Ohtani with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
|Los Angeles Angels – No. 17|
|Pitcher / Designated hitter / Outfielder|
Born: July 5, 1994|
Ōshū, Iwate, Japan
|NPB: March 29, 2013, for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters|
|MLB: March 29, 2018, for the Los Angeles Angels|
|NPB statistics |
|Earned run average||2.52|
|Runs batted in||166|
|MLB statistics |
(through July 8, 2018)
|Earned run average||3.10|
|Runs batted in||21|
|Career highlights and awards|
Ohtani's name in kanji
Shohei Ohtani (大谷 翔平 Ōtani Shōhei, born July 5, 1994) is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball's (NPB) Pacific League. Ohtani was the first pick of the Fighters in the 2012 draft. He has officially recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese pitcher and in NPB history at 165 kilometres per hour (102.5 mph).
- 1 Early career
- 2 Professional career
- 3 International career
- 4 Playing style
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
Shohei Ohtani attended Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate Prefecture, Northern Japan. Ohtani recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese high school pitcher at 160 km/h (99 mph). He set the record in the Japanese national high school baseball championship tournament, commonly called Summer Koshien. In the 2012 18U Baseball World Championship, Ohtani had an 0–1 win–loss record with 16 strikeouts, eight walks, five hits, five runs, and a 4.35 earned run average in 10⅓ innings pitched.
Ohtani expressed a desire to move directly to the major leagues after high school and received interest from numerous teams including the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. And on October 21, 2012, he announced that he would pursue a career in Major League Baseball rather than turn professional in Japan. The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters decided to draft him anyway, knowing that there was a high likelihood he would not play for them. But after a month-long negotiation between him and the Fighters, Ohtani announced that he would sign with the Fighters and spend some years in Japan before a possible MLB move. He was assigned the jersey number 11, previously worn by Yu Darvish.
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Ohtani made his debut at age 18 in the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters' season-opening game on March 29, 2013, playing as a right fielder. He was selected for a Pacific League roster spot for the 2013 All-Star Game. As a pitcher, he finished the season with a 3–0 record in 11 starts. Ohtani was used as a rookie in both the outfield (leading the Fighters with 51 games in right) and at pitcher. The unusual two-way role was historic. He was the second Nippon Pro Baseball rookie drafted out of high school the previous year, to be used as both a pitcher and position player, following Kikuo Tokunaga in 1951; Ohtani was the first to start in both roles. He was the first NPB pitcher since Takao Kajimoto in 1963 to bat 3rd, 4th or 5th and the first rookie hurler to do so since Junzo Sekine in 1950. He was the second player, following Osamu Takechi (also 1950), to start a game at pitcher, bat in the heart of the order (3rd through 5th) and get a hit and RBI in that game. He missed time during the year with a right ankle sprain and right cheekbone fracture. The fans voted the high-profile rookie into the All-Star Game despite mediocre numbers. For the season, he was 3–0 with a 4.23 ERA with 33 walks to 46 K in 61 2/3 IP and hit .238/.284/.376 in 204 plate appearances. He had 7 outfield assists to one error. His 8 hit batsmen tied Manabu Mima, Tadashi Settsu, Hideaki Wakui and Ryoma Nogami for 5th in the 2013 Pacific League. He did get 4 of the 233 votes for the 2013 Nippon Professional Baseball Rookie of the Year Award (Pacific League), tying Tatsuya Sato for a distant second behind Takahiro Norimoto.
Throughout the entire season, Ohtani performed double-duty as a pitcher and outfielder, utilizing his strong throwing arm as well as his impressive batting skills. As a hitter, he batted .274, with 28 extra-base hits (including 10 home runs), 31 RBIs and a .842 on-base plus slugging percentage in 212 at-bats. As a pitcher, he was 11–4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts and struck out 179 (third in NPB) in 155.1 innings. His 10.4 K/9 was the best in the league and opponents hit just .223 against him.
In a September 7 game 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. He tossed a 1–0 shutout against Orix on September 13 and became the first pitcher out of high school to record a 1–0 shutout victory within his first two years for the Fighters since Toshiaki Moriyasu in 1967. 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.
During the July 2014 Mazda All-Star Game, he threw a 162 km/h (101 mph) fastball in the bottom of the 1st inning, 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 km/h (100 mph)). 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. The proceeds were donated to three Tohoku earthquake children's relief funds. 17,000
On October 5 against the Eagles, Ohtani recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese pitcher in an official game, tying Marc Kroon's all-time record for NPB pitchers. The pitch came against lead-off hitter Akiminai Ginji in the 1st inning. With the count 0–1, Ohtani threw a fastball that registered 162 km/h (101 mph) on the stadium radar gun and shattered Ginji's bat in half. He also hit 162 km/h twice against the second hitter, Aoi Enomoto. Of the 15 pitches he threw in the 1st inning, eight were in the 160s.
During the postseason, Ohtani was chosen to become a member of the national team, dubbed Samurai Japan, and participated in the Suzuki All-Star Series, a five-game friendly competition with a squad of major leaguers. In game 1, he pitched one shutout inning in relief, retiring three consecutive batters. He started game 5 at the 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 km/h (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.
In December, he became the 2nd player out of high school in NPB history to reach 100M yen in salary in his third year, after Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2001. His new contract more than tripled his previous salary estimated at 30M yen.
2015 marked Ohtani's third professional season (and second full season). Though his offensive production declined somewhat (5 home runs), his performance on the mound was among the best in the league, earning him the starter role in the 2015 All-Star Game and the pitching spot in the end-of-year Pacific League Best Nine awards. Ohtani started 2015 NPB All-Star Game 1 for the PL. He went two innings and fanned two, allowing one run (on a double by Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and a single by Jose Lopez), relieved by Nishi with a 1–0 deficit. The PL would lose 8–6 but he got a no-decision. He finished the season 15–5 with a 2.24 ERA, 196 strikeouts and only 100 hits in 160 2/3 IP. He led the PL in ERA (.14 over Nishi), tied Wakui for the most wins and was second in strikeouts (19 behind Norimoto, though he threw 34 fewer innings). He rarely played the field but did see some action at DH, hitting .202/.252/.376 with 5 HR in 109 AB. He made the Best Nine as the PL's top hurler. He finished third in MVP voting again, placing behind Yanagita and Shogo Akiyama for the 2015 Pacific League MVP. Ohtani placed third in MVP voting (first among pitchers) and was one of three candidates considered for the 2015 Sawamura Award, given annually to the top pitcher in either league.
Ohtani led the league in wins and winning percentage with a 15–5 record in just 22 starts, and his 2.24 ERA, 5 complete games, and 3 shutouts were also best in the league. All these stats were career bests, as were his 196 strikeouts, 0.909 WHIP, and 11 strikeouts per nine innings.
Ohtani was dominant for the Japanese national team in the 2015 Premier 12. He hit 100 mph while blowing away eventual champion South Korea (10 K, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 R in 6 IP) before Norimoto relieved. Facing South Korea again in the semifinals, he was even sharper (11 K, 0 BB, 1 HB, 1 H in 7 IP). He did not give up a hit until Keun-woo Jeong singled in the 7th and had the most whiffs in a game for the first Premier 12 ever. Norimoto relieved with a 3–0 lead but he and two other relievers combined to allow four in the 9th to blow it as Japan fell in a shocking defeat. He led the event in ERA (Scott Diamond had 12 innings with a 0.00 ERA to Ohtani's 13) and strikeouts (one ahead of Chun-Lin Kuo) while allowing the lowest average by a starting pitcher. He was named the All-Star SP for the event (Sho Nakata was the only other member of Samurai Japan to be picked for the All-Star team).
In 2016, Ohtani had a breakout season as a hitter. In 104 games and 382 plate appearances, he hit 22 home runs. He also hit 18 doubles, 67 RBI, batted .322 with an OBP of .416, scored 65 runs and had 7 stolen bases. He won the Best Nine award as the designated hitter. Ohtani was the same dominant pitcher on the mound. In 21 games pitched, he had a career low in ERA at 1.86. He had a 10–4 record, struck out 174 batters in 140 innings with 4 complete games and one shutout. He also won the Best Nine award as a pitcher and won the Pacific League MVP. He got nearly double as many votes as any other pitcher for the PL for the 2016 NPB All-Star Game; he had 300,025 while #2 Shota Takeda had 158,008. He could not pitch in the event due to a blister on his finger but wound up starring as a DH. In Game 1, he batted for DH Yuya Hasegawa and lined out in the 8th against Scott Mathieson. Starting at DH and hitting 5th in Game 2, he homered off Shoichi Ino in the 5th to start the PL comeback from a 3–0 deficit. He singled against Ryo Akiyoshi in the 7th and scored on a hit by Kenta Imamiya for a 4–3 lead. Coming up with a 5–4 deficit in the 8th, he singled off Shinji Tajima to bring in Shogo Akiyama with the tying run. He thus produced three of the PL's five runs in the 5–5 tie, earning him game MVP honors. He hit 165 km/h (102.5 mph) on the radar gun during the year, breaking Marc Kroon's NPB record of 163 kmph.
He finished the year at .322/.416/.588 with 22 HR in 382 PA on offense and 10–4, 1.86 on the mound with 174 K in 140 IP. He tied for 8th in the PL in wins, was third in strikeouts (behind Norimoto and Kodai Senga) with a significantly better strikeout rate than either of those hurlers), would have led in ERA had he qualified (Ayumu Ishikawa led at 2.16; Ohtani was 3 IP shy of qualifying), would have been second in average if he had qualified (52 plate appearances shy; Katsuya Kakunaka led at .339), would have ranked 4th in OBP (between Akira Nakamura and Haruki Nishikawa), would have led in slugging (.065 ahead of Yanagita), would have led in OPS (35 ahead of Yanagita) and was 8th in home runs (every other player with 15+ had at least 50 more plate appearances).
He led Nippon Ham to the 2016 Japan Series, but lost the opener to the Hiroshima Carp; he fanned 11 in 6 innings but allowed 3 runs, two on a homer by Brad Eldred and one on a steal of home by Seiya Suzuki. Down 2 games to 0, he came up big as the DH in game 3, getting 3 hits, a run and a RBI. In the bottom of the 10th, he singled off Daichi Osera score Nishikawa with the winner; Nippon Ham would take the next three games to win their second Japan Series title. Teammate Brandon Laird would win the Series MVP. Ohtani hit .375/.412/.625 with four doubles, doing more on offense than on the mound for the Series.
He made the Best Nine as the top pitcher and top DH in the PL. He became the first player to received the awards as both a pitcher and a hitter. He topped 4-time Cuban MVP Alfredo Despaigne easily at DH (190 votes to 47; 3 others combined for 8 votes) but the vote at pitcher was closer (he had 111 of 245 votes, Ishikawa 69 and Tsuyoshi Wada 61). He was the run-away winner of the 2016 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, getting 253 of 254 first-place votes (Naoki Miyanishi got the other one) and one second-place vote. He had 1,268 vote points, to 298 for runner-up Laird.
In 2017, he played in 65 games, hitting .332 with 8 homers and 31 RBIs while going 3–2, 3.20 with 29 strikeouts on the mound. In September, it was revealed that Ohtani would ask to be posted at the end of the season in order to play in Major League Baseball in 2018. However, before that could happen, he had surgery on his right ankle in early October. The injury had originally occurred in the 2016 Japan Series, and had cost him a chance to play in the 2017 World Baseball Classic in addition to restricting his playing time during the season. There was a question as to whether or not NPB and MLB could come to a posting agreement. Both sides did come to an agreement on November 21, 2017.
Los Angeles Angels
On December 8, 2017, Ohtani agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. The deal was finalized the next day. On December 13, it was revealed that Ohtani was diagnosed with a first-degree UCL sprain in his right elbow. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat the pain.
Ohtani made the 25-man roster and started as the designated hitter on Opening Day against the Oakland Athletics. He singled in his first at-bat. On April 1, he made his pitching debut, striking out six batters in six innings while allowing three runs, to pick up his first MLB win. On April 3, Ohtani hit his first MLB home run, a 397-foot three-run homer against Josh Tomlin. The following day, he hit his second, becoming the first Angels player to homer in his first two career home games. He tied the franchise record of 12 total bases, and five RBI through his first three consecutive career games (both set by Bobby Clark in 1979). On April 6, he hit his third home run in three days, becoming the first Angels rookie to do so. In only his second start on the mound on April 8, Ohtani took a perfect game through 6⅓ innings before allowing a hit. Overall, Ohtani pitched seven scoreless innings while striking out 12. Making his third start pitching on April 18 against the Boston Red Sox, Ohtani exited after two innings due to a blister on his right middle finger. On June 7, Ohtani left the game after a blister on the same finger. The next day, he was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his MLB career due to a Grade 2 UCL sprain in his right elbow. He received platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections to treat the pain. Ohtani was activated from the disabled list as a hitter on July 2, and went 0-4. He was cleared to hit, but will be re-evaluated as a pitcher in 3 weeks.
2017 World Baseball Classic
Ohtani is a 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m), 203 pounds (92 kg) right-handed starting pitcher. With an overhand delivery, he throws a four-seam fastball averaging 97 miles per hour (156 km/h) (tops out at 165 kilometres per hour (102.5 mph)), an 86–88 miles per hour (138–142 km/h) forkball with late diving action, an occasional curveball, and a solid slider at 82–84 miles per hour (132–135 km/h). He posted a BB/9 (walks per nine innings rate) of 3.3 in his NPB career. Ohtani has been compared to Justin Verlander by some MLB scouts.
Batting and fielding
Ohtani is a left-handed batter. He is a designated hitter and occasional outfielder known for being able to hit with home run power. Scouts have timed Ohtani running from the batter’s box to first base in as little as 3.8 seconds.
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