Angels hybrid Shohei Ohtani, who drew Babe Ruth comparisons upon his arrival on U.S. soil two years ago, is having a rough go of it in 2020. The 26-year-old has weathered a slow start offensively (.148 AVG with nine strikeouts in 27 at-bats) while demonstrating non-existent command on the mound.
After not recording an out in his first pitching appearance since Tommy John surgery, Ohtani had hoped for better results against division-rival Houston Sunday in Anaheim. It didn’t happen for the right-hander though, as Ohtani melted down to the tune of five walks, two earned runs and a wild pitch over 1 2/3 innings of agonizing work. Ohtani has yielded an embarrassing eight free passes this year while recording just five outs. Exactly half his pitches Sunday (25 of 50) registered as strikes.
Last night brought more bad news on the Ohtani front with beat writer Rhett Bollinger acknowledging the former Rookie of the Year went for an MRI in the aftermath of Sunday’s disaster, casting further doubt on his long-term pitching aspirations. Ohtani’s reported “arm discomfort” could explain some of his early struggles. Through two starts, the Japanese prodigy has experienced a steep drop in velocity with radar guns clocking his fastball in the 88-92 mph range. That’s well below what he averaged during his debut season in 2018 (96.7 mph).
Though it hasn’t come together in 2020 (Christian Yelich can relate), Ohtani has been a potent offensive force throughout his Halos tenure, slashing an impressive .281/.345/.528 with 42 homers, 130 RBI and 23 steals across 737 major-league at-bats. It may be too early to throw in the towel on Ohtani as a hitting/pitching dual-threat, but given his concerning injury history and recent ineffectiveness, perhaps it’s time for him to focus on one or the other.
The first week and change hasn’t exactly gone gangbusters for the 3-7 Angels, but at least their knight in shining armor, three-time American League MVP Mike Trout, is due back from paternity leave any day now.