Shohei Ohtani, 29, of the Angels, who hit his 41st home run in nine games against the Astros on August 14, also set the ballpark on fire in the ninth inning at the end of the game.
After reaching base on his league-leading 75th walk of the season, he stole a motion from Astros relief pitcher Rafael Montero (32) to start at second base. Martin Maldonado, 37, a strong-shouldered catcher who served as Ohtani’s wife for 18 years with the Angels, tried to stab him, but Ohtani was able to comfortably load the bases and reach third when he saw his throw deflected to center field.
This is the 17th stolen base Otani has recorded this season. He is on pace to surpass his record of 26 steals in a season set in 2009.
He is 193 cm tall and weighs over 100 kg, so it is astonishing that he has stolen so many bases, but what is even more astonishing is his accuracy. At this point, he has tried 21 times with only 4 failures and an 81% success rate. Ichiro’s (49) success rate in MLB is also 81%. Although a simple comparison cannot be made, there is no doubt that Otani is a base stealer.
Baseball commentator Yutaka Takagi, who has experience winning the NPB stolen base king title, analyzes, “Ohtani’s success rate in stealing bases has also increased because he is a two-sport athlete.
He is a pitcher, and his powerful home runs are impressive, so it is hard for opposing batteries to be wary of him. Compared to other players with quick feet, it is easy for them to create gaps. On the other hand, when there is no gap, he does not run forcibly. This “discernment” leads to the accuracy of stolen bases.
His timing for starting off is also excellent. Ohtani knows the psychology of pitchers better than anyone else, so he is able to easily sense when a check is coming or when a pitcher is going to throw for home by looking at the opposing pitcher on the mound. The fact that he can reach top speed immediately after a start is due to the explosive instantaneous power generated by his body, which he has trained to throw 160 km/h.”
While Otani is expected to achieve the great feat of hitting 50 homers and winning 15 games, some people are concerned about his injuries from stealing bases.
Otani is a player who has focused on the game in front of him since he was a student. He may be thinking about conserving his strength a little since he is a starter in the rotation, but I don’t think he will be so afraid of getting injured that he won’t run even though he can run. With the team having a hard time improving and winning, stealing bases may be Otani’s way of relieving some of his stress.
Perhaps it is the fate of the best hitter, but Otani is often walked. I hope he clears up the pent up resentment of fans by throwing, hitting, and running.
From the September 1, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： AFLO Kyodo News