Excuse the clickbait title, but Shohei Ohtani‘s 2021 is one of the most exciting campaigns in, well, perhaps ever.
According to Baseball Reference, he has accumulated 7.8 WAR, thanks to 91 runs, 94 RBI, 23 stolen bases, and 44 home runs which has produced 159 OPS+. And on the mound, the Japanese phenom has made 21 starts for 3.36 ERA (3.43 FIP) with a strikeout rate of 28.8%.
Fun fact number 1: No one has more barrels than Ohtani
You probably know that a “barrel” is a ball that comes off the bat at a blah, blah velocity and at a blah, blah launch angle. You probably also know that for a hitter, barrels are good. The top 10 barrelistas of 2021 are Max Muncy, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Aaron Judge, Pete Alonso, Rafael Devers, Fernando Tatis Jr., Salvador Perez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and top of the pile with 71 barrels is the Angels designated hitter.
Fun fact number 2: Miguel Cabrera has never had a season with more homers than Ohtani’s 44… and we still have three weeks left
The Detroit Tigers slugger is a future Hall of Famer and one of the most accomplished hitters during my baseball-watching life, but he has never hit more than 44 home runs in a season. The two-time MVP had two 44-homer seasons and eight years others with at least 30 long balls, but he never reached 45. I’m guessing Ohtani will get there by the weekend.
Fun fact number 3: Only three hitters have struck out more times this season than Ohtani
Not even Señor Báez has struck out as many times as Ohtani’s 168 this season. Matt Chapman and Adolis Garcia are just ahead, and at the top of the list is Joey Gallo. Interestingly, since shaving off his beard, Gallo is striking out at his highest rate for five years. #sabermetrics
Unbelievably, there is another Los Angeles Angels hitter with more strikeouts than Ohtani in the period since the All-Star break. Outfielder Brandon Marsh has 72 strikeouts to Ohtani’s 70 in the second half of the season.
I watch a lot of Reds games. The fact that Ohtani is better than a combination of Sonny Gray and Nick Castellanos simply blows my mind.
Fun fact number 5: With 44 home runs and 23 stolen bases, Ohtani is a fantasy baseball God.
Since the start of the century, only 65 players have had a season with at least 44 home runs. Only five of those have also swiped at least 23 bags.
Alfonso Soriano is the only player to have gone 40/40 since the year 2000. The former Yankees, Cubs and Rangers superstar hit his career-high 46 homers to go with 41 stolen bases in 2006 in his solitary season with the Washington Nationals.
Christian Yelich came second in MVP voting in 2019 despite 44 homers, 30 stolen bases and a black ink slash line of .329/.429/.671. I’m not sure Ohtani has another seven stolen bases in his legs to match Yelich’s tally.
The Evening Standard ran a piece titled “Jennifer Lopez’s ex Alex Rodriguez launches concealer for men.” How the mighty have fallen. The article failed to mention that the Yankees legend hit 54 home runs with 24 stolen bases in 2007 on his way to his third MVP award.
And the fourth of the quintet is Diamondbacks Mark Reynolds, who stole 24 bases and launched 44 dingers in 2009. Despite playing for a further 10 years, Reynolds never reached double-digit steals in a season again.
Fun fact number 6: Do you want a giggle? Some people think that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is more deserving of the MVP award.
I hope the Vladster wins the Triple Crown but comes second in MVP voting. Firstly, two-thirds of the Triple Crown elements of RBI and batting average do not do much for me. Secondly, Guerrero Jr plays in a stacked Toronto lineup while Ohtani is playing with himself (figuratively rather than literally). According to Fangraphs WAR, the second-best offensive player this season for the Angels is Mike Trout… and he hasn’t played since May 17.
And thirdly, yes, you can argue that Guerrero Jr. is having a better season with the bat, but Ohtani is a Top 40 starter as well. He’s no Wade Miley, I’ll grant you that, but 21 starts at a 3.36 ERA is ridiculous from a designated hitter.
Fun fact number 7: Ohtani’s splitter is one of the best pitches in the game
I’m no expert, but allowing only eight hits all season for a .080 batting average against his splitter seems pretty good.
Fun fact number 8: No one has been caught stealing more than Ohtani this season
Do you know how many players have stolen at least 23 bases since 2010? Of course you don’t, so I’ll tell you. It’s 247.
And I’m guessing that you don’t know how many of those 247 have a worse success rate than Othani’s 23 out of 32 attempts? I’ll tell you, it’s only 10.
As a slight detour, it was interesting to see that the most successful base stealer (min 23 SB) was Byron Buxton in 2017, with 29 bags in 30 attempts. I did not know that.
Fun fact number 9: Ohtani has played 100 more games than Mike Trout this season.
I hadn’t appreciated how many games Ohtani had played in 2021, or in how few Mike Trout had appeared. Ohtani’s 136 games represent a career-high, and Trout’s 36 games is a career-low. Preseason, neither seemed likely to set these records.
Keeping with the Ohtani/Trout theme. If the Japanese sensation clinches the AL MVP, it will be the fourth time the award has gone to Anaheim in eight years.
Fun fact number 10: You don’t hear as many people these days urging Ohtani to quit as a two-way player
Last season, Ohtani hit .190 with .291 OBP and only made two starts as a pitcher, so it is easy to sympathise with baseball bods who were sceptical about Ohtani’s 2021. The ESPN insiders opined that the Angels were more likely to reach the postseason than Ohtani was to be a two-way success. Haha.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
If you enjoyed the article, hit the share button and give Gav feedback @GavTramps. If you didn’t, he really doesn’t want to know.
While we have you, please check back through the Bat Flips and Nerds 2021 podcast library. The one featuring Russell in conversation with Blair Williams about the History of Japanese Baseball is well worth an hour of your time. Click on the photo below to take you to the download.