Shohei Ohtani’s Super Evolution: 80% Output and Hittable Strikes Redefine Hitting Strategies | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Shohei Ohtani’s Super Evolution: 80% Output and Hittable Strikes Redefine Hitting Strategies

A Muso who competes for the league lead in batting average, hits, and home runs

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The swing when he hit his 13th home run against the Reds on the 18th. He smoothly angled the ball without exerting too much force, sending it back in the opposite direction.

Hitting a chest-high fastball near 100 miles per hour to the upper stands in right field.


When it comes to batter Shohei Ohtani (29), he’s known as one of the premier power hitters in the majors, with superhuman strength and a full swing that seems to torque his body almost to the breaking point. However, recently, there seems to be a difference.

“It seems like Shohei is conscious of hitting for average when there are runners on base. His center-field hit in the third at-bat of the May 15th game against the Giants symbolizes this. Instead of going for powerful hits with the same gusto as during his time with the Angels, he seems more focused on setting up Freddie (Freeman, 34) who bats after him.

His 13th home run in the Reds game on May 17th, designated as ‘Shohei Ohtani Day,’ smoothly carried a two-seamer away without resistance. His swing was so relaxed that even those of us watching locally didn’t expect it to reach the stands.” (Local Los Angeles newspaper journalist)

In his first at-bat against the Diamondbacks on May 21st, he executed a safety bunt on the first pitch, showing further evolution as a hitter. Baseball commentator Takeshi Kobayakawa says, “By alternating between power swings and bunts, Ohtani’s adaptability to outside pitches has evolved.”

“For left-handed hitters, the most challenging pitches are those that tail away from left-handed pitchers and those outside-breaking balls from right-handed pitchers. This season, Ohtani has been carefully reading these pitches and swinging only at those he can hit. His core has been strengthened compared to last year, resulting in fewer disruptions in his stance. This ‘hittable strikes’ batting approach is also reflected in the results. The percentage of at-bats where the ball enters the barrel zone (the range of ball angles where extra-base hits are more likely) accounts for over 15% of all at-bats. Last year, it was about 12%, so it has improved by 3% in just one year.”

These changes likely contribute to his impressive statistics of a league-leading batting average of .356 and 13 home runs, which ranked second (as of May 22nd).

“Pitchers often attack the edge of the strike zone to avoid being hit, but Ohtani’s batting average on edge pitches has increased from .236 during his time with the Angels to .300. The difference in batting average depends on whether he forcefully swings at borderline pitches or accepts even a single hit. Moreover, Ohtani boasts top-tier power and swing speed in the majors, so even with a focus on contact hitting, he still produces extra-base hits. With just 80% output, he can hit home runs to the left-field stands.” (Kobayakawa)

In previous years, Ohtani has typically increased his performance from June onwards, producing home runs in abundance. However, this season, it is expected that he will carefully pace himself.

“The Dodgers have played 50 games so far and won 33, making them a powerhouse team guaranteed to make the playoffs. In that case, they’ll play for an extra month compared to last year. It’s likely they’ll be more conscious about maintaining their condition and reduce forceful plays.” (Same source)

He swings forcefully at pitches in his wheelhouse and doesn’t resist challenging pitches on the outer edge, instead driving them to the opposite field. This peerless hero, with no blind spots, might just clinch the title of “Triple Crown winner with the highest batting average ever.”

In a game against the Reds on August 20, he gave up his second career hit in the major leagues, a good-bye hit. He has also lost the stigma of being weak at chances.

From the June 7-14, 2024 issue of FRIDAY


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