ohtani's top-choice MLB team, were not prepared to let him play both ways.[20] He was assigned the jersey number 11, previously worn by Yu Darvish.[18]

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters

Rookie year (2013)

Ohtani made his debut at age 18 in the Fighters' season-opening game on March 29, 2013, playing as a right fielder.[21] He was selected for a Pacific League roster spot for the 2013 All-Star Game. As a pitcher, he finished the season with a 3–0 record in 11 starts. Ohtani was used as a rookie in both the outfield (leading the Fighters with 51 games in right) and as a pitcher.[22] He was the second Nippon Pro Baseball rookie drafted out of high school the previous year to be used as both a pitcher and position player, following Kikuo Tokunaga in 1951; Ohtani was the first to start in both roles. He was the first NPB pitcher since Takao Kajimoto in 1963 to bat 3rd, 4th or 5th and the first rookie hurler to do so since Junzo Sekine in 1950. He was the second player, following Osamu Takechi (also 1950), to start a game at pitcher, bat in the heart of the order (3rd through 5th) and get a hit and a run batted in (RBI) in that game. He missed time during the year with a right ankle sprain and right cheekbone fracture.

For the season, he was 3–0 with a 4.23 ERA, 33 walks, and 46 strikeouts in 61+23 innings. and hit .238/.284/.376 in 204 plate appearances.[23] He had seven outfield assists to one error. His 8 hit batsmen tied Manabu Mima, Tadashi Settsu, Hideaki Wakui and Ryoma Nogami for 5th in the 2013 Pacific League. Ohtani received 4 of the 233 votes for the 2013 Nippon Professional Baseball Rookie of the Year Award (Pacific League), tying Tatsuya Sato for a distant second behind Takahiro Norimoto.[24] During his five-year tenure with the Fighters, Ohtani opted to live in the team's provided dormitories, while his parents oversaw his personal finances.[5]

Second NPB All-Star selection (2014)

Ohtani batting in 2013 for the Fighters
Ohtani batting in 2013 for the Fighters

Throughout the entire season, Ohtani performed double-duty as a pitcher and outfielder, utilizing his strong throwing arm as well as his impressive batting skills. As a hitter, he batted .274, with 28 extra-base hits (including 10 home runs), 31 RBIs and a .842 on-base plus slugging percentage in 212 at-bats. As a pitcher, he was 11–4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts and struck out 179 (third in NPB) in 155.1 innings. His 10.4 K/9 was the best in the league and opponents hit just .223 against him.

In a September 7 game against the Orix Buffaloes, he homered to straightaway center at Kyocera Dome to become the first Japanese player to reach double digits in both home runs and wins.[25][26] He tossed a 1–0 shutout against Orix on September 13 and became the first pitcher out of high school to record a 1–0 shutout victory within his first two years for the Fighters since Toshiaki Moriyasu in 1967. He also became the first pitcher out of high school to notch two shutout victories within his first two years in the NPB since Yu Darvish.[27]

During the July 2014 Mazda All-Star Game, he threw a 162 km/h (101 mph) fastball in the bottom of the 1st inning, setting a new record for the fastest official pitch thrown by a Japanese pitcher, beating the record set by the Yakult Swallows' Yoshinori Sato in 2010 (161 km/h (100 mph)).[28] The jersey he wore during the game sold for 1,752,000 yen ($17,000), making it the top-seller at the All-Star 2014 Charity Auction. The proceeds were donated to three Tohoku earthquake children's relief funds.[29]

On October 5 against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Ohtani recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese pitcher in an official game, tying Marc Kroon's all-time record for NPB pitchers. The pitch came against lead-off hitter Akaminai Ginji in the 1st inning. With the count 0–1, Ohtani threw a fastball that registered 162 km/h (101 mph) on the stadium radar gun and shattered Ginji's bat in half. He also hit 162 km/h twice against the second hitter, Aoi Enomoto. Of the 15 pitches he threw in the 1st inning, eight were in the 160s; 99s in MPH.[30]

During the postseason, Ohtani was chosen to become a member of the national team, dubbed Samurai Japan, and participated in the Suzuki All-Star Series,[31] a five-game friendly competition with a squad of major leaguers. In game 1, he pitched one shutout inning in relief, retiring three consecutive batters. He started game 5 at the Sapporo Dome and, although his team ultimately lost (3–1), he wasn't charged with an earned run (he gave up two unearned), and of the 12 outs he recorded in four innings, he got seven via strikeout. He threw mostly fastballs, even clocked one at 160 km/h (99 mph), occasional curveballs, and a few forkballs in the mid-140s, including one he threw perfectly in the second inning to strike out Tampa Bay Rays star Ben Zobrist.[32]

In December, he became the 2nd player out of high school in NPB history to reach 100M yen in salary in his third year, after Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2001. His new contract more than tripled his previous salary estimated at 30M yen.[33]

Pacific League Pitcher Best Nine and ERA leader (2015)

2015 marked Ohtani's third professional season (and second full season). Though his offensive production declined somewhat (5 home runs), his performance on the mound was among the best in the league, earning him the starter role in the 2015 All-Star Game and the pitching spot in the end-of-year Pacific League Best Nine awards. Ohtani started 2015 NPB All-Star Game 1 for the PL. He went two innings and fanned two, allowing one run (on a double by Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and a single by Jose Lopez), relieved by Nishi with a 1–0 deficit. The PL would lose 8–6 but he got a no-decision. He finished the season 15–5 with a 2.24 ERA, 196 strikeouts and only 100 hits in 160+23 innings. He led the PL in ERA (.14 over Nishi), tied Wakui for the most wins and was second in strikeouts (19 behind Norimoto, though he threw 34 fewer innings). He rarely played the field but did see some action at DH, hitting .202/.252/.376 with 5 home runs in 109 at bats. He made the Best Nine as the PL's top hurler. He finished third in MVP voting again, placing behind Yanagita and Shogo Akiyama for the 2015 Pacific League MVP. Ohtani placed third in MVP voting (first among pitchers) and was one of three candidates considered for the 2015 Sawamura Award, given annually to the top pitcher in either league.[34]

Ohtani led the league in wins and winning percentage with a 15–5 record in just 22 starts, and his 2.24 ERA, 5 complete games, and 3 shutouts were also best in the league. All these stats were career bests, as were his 196 strikeouts, 0.909 WHIP, and 11 strikeouts per nine innings.[35]

Ohtani was dominant for the Japanese national team in the 2015 Premier 12. He hit 100 mph while blowing away eventual champion South Korea (10 K, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 R in 6 IP) before Norimoto relieved. Facing South Korea again in the semifinals, he was even sharper (11 K, 0 BB, 1 HB, 1 H in 7 IP). He did not give up a hit until Keun-woo Jeong singled in the 7th and had the most whiffs in a game for the first Premier 12 ever.[36] Norimoto relieved with a 3–0 lead but he and two other relievers combined to allow four in the 9th to blow it as Japan fell in a shocking defeat. He led the event in ERA (Scott Diamond had 12 innings with a 0.00 ERA to Ohtani's 13) and strikeouts (one ahead of Chun-Lin Kuo) while allowing the lowest average by a starting pitcher. He was named the All-Star SP for the event (Sho Nakata was the only other member of Samurai Japan to be picked for the All-Star team).

Pacific League Most Valuable Player and first Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize (2016)

In 104 games and 382 plate appearances in 2016, Ohtani hit 22 home runs. He also hit 18 doubles, 67 RBI, batted .322 with an OBP of .416, scored 65 runs and had 7 stolen bases. He won the Best Nine award as the designated hitter.[37] Ohtani was the same dominant pitcher on the mound. In 21 games pitched, he had a career low in ERA at 1.86. He had a 10–4 record, struck out 174 batters in 140 innings with 4 complete games and one shutout. He also won the Best Nine award as a pitcher and won the Pacific League MVP. He got nearly double as many votes as any other pitcher for the PL for the 2016 NPB All-Star Game; he had 300,025 while #2 Shota Takeda had 158,008.[38] He could not pitch in the event due to a blister on his finger but wound up starring as a designated hitter (DH).[39] In Game 1, he batted for DH Yuya Hasegawa and lined out in the 8th against Scott Mathieson. Starting at DH and hitting 5th in Game 2, he homered off Shoichi Ino in the 5th to start the PL comeback from a 3–0 deficit. He singled against Ryo Akiyoshi in the 7th and scored on a hit by Kenta Imamiya for a 4–3 lead. Coming up with a 5–4 deficit in the 8th, he singled off Shinji Tajima to bring in Shogo Akiyama with the tying run. He thus produced three of the PL's five runs in the 5–5 tie, earning him game MVP honors. He hit 165 km/h (102.5 mph) on the radar gun during the year, setting a new NPB record.[40]

He finished the year at .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances on offense and a 10–4 record and 1.86 ERA on the mound with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. He tied for 8th in the PL in wins and was third in strikeouts (behind Norimoto and Kodai Senga).[41]

He led Nippon Ham to the 2016 Japan Series, but lost the opener to the Hiroshima Carp; he fanned 11 in 6 innings but allowed 3 runs, two on a homer by Brad Eldred and one on a steal of home by Seiya Suzuki. Down 2 games to 0, he came up big as the DH in game 3, getting 3 hits, a run and a RBI. In the bottom of the 10th, he singled off Daichi Osera score Nishikawa with the winner; Nippon Ham would take the next three games to win their second Japan Series title. Teammate Brandon Laird would win the Series MVP. Ohtani hit .375/.412/.625 with four doubles, doing more on offense than on the mound for the Series.[42]

He made the Best Nine as the top pitcher and top DH in the PL. He became the first player to received the awards as both a pitcher and a hitter.[43] He topped 4-time Cuban MVP Alfredo Despaigne easily at DH (190 votes to 47; 3 others combined for 8 votes) but the vote at pitcher was closer (he had 111 of 245 votes, Ishikawa 69 and Tsuyoshi Wada 61). He was the run-away winner of the 2016 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, getting 253 of 254 first-place votes (Naoki Miyanishi got the other one) and one second-place vote. He had 1,268 vote points, to 298 for runner-up Laird.[44]

2017

In 2017, he played in 65 games, hitting .332 with 8 homers and 31 RBIs while posting a 3–2 record, a 3.20 ERA, and 29 strikeouts as a pitcher.[45] In September, it was revealed that Ohtani would ask to be posted at the end of the season in order to play in Major League Baseball in 2018. However, before that could happen, he had surgery on his right ankle in early October. The injury had originally occurred in the 2016 Japan Series, and had cost him a chance to play in the 2017 World Baseball Classic in addition to restricting his playing time during the season.[46][47] On November 21, 2017, MLB and NPB came to a posting agreement for Ohtani.[48]

Because he was under 25 years old, Ohtani was subjected to international signing rules. This capped his bonus at $3.557 million and limited him to a rookie salary scale, while the signing team also had to pay a $20 million posting fee to the Fighters. Ohtani narrowed his finalists to seven teams, signing with the Angels for a $2.315 million bonus.[49]

Los Angeles Angels

See also: 2017 Los Angeles Angels season

On December 8, 2017, Ohtani agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. The deal was finalized the next day.[50] On December 13, it was revealed that Ohtani was diagnosed with a first-degree UCL sprain in his right elbow. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat the injury.[51]

2018: AL Rookie of the Year

See also: 2018 Los Angeles Angels season

Ohtani pitching in 2018
Ohtani pitching in 2018

Prior to the start of the season, the Angels announced that they would continue to use Ohtani as both a hitter and a pitcher.[52] Ohtani started as the designated hitter on Opening Day, March 29, against the Oakland Athletics, singling in his first at bat.[53] On April 1, he made his pitching debut, striking out six batters in six innings while allowing three runs, to pick up his first MLB win.[54] On April 3, Ohtani hit his first MLB home run, a 397-foot three-run homer against Josh Tomlin.[55] On April 6, he hit his third home run in three days, becoming the first Angels rookie to do so.[56] In only his second start on the mound on April 8, Ohtani took a perfect game through 6⅓ innings before allowing a hit. Overall, Ohtani pitched seven scoreless innings while striking out 12.[57] Making his third start pitching on April 18 against the Boston Red Sox, Ohtani exited after two innings due to a blister on his right middle finger.[58] On June 6, Ohtani left the game after a blister on the same finger. Two days later, he was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his MLB career due to a Grade 2 UCL sprain in his right elbow. He received platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections to treat the injury.[59]

Ohtani was activated from the disabled list as a hitter on July 2, and went 0-for-4 against the Seattle Mariners.[60] On August 3, Ohtani hit two home runs against the Cleveland Indians, marking his first career multiple-home run game and his first two home runs in a road game.[61]

After Ohtani had not pitched for 11 weeks, Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced that Ohtani would start the game against the Houston Astros on September 2.[62] On September 7, Ohtani broke the MLB home run record by a Japanese rookie when he hit his 19th home run for the season.[63]

Ohtani ended his first major league season with a batting average of .285, a .361 on-base-percentage, 22 home runs, 61 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases. In 10 starts on the mound, he notched a 4–2 record with a 3.31 ERA, 1.16 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and 63 strikeouts.[64] His .564 slugging percentage ranked seventh overall among MLB players with at least 350 plate appearances for this season. He became the second-fastest Angels rookie to reach 20 home runs, and he joined Babe Ruth as the only MLB players with 10 pitching appearances and 20 homers in a season.[65] He also won the American League Rookie of the Month award twice; in April and in September.[66]

On September 3, 2018, ESPN announced that doctors recommended that Ohtani undergo Tommy John surgery, after an MRI showed new damage to his UCL.[67] The Angels announced on September 25 that Ohtani had agreed to the procedure, which would keep him off the mound until 2020.[68] On October 1, Angels general manager Billy Eppler announced that Ohtani underwent successful Tommy John surgery.[64] On November 12, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year.[69]

2019

Ohtani in 2019
Ohtani in 2019

See also: 2019 Los Angeles Angels season

On May 7, 2019, Ohtani played in his first game with the Angels since undergoing Tommy John surgery, batting as a designated hitter against the Detroit Tigers.[70] In a June 13 game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Ohtani became the first Japanese-born player to hit for the cycle in MLB history.[71] On September 12, Ohtani's 2019 season prematurely ended after it was revealed that he needed surgery to repair a bipartite patella. He finished the season batting .286/.343/.505 with 18 home runs, 62 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases in 106 games.[72]

2020

See also: 2020 Los Angeles Angels season

The 2020 MLB season did not start until July 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[73] On July 24, 2020, Ohtani was the first ever automatic player on second base in an official MLB game at the start of the 10th inning as part of one of the new 2020 MLB season rules in a game against the Oakland Athletics. He was thrown out in a rundown.[74]

On July 26, 2020, Ohtani returned to the mound against the Oakland Athletics, making his first pitching appearance since September 2018. He allowed five runs and was removed from the mound without recording an out, starting his season with a loss and an infinite ERA.[75] After his second start of the season against the Houston Astros, Ohtani began to experience discomfort in his right arm, and it was eventually revealed that he had a flexor strain in his right elbow after undergoing an MRI.[76] Angels manager Joe Maddon later stated that Ohtani would not pitch for the rest of the season.[77]

On the offensive side, Ohtani finished the season batting .190/.291/.366 with 7 home runs, 24 RBIs, and 7 stolen bases in 43 games.[78] The culmination of experiencing injuries in his 2019 and 2020 campaigns led to Ohtani describing feeling "frustrated" and "useless". He went on to say that while his 2019 had been disappointing, his 2020 had been "more like pathetic", because he could not pitch or hit the way he wanted to. Ohtani said, "[Until 2019], I could more or less do the things I wanted to do. I'd pretty much never experienced the feeling of wanting to do something but being completely unable to do it."[79]

2021: AL MVP

This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles, condensing it, or adding subheadings. Please discuss this issue on the article's talk page. (October 2021)

See also: 2021 Los Angeles Angels season

After the results of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Ohtani spent the offseason overhauling himself.[79][80] He adjusted his diet based on blood-sample analysis and started squatting heavy again, focusing on strengthening his lower half and bulking up to 225 pounds.[79][80] He threw bullpen sessions earlier than usual and took batting practice against live pitching, an offseason first for him.[79][80] Ohtani also embraced data and technology to optimize his training and recovery by visiting Driveline Baseball, a popular player-development destination for underperforming pitchers, where he also tinkered with a changeup.[79] Furthermore, in spring training, the Angels general manager Perry Minasian, manager Joe Maddon, and Ohtani agreed to allow Ohtani to play without limitations or restrictions and drop the "Ohtani Rules",[81] a plan the Angels mirrored from Ohtani's schedule in Japan and had implemented since his 2018 rookie season that restricted his usage to a schedule of pitching once a week and hitting only three to four times between starts.[80] Free of the "Ohtani Rules", Ohtani would be in charge of his own daily diagnostics with Maddon to determine his pitching and hitting schedule.[8]

On February 8, Ohtani agreed to a two-year $8.5 million contract with the Angels, avoiding arbitration.[82]

In his first pitching start against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday Night Baseball on April 4, 2021, he threw 4⅔ innings, allowing one earned run and two unearned runs. During that start, he struck out seven batters.[83] Additionally, Ohtani batted second in the lineup.[84] He went 1-for-3, hitting a 450-foot solo home run on the first pitch he faced.

After skipping a scheduled start against the Toronto Blue Jays due to a blister,[85] Ohtani made his second start of the season on April 20, against the Texas Rangers. Under a 75-pitch limit, he threw four scoreless innings, striking out seven batters and allowing one hit.[86] In his third start on April 26, once again against the Texas Rangers, Ohtani collected his first win of the season. He pitched five innings, allowing four runs in the first inning and striking out nine. Offensively, he went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Ohtani also became the first player in nearly 100 years to start a game on the mound while also entering the day leading the Majors in home runs. Such an event had not occurred since Babe Ruth took the mound as starting pitcher for the Yankees on June 13, 1921, leading the AL with 19 home runs.[87][88]

All-Star debut

On June 18, Ohtani was elected to the 2021 Home Run Derby, becoming both the first pitcher and the first Japanese player to do so.[89] Three days later, Ohtani was named AL Player of the Week for the third time in his career after hitting six home runs and picking up a win as starting pitcher.[90] Two weeks later, he was again named AL Player of the Week for the fourth time in his career after hitting six home runs and recording a 1.543 OPS with eight RBIs in six games to help the Angels go 5–1.[91] On June 23, he made history yet again as he hit for himself as a pitcher and the second batter in the lineup against the Giants with designated hitter rules in place, making it the first time in MLB history that an American League team chose not to use a DH while a National League team utilized one.[92]

For the first time in his career, Ohtani was named the American League Player of the Month for June, as he hit .309/.423/.889 with 13 home runs and a 1.312 OPS as a hitter and earned two wins as a pitcher.[93] On July 3 against the Baltimore Orioles, Ohtani became the first player in American League history to reach 30 home runs and 10 stolen bases in the first 81 games of the season.[94]

On July 4, Ohtani made history by becoming the first player to be selected as an All-Star as both a position player and a pitcher.[95] He had already been selected as the starting designated hitter by the fans for the 2021 All-Star Game on July 1,[96] while being voted by the players as one of five starting pitchers to make the American League roster on July 4.[95] On July 7, Ohtani hit his 32nd home run of the year, a solo shot off of Boston Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez, passing Hideki Matsui's mark in 2004, for the most home runs hit during a season by a Japanese-born player in MLB.[97] Additionally, Ohtani won the Best Major League Baseball Player ESPY Award, becoming the first Japanese player to win the award.[98]

Ohtani participated in the Home Run Derby on July 12. In the first round, he hit 22 home runs, tying him with opponent Juan Soto. A tiebreaker round saw Ohtani and Soto tied again at 28 home runs. While Soto won the round after a second tiebreaker, Ohtani set a record for the most home runs in the Derby of at least 500 feet with six.[99][100] For participating in the Derby, Ohtani received $150,000, which he proceeded to donate his earnings to approximately 30 Angels support employees to thank them for their work, which included trainers, clubhouse workers and media relations staffers. Ohtani had decided that he was going to use the money in this manner no matter what his Derby outcome was.[101]

On July 13, Ohtani made All-Star Game history again as the starting pitcher and leadoff designated hitter for the American League.[102] After pitching a perfect first inning, he also became the first player in major league history to compete in the Home Run Derby and earn a win as the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. Additionally, he became the first leadoff man to throw a 100-mph fastball in the All-Star Game.[103]

Two-way season
Ohtani in September 2021 against the Texas Rangers

On July 26, in his 15th pitching start of the season against the Colorado Rockies, Ohtani became the first pitcher in league history to register 100 strikeouts while holding a major-league-leading 35 home runs before the end of July, as no pitcher had ever recorded triple-digit strikeouts and added more than nine home runs in the same season.[104] Additionally, in the same game, Ohtani became the first pitcher to throw a scoreless top half and record a hit, a RBI, a stolen base and a scored run while playing in an AL ballpark since Luis Tiant did so for the Minnesota Twins on April 26, 1970.[105]

Ohtani would finish the month of July as the first player in Major League history to ever have at least 37 home runs and 15 stolen bases before the end of July.[106] And for the second straight month, Ohtani also earned his second American League Player of the Month Award, becoming the first back-to-back Player of the Month Award winner in either league since Chase Headley in August and September 2012, and the first in the AL since Josh Hamilton in 2012. For the month of July, he produced nine home runs, 19 RBIs, 16 walks and a .282/.396/.671 slash line in 23 games at the plate, and a 1.35 ERA with 17 strikeouts and one walk in 20 innings.[107]

On August 18, Ohtani pitched a dominant 8 innings against the Detroit Tigers, setting a career high by throwing 90 pitches to record 24 outs in eight innings while also hitting a solo homer for his 40th of the year in the eighth inning to lead the Angels to a 3–1 win. He became the first left-handed batter in Angels history to reach 40 home runs, surpassing lefty Reggie Jackson's 1982 record of 39. He also became just the fourth AL pitcher to throw at least eight innings and hit a homer in a game since the DH was instituted in 1973, joining Jon Garland in June 2006, Kris Benson in June 2006, and Bobby Witt in June 1997.[108]

Ohtani would cap off the month of August by stealing his 20th base in a game on August 28 against the San Diego Padres, becoming the first Japanese-born player[109] and the first player in Angels history to hit 40 home runs and have 20 stolen bases in the same season. He joined Alex Rodriguez in 2007 and Ken Griffey Jr. in 1999 as the 3rd AL player to accomplish this feat before September. He also became the first AL player to reach both of those totals in a season since Curtis Granderson in 2011.[110]

On September 21, after hitting his 45th home run of the season, Ohtani became the first player to hit at least 45 homers and steal 20 bases in a season since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.[111] And on September 25, Ohtani joined Willie Mays as the only players with at least 45 home runs, 20 stolen bases and six triples in a season,[112] when he hit two triples in consecutive plate appearances, becoming the first Angels player to do so since Peter Bourjos in April 2011.[113]

From September 22 to September 25, Ohtani drew 13 walks in a 4-game span, tying an AL/NL record set by Babe Ruth in 1930, Bryce Harper in 2016, and Yasmani Grandal in 2021. He drew a career-high four walks on September 22 and three walks on September 23, against the Houston Astros, followed by four more walks on September 24 and two walks on September 25 against the Seattle Mariners.[113] His 11 walks drawn in the three game span also tied the MLB record set by Harper in 2016.[114]

MVP award and other honors

The Angels announced on September 25 that Ohtani was named as both the team's Los Angeles Angels Player of the Year of 2021 and the team's Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year Award, as voted by his teammates.[115]

On September 26, Ohtani reached the 150-strikeout milestone against the Seattle Mariners and finished the year unbeaten at home, going 6–0 with a 1.95 ERA in 13 starts. Ohtani's home ERA was the lowest by an Angels starter since Jered Weaver in 2011. He also became the sixth starter in AL or NL history to make at least 13 home starts without a losing decision and an ERA below 2.00 in a season.[116] In the last game of the season against the Seattle Mariners, Ohtani passed teammate Mike Trout's 45 home runs in a single season to finish with the second-most home runs in a season in Angels history at 46, trailing only Troy Glaus' 47 home runs in 2000.[117]

For the year, Ohtani finished his pitching campaign by making 23 starts on the mound, going 9–2 with a 3.18 ERA, 156 strikeouts, 1.09 WHIP and 44 walks in 130 1/3 innings.[117] On the hitting side, Ohtani finished with an American League-leading 20 intentional walks, which was the most by an AL player since Mike Trout in 2018. Ohtani, who batted .257/.372/.592, including 46 home runs – runner-up for the MLB lead in homers, 100 RBI, 103 runs and 26 steals in 155 games and 639 plate appearances, hit several milestones to close his season, reaching both 100 RBIs and 100 runs for the first time in his career. He also tied for the MLB lead with eight triples to go along with 26 stolen bases. Ohtani became the first player in MLB history to have at least 45 homers, 25 stolen bases, 100 RBIs, 100 runs, and eight triples in a season and the second player in AL history to record at least 45 homers and 25 stolen bases in a season, joining Jose Canseco in 1998.[117] According to Baseball-Reference.com, Ohtani led the league with a wins above replacement (WAR) value of 9.1 and finished third in home runs (46), fourth in slugging percentage (.592), fifth in OPS (.965), first in triples (8), fifth in drawing walks (96), eight in stolen bases (26), second in extra base hits (80), second in intentional walks (20), fifth in OPS+ (158), and first in power-speed number (33.2).[118]

Ohtani was unanimously voted the American League Most Valuable Player, becoming the 23rd pitcher and first designated hitter to win the award.[119][120] For the 2021 All-MLB Team, Ohtani is the only player to be named to both teams, first team and second team, in the same season (as a designated hitter and starting pitcher respectively).[121] He became the first pitcher, the first Japanese player and the first Angels player to win the Edgar Martínez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.[122][123] Ohtani was also awarded the Silver Slugger Award for being the best offensive player at the designated hitter position in the American League,[124] and was named to Time 100's list of most influential people of 2021,[125] which culminated to many end-of-the-season-accolades. He was named Associated Press AP Athlete of the Year,[126] Sporting News Athlete of the Year,[127] Baseball Digest Player of the Year[128] and Baseball America Major League Player of the Year.[129] From his MLB peers he was given Sporting News Player of the Year Award,[130] Players Choice Player of the Year Award, and Players Choice American League Outstanding Player Award.[131]

Additionally, Ohtani's 2021 season was recognized for two Guinness World Records titles: (1) the first MLB player to achieve 100+ innings and record 100+ strikeouts as a pitcher, and 100+ RBIs, hits and runs as a batter in a single season and (2) the first player to start the MLB All-Star Game as a pitcher and a designated hitter.[132] He also became the 16th recipient of the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award, awarded by Commissioner Rob Manfred,[3] who formally recognized Ohtani's 2021 season as "historically significant" and "unprecedented", calling it "so special that it was important to recognize the historic achievement that took place in 2021 with an award just about 2021."[3] Ohtani was offered Japan's national honor, the People's Honour Award, by the Prime Minister of Japan in recognition of his accomplishments, but Ohtani rejected it, saying it was "still too early" for such an award.[133]

On December 22, 2021, Sporting News released the article "The 50 greatest seasons in sports history, ranked." In it, Ohtani's 2021 season was ranked No.1, topping great seasons by athletes such as Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, and Lionel Messi.[134]

2022

On March 22, 2022, Major League Baseball introduced a new rule that allows for a pitcher in the batting order to remain in the game as a designated hitter after they are pulled from the pitching mound. The rule was colloquially dubbed the "Ohtani rule" because of Ohtani's unique prowess as a two-way player.[135] The rule will enable Ohtani to remain in the game after he is done pitching at his customary designated hitter spot instead of being switched to a defensive position like the outfield, something that he did seven times in 2021.[136]

On March 25, Ohtani was named as the Opening Day starter for the Angels' 2022 season.[137] He pitched 4+23 innings against the Houston Astros, allowing one earned run and one walk while striking out 9.[138] He became the first player in MLB history to start Opening Day as both the starting pitcher and the leadoff hitter.[139] During a game against the Astros on April 20, Ohtani batted twice in the top of the first inning, becoming the first starting pitcher to do so since at least 1900. In the same game, Ohtani pitched 5+13 perfect innings before giving up a single to former teammate Jason Castro, the only hit of the game for Houston. Ohtani finished the game at 6 innings pitched with 1 hit, no runs, and 1 walk surrendered and 12 strikeouts, tying his career high. On offense, he went 2-4 with a run and 2 RBIs.[140] Pitching against the Texas Rangers on April 14, Ohtani gave up his first-ever career grand slam against Jonah Heim in an eventual 10-5 loss by the Angels. Coincidentally, it was also the first-ever grand slam hit by Heim.[141]

Against the Boston Red Sox on May 5, 2022, Ohtani, while hitting third and making his first career start on the mound at Fenway Park, became the first starting pitcher to bat in one of the top four spots in a game at Fenway since Babe Ruth did so on Sept. 20, 1919. He threw seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in the Angels' 8-0 victory over the Red Sox, while also going 2-for-4 from the plate and a RBI single in the eighth inning to become the second starting pitcher to ever record a hit at Fenway after Roger Clemens in 1996, since the implementation of the designated hitter in 1973.[142]

Ohtani recorded two home runs, including a grand slam, on May 9, 2022 against the Tampa Bay Rays, marking the second time of the 2022 season and the eighth time in his career for Ohtani to record a multi-homer game, surpassing Ichiro Suzuki for the most by a Japanese-born player in MLB history,[143] while also going 3-for-4 and a career-high five RBIs. The grand slam was the first of his professional career, including both NPB and MLB.[144] On May 14, 2022 Ohtani hit his 100th career MLB home run, making him the third Japanese-born player with at least 100 homers in the majors, trailing only Hideki Matsui with 175 and Ichiro Suzuki with 117. Ohtani also joined Babe Ruth as the only players with at least 100 home runs and at least 250 strikeouts as a pitcher.[145]

International career

2012 WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup

Ohtani was selected to Japan's Under-18 National Team that eventually finished in sixth place at the 18U Baseball World Championship in Seoul, Korea.

2015 WBSC Premier12

In the 2015 Premier12, Ohtani earned a bronze medal with the Samurai Japan National Baseball Team. He was the ace of Japan's pitching staff, which featured Kenta Maeda. As the number one starter, Ohtani made two pitching appearances for Japan, both against the Republic of Korea, winning Game 1 of the opening round and getting a no-decision in the semifinals. Ohtani was subsequently named to the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation All-World Team and was named the 2015 WBSC Baseball Player of the Year.[146]

2017 World Baseball Classic

Ohtani was on the 28-man roster for the Japan National Baseball Team of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but was forced to withdraw due to an ankle injury.[147]

Awards and achievements

Awards and exhibition team selections

MLB
Media

Statistical achievements

American League statistical leader
Category Times Seasons
Intentional base on balls leader 1 2021
Triples leader 1 2021
At bats per home run leader 1 2021
Power–speed number leader 1 2021
Wins above replacement leader 1 2021
Win probability added leader 1 2021
Notes:
Per Baseball-Reference.com. Through 2021 season.

Playing style

Pitching

Ohtani is a 6-foot-4-inch (1.93 m), 210-pound (95 kg) right-handed starting pitcher.[149] With an overhand delivery,[150] he throws a four-seam fastball averaging 97 miles per hour (156 km/h)[149] topping out at 102.5 mph (165 km/h),[151] an 86–88-mile-per-hour (138–142 km/h) forkball/split-finger fastball[152][153] with late diving action,[154] an occasional curveball, and a solid slider at 82–84 miles per hour (132–135 km/h).[155] He posted a walks per nine innings rate of 3.3 across his NPB career.[156] Ohtani has been compared to Justin Verlander by some MLB scouts[157] with his ability and affinity to throwing harder in high-leverage spots and later in games.[158] Whereas most pitchers throw only a little harder in big spots than they do in normal ones and most pitchers lose speed as the game goes on, Ohtani, like Verlander, are both able to reserve power and staying power in order to conserve energy without throwing max effort on every offering.[158]

Batting and fielding

Ohtani is a left-handed batter. He is a designated hitter and occasional outfielder known for being able to hit with homerun power.[118] As a baserunner, Ohtani's sprint speed and feet-first sliding technique have allowed him to be a league leader in stolen bases, bunt hits and infield-hit rate.[158] Scouts have timed Ohtani running from the batter's box to first base in as little as 3.8 seconds.[159] For the 2021 season, his 28.8 feet-per-second sprint speed ranked in the 92nd percentile of all players, as did his 3.51 second 80-foot split[160] and he also recorded the fastest home to first average sprint time in the Majors at 4.09 seconds,[158][161] while recording a career-high 26 stolen bases.[117]

Shinzo Abe awarding Shohei Ohtani the Prime Minister Trophy at the 2018 Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize Award Ceremony
Shinzo Abe awarding Shohei Ohtani the Prime Minister Trophy at the 2018 Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize Award Ceremony

Personal life

Since gaining national and international attention as a high school phenom, Ohtani is Japan's most celebrated athlete[5] and has faced intense media pressure scrutiny with the Japanese press his whole adult life.[18] Due to the high-profile nature of his two-way efforts, the Fighters protected Ohtani from some of the media onslaught, while Ohtani tended to keep to the team dormitory and the gym, and didn't obtain a driver's license until 2020,[162] leading a semi-monastic, baseball-centric existence, a byproduct for holding down two jobs in the big leagues and doing both at an elite level.[18]

While not fluent, Ohtani can speak English and knows Spanish, and prefers to speak to the media through an interpreter, translating his native Japanese to English.[163] Ippei Mizuhara is Ohtani's personal interpreter with the Los Angeles Angels and has known him since Ohtani was 18, starting in 2013 during Ohtani's days with the Fighters.[164] Mizuhara's role as Ohtani's personal interpreter ranges from confidante to conditioning coach and throwing partner, to making sure Ohtani understands, and is understood.[165] The interpreter steps into any number of sub-duties, including Ohtani's agenda—preparation, play, recovery, media availability, breaking down advanced analytics and recovery timetables between Ohtani and the Angels organization.[165] After Ohtani joined the Angels, Mizuhara suggested to Ohtani, as an icebreaker, to combine his hobby of playing video games, by downloading Clash Royale, with the rest of the clubhouse.[165][166]

When Ohtani announced in September 2017 that he wanted to pursue a career in MLB,[45] he signed with CAA Sports for representation. Ohtani is represented by agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports since 2017.[167] Ohtani was then listed in Forbes 30 under 30 Asia class of 2018 in the field of Entertainment & Sports.[168]

For his historic campaign in 2021, Ohtani was named to Time 100's list of most influential people of 2021 [125] and awarded the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award by Commissioner Rob Manfred.[3] Additionally, Ohtani's 2021 season was recognized for two Guinness World Records titles: (1) the first MLB player to achieve 100+ innings and record 100+ strikeouts as a pitcher, and 100+ RBIs, hits and runs as a batter in a single season and (2) the first player to start the MLB All-Star Game as a pitcher and a designated hitter.[132] Ohtani was also offered Japan's national honor, the People's Honour Award, by the Prime Minister of Japan in recognition of his accomplishments, but Ohtani rejected it, saying it was "still too early" for such an award.[133]

Endorsements

On July 20, 2021, Ohtani signed an exclusive multiyear memorabilia deal with Fanatics.[169]

In 2021, Ohtani had an estimated MLB league-leading $6 million in annual endorsement deals, which included Asics, Descente, Japan Airlines, Nishikawa Co., and Seiko Watch in Japan and Hugo Boss, New Era, Panini, Fanatics, Oakley and Topps in the United States.[170] On November 16, 2021, it was announced that Ohtani joined cryptocurrency exchange FTX as a global ambassador,[171] partnering on various animal charitable initiatives.[172]

As of April 2022, Ohtani endorsement earnings tripled from 2021 to an estimated MLB league-leading $20 million off the field, proving to be a marketing hit on both sides of the Pacific, with a group of 15 partnerships that included renewals among his partners Fanatics, Topps and Panini in the U.S. and Asics, Descente and Hugo Boss in Japan, as well as new deals with FTX, Kowa, Mitsubishi Bank and Salesforce.[173]

Ohtani is the cover athlete of MLB The Show 22[174] and is the first Asian player to be featured as the cover star of MLB: The Show, as well as the first Asian athlete to be featured on the cover of a video game in the United States centered on the four major sports.[175] On February 9, 2022, Ohtani appeared in the Nintendo Direct to promote MLB The Show 22, as it was the first installment in the franchise to appear on a Nintendo console. In the direct, two versions of Ohtani, one in hitting gear, the other in pitching gear, stood side by side holding devices. The use of Ohtani to promote it was seen as tying to his Japanese nationality, as Nintendo is based in Japan.[176]

See also

Notes

References

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Further reading

Achievements Preceded byJorge Polanco Hitting for the cycle June 13, 2019 Succeeded byJake Bauers Awards Preceded byMarcus Semien American League Player of the Month June & July 2021 Succeeded byJosé Abreu