Shohei Ohtani: “The Secret of Super Evolution” — An In-Depth Analysis of His Pitching and Hitting Unrivaled Form! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Shohei Ohtani: “The Secret of Super Evolution” — An In-Depth Analysis of His Pitching and Hitting Unrivaled Form!

He has achieved his first complete game in the Majors and hit 3 home runs in a row!

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As a pitcher, he is 9-5 with a 3.43 ERA; as a hitter, he is batting .304 with 39 home runs and 81 runs batted in (as of August 2)

“I’ll finish it!”

Shohei Ohtani, 29, of the Angels, who held the opposing lineup scoreless until the eighth inning against the Tigers on July 28 (Japan time), reportedly made a direct appeal to manager Nevin. “I’ll finish it,” he said. Ohtani volunteered to continue pitching, and in this game he pitched his first complete game in the majors.

It wasn’t just his pitching that was tremendous. About 45 minutes after his first complete game, the second game of the doubleheader began. In the second game of the doubleheader, which started about 45 minutes after his first complete game, Ohtani hit homers No. 37 and No. 38, two in a row.

The next day, he hit No. 39 against the Blue Jays, making it three in a row. The current Ohtani is untouchable. In the game against the Blue Jays, the opposing fielder even protested to the manager, saying, ‘Why did you let the pitcher play with Otani?”

Otani’s great success seems to have been largely due to his mental stability.

He must have been restless because of the trade rumors, but the Angels officially announced that Otani would stay with the team. He himself commented, ‘I want to do my best to make the playoffs with this team until the end.’ In response to Ohtani’s wish, the Angels also made major reinforcements, such as acquiring a strong hitter from the Rockies. The team’s main player, Trout, who has been out of the lineup, is scheduled to return by the end of August, and the team now has the strength to compete for the playoffs. Ohtani’s motivation will increase, and we can expect him to do even better than before.

Ohtani is a pitching and batting champ. What is the secret behind his super evolution year after year? Taku Kawamura, an expert in motion analysis and associate professor at the University of Tsukuba’s College of Physical Education, explains.

He says, “Both pitching and hitting have become less wasteful, and the movements have become less forceful. He used to swing his arm too much as a pitcher, perhaps because he was more conscious of using his whole body. As a hitter, there were times when I swung too hard and lost my position as I was aiming for a home run.”

The key is movement and rotation.

I would like to analyze Ohtani’s superhuman performance based on his pitching and hitting form this season. Let’s start with pitchers.

Pitcher: Efficient and compact form.

Weight is placed firmly on the right foot and form is stable. Even when he raises his left leg high, his form is not shaky.
The left knee enters the hip joint side, and there is sufficient tame to step forward.
Not only is the weight transfer smooth, but the rotation of the hips generates power. Left shoulder opening is the only issue.
The forward chest creates a good arm flexion. Good left foot step.
The power generated by the twisting of the hips toward the first base side increases the power of the ball.

What is the characteristic in the picture (1) is that the weight is placed firmly on the right foot. Therefore, even though the left leg is raised high, the form is not blurred. In ②, the left knee enters the hip joint side, and the left foot steps out in the direction of the batter, creating a tame position for transferring the power of the lower body to the upper body. Until last year, there were cases where the center of gravity sank down because the weight was not carried on the shaft foot. Once the center of gravity sinks, raising the center of gravity causes wasteful movement. This season, perhaps because I have strengthened my lower body, my center of gravity is not shaky.

Kawamura says that in the latter half of pitching, he pays attention to the rotation of the hips.

There are many pitchers who shift their weight smoothly, but there are few who can rotate their hips as well as Ohtani does. The two important elements for a pitcher to throw a powerful ball are ‘movement and rotation. Ohtani skillfully twists his hips toward first base from (3) to (5), adding more strength to the power generated by his unshakeable axis. This allows him to throw a powerful ball even with a compact arm swing. If I had to name an issue, it would be that the left shoulder opens up a little too early in the third step.

Next, he explains his hitting form.

[Batter] Hits hard with butt swing.

The grip position is low this season. This is probably a sign of his awareness that he is trying to hit the mitt.
By swinging his hips like a topknot, he can exert greater force on the batted ball.
Ohtani’s head position hardly changes. This is the reason for the stability of his hitting form.
By holding his right shoulder open, the power of his entire body is efficiently transmitted to the ball.
If he moves in a rational manner, his follow-through will naturally become larger and the ball will fly away.

The key to starting the ball is the grip position (①). Since mid-June, when he began to hit homers in large numbers, he has been in an even lower position, and it can be seen that he is trying to hit the ball with a mitt in mind. Until last season, his swing was large, aiming for home runs. Because of this, there were many holes and pitchers would have been able to attack him easily as long as they were wary of long hits. This season, however, the pitchers have improved their mitts, so there are very few weak spots. Pitchers no longer have pitches to throw and are getting hit hard more often.

The thing to watch from (2) onward is how he uses his hips as well as his pitching form.

The hips do not simply move in the direction of the pitcher, but rather “swing” like a top, transmitting a strong force to the ball. The reason why his form is stable even when he rotates his hips is because of his head (③), which does not change height, and his right shoulder (④), which does not open up. By keeping the body’s axis unshaken, he is able to swing the bat efficiently over the shortest distance to the mitt point. The natural follow-through is also larger (⑤), which makes the batted ball fly farther.

As long as he doesn’t get injured, we can expect a career-high performance from him.

As a hitter, he will be able to achieve a .300 batting average and 60 home runs. There is no doubt that he will become the homerun king. This season, it is realistic for him to win the batting title of his dreams and win double-digit games.

Ohtani’s growth knows no bounds. His super evolution is evident in his pitching and hitting form.

From the August 18-25, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Taguchi Yuji

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