Shohei Otani

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Shohei Otani
Fighters ohtani 11.jpg
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters – No. 11
PitcherOutfielder[1]
Born: (1994-07-05) July 5, 1994 (age 20)
Ōshū, Iwate, Japan
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Professional debut
NPB: March 29, 2013 for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
NPB statistics
(through 2014)
Batting average .257
Hits 103
Home runs 13
Runs batted in 51
Win–loss record 14-4
Earned run average 3.07
Strikeouts 225
Teams
Career highlights and awards

NPB

Shohei Otani (大谷 翔平 Ōtani Shōhei?, born July 5, 1994) is a Japanese baseball pitcher, outfielder, and designated hitter who plays for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. He was the first pick of the Fighters in the 2012 draft. He officially recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese pitcher, and is now tied with Marc Kroon for top velocity (162 kph/101 mph) for all NPB pitchers.

Early Baseball Career[edit]

Listed at 193 cm (6 ft 4 in) and 86 kg (190 lb), the high school pitcher has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 160 kph (99 mph). He set a new Japanese record for the fastest pitch thrown during the Prefecture Tournament in Summer Koshien,[2] even though his team lost in the semi-final. He mainly throws a solid slider in addition to the fastball.

Otani has received interest from numerous teams including the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.[2][3][4][5] On October 21, 2012 Otani announced that he would pursue a career in Major League Baseball rather than turn professional in Japan.[6][7] The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters decided to draft him anyway, knowing that there was a high likelihood he would turn down the draft. After a month-long negotiation between him and the Fighters, Otani announced that he will accept the draft and spend his early career in Japan before a possible MLB move. He was assigned the jersey number 11, previously worn by Yu Darvish. The official press conference was held on December 25.

He is often rivaled with Shintaro Fujinami, a fellow 20-year old pitching prodigy currently playing for the Hanshin Tigers. The two once locked horns in the second leg of the 2012 Summer Koshien, but Fujinami (from Osaka Toin High School) took away the win.

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters[edit]

2013

He made his debut in the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters' season-opening match on March 29, 2013, playing as right outfielder. He was voted as an outfielder in the 2013 All-Star Game.

2014

Otani batting in 2013 for the Ham Fighters

Throughout the entire season, Fighters manager Hideki Kurayama made Otani do double-duty as pitcher and outfielder to utilize his strong throwing arm, as well as his unusually impressive batting skills. As a hitter, he batted at .283 average (as of September 7), with 26 extra-base hits (including 10 home runs), 31 RBIs and a .869 on-base plus slugging percentage in 191 at-bats. As a pitcher, he is 10-4 with a 2.46 ERA in 21 starts and has struck out 162 in 139 innings. In the September 7 match against the Orix Buffaloes, he homered to straightaway center at Kyocera Dome to become the first Japanese player to reach double digits in both home runs and wins.[8][9] He tossed a 1-0 shutout against Orix on September 13, and became the first pitcher out of high school in franchise history to record a 1-0 shutout victory within his first two years in the NPB since Toshiaki Moriyasu in 1967 (September 23). He also became the first pitcher out of high school to notch two shutout victories within his first two years in the NPB since Yu Darvish.[10]

During the July 2014 Mazda All-Star Game, he pitched a career-high 162 kph (101 mph) at the bottom of the 1st inning, again setting a new record for the fastest official pitch thrown by a Japanese pitcher, beating the record set by the Yakult Swallows’ Yoshinori Sato in 2010 (161 kph/100 mph).[11] The jersey he wore during the game sold for 1,752,000 yen, making it the top-seller at the All-Star 2014 Charity Auction, and the proceeds were donated to three Tohoku earthquake children's relief funds.[12]

On the October 5 game against the Eagles, he officially recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese pitcher in an official game, tyingMarc Kroon's record for top velocity for all NPB pitchers. The pitch came against lead-off hitter Akiminai Ginji in the 1st inning. With the count 0-1, Otani threw a fastball that ticked 162 kph (101 mph) on the stadium radar gun and shattered Ginji's bat in half. He also hit 162 kph twice against the second hitter, Aoi Enomoto. Of the fifteen pitches he threw in the 1st inning, eight were in the 160s.[13]

He finished the season with a batting average of .274, 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 212 at-bats, mostly as a designated hitter. As a pitcher, he turned out to be quite the strikeout machine, finishing third in the Pacific League with 179 KOs in 155⅓ innings for an NPB-best 10.37 strikeout rate. Overall, Otani was 11-4 with a 2.61 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 24 starts for the season, with opponents hitting .223 against him.[14] His feat of notching double-digit wins and HRs conjures up memories of the legendary Babe Ruth, who had 13 wins and 11 home runs for the 1918 Boston Red Sox in MLB.[9]

During postseason, Otani was chosen to become a member of the national team, dubbed Samurai Japan, and participated in the Suzuki All-Star Series,[15] a five-game friendly competition with a squad of US major leaguers. In game 1, he pitched one shutout inning in relief, retiring 3 consecutive batters. He started game 5 in Sapporo Dome, and although his team ultimately lost (3-1), he wasn’t charged with an earned run (he gave up two unearned), and of the 12 outs he recorded in four innings, he got seven via strikeout. He threw mostly fastballs, even clocked one at 160 kph (99 mph), occasional curveballs, and a few forkballs in the mid-140s, including one he threw perfectly in the second inning to strike out Tampa Bay Rays star Ben Zobrist. And although he occasionally struggled to locate his pitches, he proved to the MLB players, coaches and scouts at Sapporo Dome that he definitely has great stuff in his arsenal.[16]

In December, he became the 2nd player out of high school in NPB history to reach 100M yen in salary in his third year, next to Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2001. His new contract more than tripled his previous salary estimated at ¥30 million.[17]

Playing style[edit]

Otani is a 6 ft 4 in, 200 lb right-handed starting pitcher. With a three-quarters delivery he throws a mid-90s fastball (tops out at 101 mph), a forkball, an occasional curveball, and a solid slider.

Otani also plays the outfield for the Fighters in NPB.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Officially registered as pitcher, but occasionally playing as outfielder in 2013 season.
  2. ^ a b Yankees intrigued by Shohei Otani, Japanese teenager with 100 mph fastball
  3. ^ Rangers interested in Japanese righty Otani
  4. ^ Cherington confirms team has met with Otani
  5. ^ Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani chased by Yankees, Red Sox and others
  6. ^ Shohei Otani, 18, wants MLB career
  7. ^ Shohei Otani, Japanese high school pitcher, opts for MLB
  8. ^ "Otani may create unique challenge". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-09-09. 
  9. ^ a b "Otani hits HR to notch rare double". The Japan News. 2014-09-07. 
  10. ^ "default". Sanspo.com. 2014-09-14. 
  11. ^ "Otani fireballs lead PL past CL in All-Star Game 2". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  12. ^ "September 8 release". 日本野球機構 (NPB.or.jp). 2014-09-08. 
  13. ^ "大谷、ついに出た162キロ!日本人最速!公式戦最速タイ". Sponichi Annex. 2014-10-05. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  14. ^ "Impressive Otani To Get Another Shot At MLB Hitters". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-09-09. 
  15. ^ "Samurai Japan unveils remaining players for MLB series". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-10-09. 
  16. ^ "Otani impresses visiting MLB stars". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-11-20. 
  17. ^ "大谷、年俸1億円!松坂以来史上2人目の高卒3年目“大台”". Sponichi Annex. 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2014-12-05. 


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