Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani, the man, the myth, the legend just finished up one of the greatest, if not the greatest single season in MLB history. His final hitting numbers included 639 plate appearances, a .257/.372/.592 slash line, 46 homers, 103 runs, 100 RBI. He had 4.8 WAR by Baseball-Reference's calculations entering Sunday, 5.0 WAR per FanGraphs. Ohtani isn’t only a dynamic hitter but also a forceful pitcher, finishing with 23 starts, a 9-2 record, 130 1/3 innings, a 3.18 ERA, 151 strikeouts (10.8 strikeouts per nine), 1.090 WHIP, 4.1 WAR via Baseball-Reference, 3.0 WAR via FanGraphs.
Ohtani made more history this season, leading all MLB players in homers hit 110mph or harder with 24 while also becoming one of six players in American League history to hit 45 homers and eight triples in a season, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx and Jim Rice. Every one of those players is in the Hall of Fame. Ohtani’s slider was something opponents had trouble with all season, with batters hitting .193 and whiffing 31.1 percent of the time, then try pairing that with a pitcher who has a fastball average of 95.6mph this season, then you have one of the most unique players baseball has ever seen and that is must watch tv.
What makes it more unfair for MLB teams without Ohtani is that he’s a legit 6-foot-4 210 pound freak of a specimen in the game of baseball, who can throw, hit, catch at a first class level while also being one of the fastest players in the entire league by stealing 26 bases this past season. He is the first player with 20 homers, 20 stolen bases and 20 innings pitched in a season. His 28.8 feet per second sprint speed puts him ahead of players like Lorenzo Cain, Javier Baez and Wander Franco.
Ohtani might be the most well-tooled baseball player ever. He can hit powerfully, play in the outfield, pitch like someone stole his lunch money, and run like the wind with his broad frame. But despite his success things weren’t always like this for Ohtani. When he first arrived in the United States, his promise was simple and yet seemingly impossible, even arrogant. He could be MLB's first real two-way player since Babe Ruth.
For the first three years of his career that goal looked very bleak. Despite winning the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year award, he tore his UCL in the process. He hit at a well-above average clip in 2019, but didn't throw an inning as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. He returned back to the mound in 2020, but got hurt again while hitting .190 at the plate. Baseball is a very grinding sport, as it has the longest regular season of all the four major sports with 162 regular season games, including playoffs if you’re lucky.
No player in baseball history has been this good at hitting and pitching since Babe Ruth, who has been the lone two-way star in the MLB’s vaunted history. During Ruth’s time he hit 322/.456/.657 with a then-MLB record 29 home runs while posting a 2.97 ERA in 133.1 innings (17 games, 15 starts) in 1919, still one of the most impressive seasons ever. So what is next for Ohtani?
Despite his brilliant season, where he showed he can last a full season as a two-way player, which will probably win him the AL MVP this season despite the Angels missing the postseason. If Ohtani wants to be one of the greats and not a one hit wonder, the 27-year-old will need to continue building on the legendary season he just recently had.
Ohtani has already expressed his desire to return to the Angels by stating, "Of course, I'll be very open to negotiation. The team has supported me for this whole four years, and I'm really appreciative of that," Ohtani said through an interpreter. "Whether or not there's any contract extensions I just want to, like I said earlier, be ready and be ready for next season." Ohtani just finished his fourth season and is signed for a $8.5 million, two-year contract that pays $5.5 million next year in its final season. He is eligible for salary arbitration after the 2022 season and free agency following the 2023 season if the rules do not change following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 1.
Enjoy Ohtani, baseball fans, because he just might be the most unique player we’ve seen since the great Babe Ruth.