Cy Young Award” and “Silver Slugger Award”…Shohei Ohtani of the Angels explodes into a “supreme double crown winner”!
There is still a lot of room for growth!
He seems to go straight up until about halfway through, and then he just keeps running away from it.
The “most troublesome pitch” of Shohei Ohtani (28), as described by hard-hitting players who competed against each other in Japan such as Eito Asamura (32) of Rakuten, is neither a fastball of over 160 km/h nor a fast fork, but a “slider that slides sideways. This magical pitch has now been renamed the “sweeper,” and it is making Major Leaguers nervous.
The “batting average is a mere 0.063, and the percentage of pitches missed, struck out, or fouled off is about 54%. It has become Ohtani’s most manageable and confident ball. This season, he has thrown a sweeper on about 50% of his pitches, or one out of every two pitches,” said Atsushi Yamaguchi, an analyst with the sports data analysis company Next Base.
The name “sweeper” comes from the fact that it slides across the home base like a sweep. Yamaguchi is astonished: “It averages 44 cm, which is about 10 cm more change than the slider he threw last season.
The sweeper is a special pitch that accounts for only 4% of all pitches in the majors, and probably most of them are by Otani. So he is consciously throwing more pitches. Compared to last season, the percentage of sweepers has increased by 10%,” Yamaguchi said.
Ohtani also has a two-seam that bends nearly 40 cm in the opposite direction from his sweeper. The amount of change, 80 cm in both directions, has resulted in three wins and a 0.64 earned-run average in five games pitched.
Nachi Tomonari, a writer with 30 years of experience covering the majors, also focuses on his “wife.
The pitch clock was introduced this season to shorten the game time, and the regular catcher was rookie Ohtani (23), which worked out well. Last season, there were many times when the catcher would shake his head and rearrange the signs, but this season there were none. The reduced stress between the batteries has resulted in high tempo pitching.”
Taku Kawamura, an associate professor at Tsukuba University, says that while the pitcher Ohtani is already a dominant pitcher, the hitter Ohtani “still has a lot of room to grow.
When Otani pulls hard on an inside pitch, the ball doesn’t go up very far. Major league pitchers noticed this and increased their inside pitching. Right now, Ohtani is in the stage of adjusting to the change in his offensive approach. That is why his five homers are going so well. He has the image of a heavy hitter, but he needs to increase his contact rate, increase his doubles and triples, and as a result, increase his home runs. That would be the ideal form. When he starts hitting long balls to left field, you know he’s got the engine going.
Yamaguchi notes that Ohtani’s “angle is a little smaller than it was in 2009, when he hit 46 homers.
However, this season, the percentage of hit ball angles (8 to 32 degrees) that tend to result in hits is the highest ever. Originally, his batted ball velocity was one of the best in the majors. If the angle increases, home runs will increase, but strikeouts will also increase. We think he is focusing on batting to increase his batting average and long-ball rate.”
The Cy Young Award and the Silver Slugger Award are given to the top pitcher. Otani is aiming for the “supreme double crown” in the shortest possible time.
From the May 12 and 19, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
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