Not even a strike!”
This was the exclamation of a local commentator after witnessing Shohei Ohtani (28) of the Angels hit his 25th homer of the season and 200th in Japan-U.S. history on June 23.
After the game, Rockies left fielder Kyle Freeland (30), who was hit by a pitch, told reporters, “Shohei Ohtani is the only person on the planet who can make that damn ball a home run. ……
The No. 18 he hit on June 11 was also a bad pitch.” This year, even pitches far out of the strike zone are turning into home runs. He’s like Masami Iwaki from “Dokaben. But while Iwaki only hits bad pitches, Otani is better because he never misses even the sweetest pitches. (Laughs.) Ohtani has been performing like a cartoon in the past, but it is surprising that he even reproduced ‘hitting at bad pitches.
In fact, this bad-ball hitting is not an accidental occurrence. It is the fruit of Otani’s advanced technique.
When he hits a home run, he tilts his body backward. At the moment of impact, his head is slightly thrown back, as if he is leaning back. This creates distance between his body and the ball, extending both elbows and facilitating the transfer of power to the batted ball. This is why you can hit inside, high, and ball pitches. It is a form unique to sluggers, but it requires a great deal of back strength to hit this way,” said baseball commentator Koichi Tabuchi.
In fact, Otani’s back strength is tremendous. On Instagram, he is seen in the training room working on deadlifts (an exercise in which he lifts a barbell on the floor up to his knees to strengthen his back muscles and lower body). Fans were astonished to see Otani easily lift 225 kg, more than twice his own weight (the average Japanese male weighs 70 kg).
Baseball critic Takehiko Kobayakawa said that the symbolic scene that demonstrated this overwhelming power was No. 25 at the beginning of the game.
He said, “No matter how well he hit the ball, it was an inside pitch, so he hit it very close to the base of the bat. Even if we discount the fact that the stadium is at a high altitude, only Otani could have hit the ball 117 meters. Ohtani’s physical development not only allows him to hit bad pitches, but also shows in the improvement of his average velocity as a pitcher.’ His average straight line was 153.8 km/h in 2009, but this season it averaged 156.4 km/h, an increase of 2.6 km/h over the past two years.
Even after hitting the milestone 200th homer, Ohtani commented only, “I’ll do my best to hit 201 tomorrow.” He hit No. 26 against the White Sox on June 26 and No. 27 and 28 on June 27, putting him on pace for 57 homers in a season (as of June 28) and in sole contention for the home run crown. With the back muscles that allow him to hit at bad pitches, does this mean that he has no trouble getting sweet pitches into the stands? With his newly acquired “Iwaki-hitting technique” as his weapon of choice, we hope that he will continue this way to become the first Japanese hitter in history to win the crown.
From the July 14-21, 2023 issue of FRIDAY