Last year’s MVP man is struggling. After 11 games, Shohei Ohtani (27) of the Angels is batting .234 with three home runs. As a pitcher, he is 0-2 with a 7.56 earned-run average, and although his form is improving with two consecutive home runs against the Rangers on April 15 and 16, he is far from his best form.
What is the cause of his slump? Sportswriter Nachi Tomonari points out that the problem with the “pitcher Otani” is the accuracy of his split.
The batting average of his sword, the split, which was a complete disaster last season at .087, has jumped to .250, about three times the level of last year. The effect of this has really shown up when he faces left-handed hitters who use the split as a decisive pitch. Last year, his batting average was .235, but it has risen to .438, and it was against a left-hander that he hit a grand slam home run in the second game.
Ryoichi Fukushima, a Major League Baseball critic, pointed out that the reason for Otani’s poor performance is his aggressive schedule.
The current Ohtani has an unsteady release point. His splits are floating high and his straights are in the middle of the plate. The reason is a lack of preparation. Due to prolonged labor-management negotiations over minimum salary and other issues, the open season, which usually lasts five weeks, was shortened to three weeks. Otani was able to pitch in only two games.
Although the release point has to be adjusted during the games, Tomonari said, “We can change the pitch to be used in the game.
It is a sinker. It sinks to the outside corner and escapes, making it an effective ball for left-handed hitters. We practiced it in camp, and it might be interesting to use it as a special effect.’ Corey Kluber, 36, who won the Cy Young Award in ’14, also had a 7.71 earned-run average after the first two games. It’s not too late to win the title.
On the other hand, “Otani the hitter” is struggling to deal with straight balls, which was his forte last year.
Last year, I had the second highest batting average of .255 after the cut ball on the four-seam (straight ball). This year, however, he is not hitting .067 at all. Ohtani’s velocity has increased by nearly 1 km (1.0 miles) from an average of 93.6 mph (150.6 km/h) to 94.1 mph (151.4 km/h), and his swing, which was one of the best in the majors, has been further refined this season. If he can adjust to straight pitches, he should be able to hit more home runs,” said Tomonari.
But, as last season’s MVP, he has already corrected his sluggishness in terms of hitting. Fukushima, mentioned above, said, “He hit 46 home runs last season.
Of the 46 home runs he hit last season, 30 of them were two-strike hits. In the first few games after the season opener, his aggressive approach to hitting from the first pitch due to the lack of preparation time had been running on empty, but he may be getting back to his guessing game. Both No. 1 and No. 3 this season were hit by the first pitch. If I can continue this trend, I think the results will follow.
His challenge to achieve the unprecedented feat of winning the Cy Young Award and the homerun crown has just begun.
Photo： SpoNichi/Afro (1st photo) Getty Images (2nd photo)