Shohei Ohtani, the “Two-Handed Warriors”, has an unexpected Achilles’ heel that pundits dare to fear. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Shohei Ohtani, the “Two-Handed Warriors”, has an unexpected Achilles’ heel that pundits dare to fear.

Shohei Ohtani is on a roll, going 7-0 with 59 strikeouts and 7 homers in 30 games!

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Always trial and error. The height of his elbow and the position of his release are believed to have been changed in order to “increase the curve of his breaking ball.

Shohei Ohtani of the Angels (28) has continued to show his “two-faced, unrivaled ability.

In 30 games since the season opener, he has a .295 batting average with seven homers. As a pitcher, he is 4-0 with a 2.54 earned-run average, and his 59 strikeouts are the best in the American League (as of May 8).

He is on track to become the first Japanese player to win both the Cy Young Award and the Silver Slugger Award, the ultimate double crown.

However, sportswriter Nachi Tomonari points out a “pitfall.

The physical fatigue of competing in two sports for an entire season is unimaginable,” he said. In fact, the year before last, he became exhausted at the end of the season and avoided pitching from the latter half of September onward. Last year, the fatigue affected the hitters as well, and they stopped hitting home runs after September 11.

Taku Kawamura, an associate professor of physical education at the University of Tsukuba, believes that Otani is aware of his “weakness.

“This season, Ohtani has been getting strikes with a slow curveball when batters are trying to hit a fastball or when they are waiting to see what will happen. I feel that he is trying to “save energy in his pitching. I think he throws a lot of sweepers, which have a low batting average, in order to get strikes with a small number of pitches.

Although there was a disadvantage to pitching more sweepers, which have a large change in pitch count with an average of 44 cm, in that it doubled his walk rate, Tomonari said, “Otani steps up his game when runners are on base. His 84.7% ground-ball rate and 13.62 strikeout rate are tops in the league,” he said tongue-in-cheek.

Atsushi Yamaguchi, an analyst with the sports data analysis company Next Base, pointed out that, while the team was able to alleviate fatigue by pitching with more consistency, “The problem lies in the straight ball, which is the foundation of pitching.

The quality of the four-seam pitch needs improvement. It is not what is called a “stretchy straight. The vertical change that makes hitters feel as if the ball is floating is called the ‘hop’ component, and Ohtani’s ball hops only 38 cm, 3 cm less than the major league average. Last year, Verlander of the Mets (40), who won the Cy Young Award, had a hop of just under 50 cm.

Since there has been no sign of improvement in the past two or three years, some have suggested that Yamaguchi’s right elbow may not be good. However, Yamaguchi says, “What is certain is that there is still room for improvement in the Otani pitcher.

If he throws a floaty four-seam while maintaining the accuracy of his change, such as a sweeper, he would be an untouchable pitcher.

The “surprising Achilles heel” is also “the last piece to the ultimate double crown.

Ohtani, chewing on a banana and looking frightened, has been on a roll since the WBC, and his every move has been newsworthy this season.

From the May 26, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

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