Shohei Ohtani leads the majors in home runs, with 28, and is on pace to hit 57 baseballs over the fences at big league ballparks around the country, including one where his success is especially painful. More on that in a moment.
That stand-alone accomplishment would be pretty amazing. Since Barry Bonds popped 73 in 2001, only two players have hit at least 57 — Ryan Howard (58 in 2006) and Giancarlo Stanton (59 in 2017). But, of course, nothing about Ohtani is one-dimensional.
He’s also on pace for 168 strikeouts as a pitcher. He has 82 of those in 59 1/3 innings, over the Angels’ first 79 games this year. He has a 2.58 ERA, with 12.4 K/9 and 5.9 H/9 ratios. So, yeah. In addition to being an MVP candidate as a hitter, he’s basically All-Star caliber as a pitcher, too.
No, we’ve never seen anything like this. Not this type of excellence, not in the same year.
Let’s make up a stat to illustrate our point. It’s simple, adding the number of home runs to the number of strikeouts in the same season. Let’s call it the “BS” stat, for the top two guys: Babe and Shohei. Here’s a complete list of two-way players who reached double digits in each stat in a single season.
|Shohei Othani, 2021||28||82||110|
|Babe Ruth, 1919||29||30||59|
|Willie Smith, 1964||11||20||31|
|Jimmy Ryan, 1887||11||17||28|
This is truly ground-breaking stuff, and it almost feels like he’s just hitting his stride.
Ohtani has 11 homers in the past 13 games, including three in his first two games against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium this week. He takes the mound tonight at the stadium, which is something the Yankees dreamed of once upon a time.
In that dream, though, Ohtani was wearing a different uniform.
Remember how the Yankees very much wanted to sign Ohtani in 2017 but they were cut from his consideration list without even getting to make an in-person presentation? Their interest in the phenom from Japan dated to 2012, so to not make the secondary cut had to sting a bit. They were all-in, and didn’t even make it to the semifinals.
And now, watching him become the player they craved, doing incredible things in their home park?
Yankees GM Brian Cashman, from 2017, after learning of Ohtani’s decision: ”I started getting a feel that wasn’t good a few days ago. I know that our presentation was excellent. The feedback from that was outstanding. I did get a sense that I can’t change that we’re a big market and I can’t change that we’re in the East. That was something that, presentation or not, might be difficult to overcome.”
Seeing him smash line drives into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium is just a reminder of why they wanted to land Ohtani.
And if he shuts down the home team’s lineup on the mound Wednesday? That just might be a little too much to watch.