Shohei Ohtani in his fifth year: “Evolution and challenges seen in the season opener” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Shohei Ohtani in his fifth year: “Evolution and challenges seen in the season opener”

This was his fifth season as the No. 1 pitcher. What changes in pitching and hitting were seen in the first game?

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Ohtani pitches a strong opening day for the first time in his career in the majors.

The new season of “Showtime” has begun.

On April 8 (Japan Standard Time), the 2022 Major League Baseball season opened. Shohei Ohtani, 27, of the Angels, became the first pitcher in the majors to pitch the season opener as the No. 1 pitcher. He pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 run, and striking out 9. On the hitting side, he went hitless in 4 at bats.

He started with a 160 km/h fastball on the first pitch and pitched a strong game, striking out three against Jose Altuve (31), the hitter who was hit the hardest last year. Although he was ultimately the losing pitcher, his performance was not bad at all. His batting was also a highlight, as he made a nice sound in the 8th inning. It was a good start for the first game,” said a reporter from a major sports newspaper.

He will become the first pitcher and hitter to win 10 games and hit 10 home runs since Babe Ruth, who failed to do so last year, and beyond. What will Shohei Ohtani’s fifth season in the Majors be like? Sportswriter Nachi Tomonari discusses the progress he has made and the challenges he faces since the season opener.

Nachi Tomonari, a sportswriter, talks about the evolution of Shohei Ohtani and the challenges he faces in his fifth season in the Majors. I felt that he has grown in the use of his curveball. Last season, Otani used a curveball only 4% of his total pitches. It was not unusual for him to not throw it at all. In this game, however, he threw about 15% of his pitches. He was able to use it as a winning pitch, striking out a few batters. He had been struggling with his control of the split, but the fact that he was able to switch to the curve and use it effectively is evidence that he is expanding his pitching range even further.

Conversely, we also saw some issues. The problem was the difficulty in controlling the split, the family’s most popular pitch.

Otani was probably nervous because he was the opening day pitcher. His form was stiff and his release point became unstable, which caused his splits to be low and hard to hit. The runs scored were also the result of his splits being hit too hard. It is worrisome that the winning pitch, which had a batting average of 0.75 last year, is still not at its best. He threw 80 pitches in the middle of the 5th inning. Adjusting my splits will be an issue going forward.”

Although there was no sound off Ohtani’s bat in the season opener, his swing speed, which is the highest in the majors, is still strong this season.

On the batting side, he has made slight modifications to his form this offseason. As Otani himself said, “I made the trajectory of my swing more compact,” and he took on a form that emphasized mitts, but the result was zero hits. Still, Tomonari says there is no need to worry about the batting aspect.

Even with his new form, his swing speed, which is his weapon, is still strong, and in the 8th inning he hit a big fly ball that almost turned out to be a home run. I don’t think there are any problems with his batting. In fact, he hit three home runs in 25 at-bats in the open game. That’s one home run every 8.3 at bats. Otani hit a home run about once every 11.7 at-bats last year, so his adjustment is going well. He seems to be getting used to his new form, and if he continues like this, he will be competing for the home run crown again in the second half of the season.

A new rule was introduced this season that allows starting pitchers to DH even after they have been removed from the lineup. It is commonly known as the “Otani Rule” because Otani benefits the most from it. This new rule was used immediately after the season opener, and Otani himself seems to have adapted to it without any problems.

The team started pitching earlier than planned because it was the season opener. I was concerned about whether he would be able to smoothly switch to DH after getting off the mound because he was in such good form, but he seemed to have no problem with it at all. I think this new rule will have a big positive impact in the future.

In the post-game press conference, Otani said, “The result was not good, but I think my batting was good, so I will switch over and do my best from tomorrow onward. Will this season be a leap forward beyond last year?

  • Photo Sipa USA/Jiji Press Photo

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