Shohei Ohtani is the greatest player in Major League Baseball history. There. I said it. He’s not the sport’s greatest hitter. Barry Bonds is. He’s not baseball’s greatest pitcher. Randy Johnson is. Ohtani isn’t better than both individually. Otani can do baseball things those two singularly couldn’t do.
Ohtani is an extremely good hitter, particularly a power hitter, and he can steal bases as he possesses elite speed. He’s the best combination of both power and speed since Bonds when Bonds was in his prime. But, Bonds couldn’t throw a 97 mph moving heater and a wipe-out split-fingered fastball for strikes.
Shohei Ohtani is an effective pitcher. Actually, being effective is an understatement. He’s an excellent pitcher. He’s the best pitcher on the Los Angeles Angels staff, which isn’t saying much, but Otani was the starting pitcher in the Major League All-Star Game for the American League this year, while leading the league in triples. That’s crazy.
In all actuality, Ohtani isn’t even the best pure player on his own team. That would be the great Mike Trout. Injuries have kept Trout out of the lineup this year. While he’s been out, Ohtani has surpassed Trout as the face of the game. But that’s probably alright with the low-key Trout, as most of the country doesn’t know who he is because of the Angels’ mediocrity. The team doesn’t get national exposure because it doesn’t get to the playoffs.
But if you assess Ohtani’s pitching performance and combine it with his hitting, Ohtani has more of an effect on the game than Trout or anyone else in baseball. Baseball statisticians are going to have to come up with a new category to quantify how valuable Ohtani is to his team. He’s making some stats obsolete.
The only player in Major League Baseball history to come close to what Shohei Ohtani is doing is the legendary Babe Ruth. Babe pitched and played outfield when he wasn’t pitching over a span of 218 games between 1918 and 1919. He gave up trying to do both. Babe Ruth wasn’t exactly the model of conditioning. Of course, he gave up. It’s easier to stand around in the outfield after consuming beer and hotdogs before the game.
Plus, it was easier to compete in Babe Ruth’s time. There was no integration. He wasn’t playing against all the best players in the country. There wasn’t long-distance travel. The furthest west Babe’s team, the New York Yankees, had to travel was St. Louis by train. Babe also didn’t have to hit against multiple relief pitching specialists during a game. He usually faced only one pitcher 4 times. By late in the game, he’d seen the guy’s pitches, and the pitcher was exhausted. Babe had an easier time.
Shohei Ohtani hits harder than most hitters. He throws harder than most pitchers. He’s faster than most baserunners. Ohtani isn’t as good as most players in history. He’s better.
Photo courtesy of Joey Kyber on Unsplash