The Shohei Ohtani Show has been grossly underwhelming thus far. Sure, it’s just spring training and usually these games don’t matter too much, but it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the struggles that Ohtani is having adapting to Major League Baseball.
Ohtani, the 23-year-old phenom dubbed the Japanese Babe Ruth because he can pitch and hit, was one of the biggest stories of the offseason, picking the Angels and hoping to play as both a pitcher and DH. The results thus far? Meh.
He’s already shown that as a hitter he can’t keep up with big-league pitching. But at least he was a good pitcher, right? After his start Friday, it’s fair to doubt that too. The Colorado Rockies torched Ohtani on Friday, scoring seven runs against him in the second inning, including two homers. In total, Ohtani gave up seven hits, got only four outs and didn’t make it out of the second inning, even though he was scheduled to go deeper into the game. Ouch.
His spring stats thus far, aren’t thrilling:
Shohei Ohtani's spring so far: 8 1/3 innings, 18 hits, 17 runs, 15 earned runs, 19 strikeouts, 3 walks, 4 HRs. #Angels (Corrected K total)
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) March 16, 2018
That’s a 16.21 ERA for those keeping spring stats at home. And if you are, Ohtani prefers you didn’t.
While Ohtani shows great stuff at times, he also has a tough time getting big-league hitters out. And let’s be honest here: Sometimes 23-year-old pitchers have that problem, whether they’re Japanese stars coming to America or they’ve come up through the normal MLB pipeline.
If Ohtani were another 23-year-old Angels rookie, we all know what would happen: He’d start the season in Triple-A. But the Angels would have quite a bit of egg on their face if they did that — just because the hype has been so massive. There would be no shame in that, though. Starting the season in Triple-A doesn’t make Ohtani a bust, if it’s the best thing for him as a player, which should be the Angels’ chief concern.
Ohtani needs more seasoning on both ends of his game. The Angels would benefit from it long-term and so would Ohtani. A move like that could even stall his major-league service clock for a bit. But this wouldn’t be service-time manipulation, it would be aiding a player who is showing that he needs it.
It would be quite a surprise if the Angels did send Ohtani to the minors, but after Friday’s outing, maybe it’s for the best.
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