Barry Bonds talks about the “Shohei Ohtani of 2022” and the basis for his great success. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Barry Bonds talks about the “Shohei Ohtani of 2022” and the basis for his great success.

He is sure to be even more successful than last season when he won the MVP award! His batting, pitching, and popularity are all out of the ordinary.

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Last November, Otani went straight to the gym after his press conference back home. He worked out for about three hours in a state-of-the-art facility where he could train in a low-oxygen environment.

The second chapter of “Showtime” is about to begin.

In his fourth year in the majors, Shohei Ohtani (27) was a two-way player last season, hitting 46 home runs and scoring 100 runs as a hitter and going 9-2 as a pitcher. It was a season that will go down in history as he was elected MVP of the A-League in a full vote.

However, this is not the end of Ohtani’s evolution. Interviews with former major leaguers and team officials in Japan and the U.S. have revealed that he is still a developing player. This season, he may be able to complete his “two-pronged approach,” which may even lead to him winning both the home run championship and the most wins.

Barry Bonds also gives his approval

In the last season, Ohtani hit 46 home runs, but fell two short of the top mark and missed the home run title. However, Barry Bonds, the legend of all legends with 762 home runs, the most in MLB history, highly praises his talent.

Ohtani’s swing is beautiful,” he said. The key to hitting a home run is head speed, timing and point of contact with the ball, and Otani hits the ball with the most power at the moment of impact. In my case, I was hitting with power backed by muscles, but Otani covers the lack of power with his technique. It’s fantastic.”

Bonds said, “His home run numbers are still going to increase. The reason, he said, is that even though he did so well last season, he can clearly see areas of improvement.

In order to win the title, you have to hit home runs consistently. But there were a few periods last season when I had to work on my ballhandling. Especially during the periods when I wasn’t getting better, I wasted a lot of swings out of impatience. If I were to give you some advice, it would be to ‘make room in your mind to not be distracted by ball balls. The key to stabilizing the mental aspect is to create a routine.

By following a set routine, you can be confident that you can do it. I think Ohtani probably has his own set of rules to maintain a sense of normalcy. If he makes that his routine before an at-bat, he could hit 50 or more home runs. It won’t be easy, though.”

Akinori Iwamura, who played for the Tampa Bay Rays and is now the owner and manager of the Fukushima Red Hopes of the independent league, said there is room for growth in Ohtani’s batting.

I think the biggest thing I got out of last year was that I was able to establish a two-pronged approach to some extent. I think the biggest benefit of last year was that I was able to establish a certain amount of the two-pronged approach. In the second half of last season, I was trying to hit home runs and pulled every at bat. If I can use that experience to not get impatient and continue to swing like I did in the first half of the ’21 season, I think 50 home runs will become a reality.

Bonds also has high praise for pitcher Ohtani. He says he is especially good at changing his pitches according to his condition and pacing himself throughout the game.

More at-bats and the return of his strongest teammate

Ohtani’s swing has been called “beautiful” by Bonds. His batting technique is already at the top level. He’s already at the top of his game in terms of batting technique, as explained by Takashi Kawamura, an associate professor of physical education at Tsukuba University who specializes in sports science.

He has developed a batting form that swings the bat upward from the bottom like a golf swing. I learned to swing the bat from the bottom up like a golf swing. This is the ideal angle for a homerun. Another feature unique to Otani is the flexibility of his upper body.

Since he is also a pitcher, the muscles around his shoulder blades are very flexible. Thanks to this, he is able to make a swing that wraps around the body and has a good bounce, which allows him to transmit power to the ball efficiently. It’s a unique swing that only a two-pronged player like Otani can make.

The key to the success is the ability to hit the ball.

The key is the number of at-bats. Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays (22) and Salvador Perez of the Royals (31), who won the title last season with 48 home runs, have 70 to 80 more at-bats than Otani. There is a possibility that the DH (designated hitter) system, which is being considered for introduction in the National League this season, will have a positive effect on Otani’s increased number of at-bats. The Angels, to whom Ohtani belongs, are in the A-League, but they will benefit from this system during the interleague games, and Ohtani will be able to play at DH. This alone will increase his chances by about 30 at-bats.

In addition, Mike Trout (30), who is known as the best hitter in MLB, will return to the team this season from injury and will be waiting behind Ohtani. He didn’t get to play last season, recording 96 walks, including a league-high 20 declared walks, but he won’t be able to avoid playing this season so easily. If that happens, my chances of hitting a home run will increase.”

For Ohtani this season, even the 50-home run mark may be just a passing phase.

The secret to his unique swing lies in his lower body. Kawamura says that he has good use of his hamstrings and glutes (buttocks muscles).

The new super energy-saving form he perfected during last season

On the other hand, Curt Schilling, a former Red Sox player who recorded 216 wins in the majors and was nicknamed “the demon on the mound,” praised Ohtani’s pitching.

He can throw a fastball in the mid 140s to 160s and a sharp forkball at will. His talent is real. If he can get the support of the team, he has a good chance of winning the most games.

His pitching, which had been struggling due to injuries, made a big leap forward last season. One of the reasons for this was the correction of his form midway through last season.

By raising my elbows earlier, I was able to swing my arms more compactly with less stance. This reduces my pitching power, but on the other hand, it improves my control of the ball. Thanks to this, my slider and forkball became more effective, and my pitches became wider. Last season, I started experimenting with this form around July. Especially in September, I had fewer walks and was more consistent.

Another advantage of this pitching form is that I don’t swing too hard, so I use less stamina and there is less risk of injury. If he can compete for a full year this season with his new completed form, I believe he will increase his win total.

If he can master the art of pitching along with his new form, he will be able to win the most games. Keikibun Yabu, who played for the Athletics and Giants, is a big supporter of his success.

For example, Clayton Kershaw (33), a three-time Cy Young Award winner, raises his glove high when he makes a takeback. For example, Clayton Kershaw, 33, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, raises his glove when he takes a pitch back, which makes it difficult to see where the ball is coming from, so the hitter feels the ball is coming faster than it should. Top players are very creative in the details. I hope you can learn that part too.

The ball is already top-notch. There are team circumstances, but if he can increase his plate appearances from 23 times last season to 28-32 times, I think he can win 15 games. If he does that, I think he will be able to win the most games.

Thorough lifestyle management that has created a body of steel

The only question now is whether he can go through the season without getting injured. Otani is no slouch in that regard either. His stoicism is something that even the Angels’ team officials take their hats off to.

When I came to the U.S. in ’18, I had a full-time nutritionist prepare 100 meals for me every month based on the theme of ‘high protein and low fat,’ and I found the meals that suited me best from among them. At times, he would ask the nutritionist about ingredients in detail, such as the caffeine content of chocolate. His attitude of greedily pursuing anything related to baseball has never changed.

There has been a lot of talk about marriage and love, but Otani seems to be concentrating only on baseball.

After practice, he goes straight home, 15 minutes from the stadium. He doesn’t seem to be interested in playing with women at all. In order to reduce the risk of injury, he makes sure to get at least eight hours of sleep every day. The people around him are surprised at how abstinent he is.

His thorough lifestyle management has given him a body of steel. His muscle mass has increased and he weighs more than 100 kilograms.

The new contract is for eight years and a total of $300 million!

The team’s official store sells more than 30 kinds of related goods, including T-shirts and towels, but they are all in short supply. I’ve been waiting two to three weeks to get my hands on one.

As an official store employee revealed, last year Otani fever was raging in the United States as well. At the All-Star game last summer, Otani goods accounted for 28% of all merchandise sales. He is becoming the most popular player in the world, not only because of his ability, but also because of his popularity. It is said that the baseball team is preparing an unbelievable contract for such a new star. Mr. Tomonari, the former manager of the team, said.

In February of last year, he signed a two-year contract for a total of about 890 million yen, but considering his contribution, it’s not enough. The Angels haven’t announced a new contract yet, but if they were quick, they could have renewed his contract for eight years for a total of $300 million (about ¥34 billion). However, the Angels may be reluctant to sign him to a long-term contract, because the risk of injury is high with a two-pronged approach. I think they may offer him a short term contract at the $40 million per year level.

Otani once said that he wanted to move to a team that could win. If he were to move, which team would be the most realistic?

The Mariners are a slight possibility. Nintendo still owns a 10% stake in the team, and they are actively reinforcing Japanese players. Their pitching staff is not too thick, and they can continue to play two-way. It will be interesting to see what happens in the transfer market in the future.

Open games will start at the end of February, and the 2010 season will finally open at the end of March. The “strongest two-way player” who has improved his pitching and hitting skills will once again dominate the majors.

During the ’21 season, uniforms with kanji names were always popular. In addition to that, autographed goods were sold out all the time.
He is also known for his divine response to fans who fail to catch his service balls, signing them and throwing them back into the stands. He is always willing to sign autographs even before games.
Otani is moving forward to become the “strongest two-way player. He will continue to run toward his dream of “becoming the best player in the world,” which he set when he challenged the majors.

From the January 28, 2022 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Shu Nishihara (1st) Asahi Shimbun Afro Getty Images

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