Will the man still grow? Shohei Ohtani (28) of the Angels stunned the baseball world with his No. 18 home run on June 11, when, with three runs in the bottom of the third inning, he perfectly caught a low inside slider thrown by the Mariners’ Woo (23) and smashed it into the light stands.
If you miss it, it’s a ball. If you miss it, it’s a ball,” said Wu, 23, of the Mariners. “He made that difficult pitch a home run, so there was no way for the other team to get rid of it. He has hit seven homers in his last 12 games, putting him on pace for 44 homers in a season (as of June 13), close to the record of 46 set in 2009.
Behind the strong performance is a “change” that has been introduced this season. Sportswriter Nachi Tomonari reveals.
Until April, he had difficulty hitting long balls, often hitting home runs just short of the fence or losing speed at the end of the game. So, in mid-May, I changed my stance to one in which I was slightly bent at the waist so that the power of my lower body would be more easily transmitted to the bat. As a result, the number of oversized home runs in the 135-meter class, which are synonymous with his name, has increased. In fact, Otani has made these minor changes frequently.
Baseball commentator Koichi Tabuchi, who has hit 474 home runs in his professional career, notes Otani’s timing and top position.
He has three different ways to get the most out of his batting. Basically, he does not step on his right foot and uses his heel to get his timing. If he gets out of shape or has fewer long balls, he raises his foot slightly. If a pitcher has difficulty with timing, he may hit with a slip foot.
The fact that he is able to distinguish between these two methods is probably the reason for his strong performance this season. He also changes the position of his hands when he takes a stance depending on the situation. By keeping his center of gravity low and his top position high, the centrifugal force of his swing increases, making it easier for him to hit home runs.
Ohtani’s biggest change this season is his bat. He has changed his bat to 34.5 inches (87.6 cm) from the 33.5 inches (85.1 cm) he used until last season. The new bat is an “out-of-the-standard” bat that has been used by such great hitters in the history of baseball as Tabuchi, Sadaharu Oh, and Hiromitsu Ochiai, and naturally it is difficult to handle.
Even a difference of only one inch makes a big difference for athletes. The longer the bat, the easier it is to throw the ball out of bounds and into the left field stands, but it is more difficult to deal with balls in the in-course zone. But if you look at his recent home run No. 18, he is starting to adapt to that as well. I am sure there will be even more home runs from now on.
Currently competing with Otani for the home run crown are Aaron Judge (31, Yankees), who hit 62 homers last season, and Astros center fielder Jordan Alvarez (25).
Both are injury-prone players, especially Judge, who has played in more than 150 games twice in the past seven years. It is hard to imagine that he will have the same success as he did last season. He is currently at a pace of one homer every 14 at-bats, but if he can increase his pace to at least one every 12 at-bats from now on, and if he can get over 600 at-bats, he can hit 50. He is almost certain to become the homerun king.
It is Otani who will make this desire a reality.
From the June 30, 2023 issue of FRIDAY