The Angels Need to Give Up on the Shohei Ohtani Pitching Experiment

Shohei Ohtani’s time as baseball’s next great two-way player has been placed on hold once again.

Ohtani, the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year winner, likely won’t throw another pitch in the regular season. Although Ohtani can still DH alongside Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the Angels will need to get by without their star import on the mound.

Ohtani instantly became a fan favorite with his prowess at the plate on the mound. For his sake, the Los Angeles Angels need to have him focus on hitting going forward.

Shohei Ohtani was hailed as the next great two-way player

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Still only 26, Shohei Ohtani arrived in America over two years ago with high expectations.

A left-handed power-hitting outfielder and a right-handed ace on the mound, Ohtani signed with the Angels in December 2017.

He burst onto the scene and hit .285 with 22 home runs and 61 RBIs across 104 games as a rookie. He also went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts and struck out 63 hitters in 51.2 innings.

Unlike Hideki Matsui before him, Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year Award despite previously playing in Japan.

Ohtani only DH’d in 2019 and hit .286 with 18 home runs, 62 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases. He mustered just four hits in his first 27 at-bats to open the 2020 season, although two of those were home runs.

Ohtani has battled injuries on the mound

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Unfortunately for Shohei Ohtani, he’s struggled with various injuries in his first three seasons.

Ohtani left a game in July 2018 with a blister on his right middle finger. He went on the disabled list the next day because of a Grade 2 UCL sprain in his right elbow.

Ohtani stayed in the Angels’ lineup as a hitter. A few weeks later, Angels manager Mike Scioscia sent Ohtani on the mound to pitch against Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros.

The Angels announced later that month that Ohtani needed Tommy John surgery. He later missed the final few weeks of the 2019 season with a patella injury.

Ohtani recently returned to the mound as a starting pitcher. He allowed five runs without recording an out in his first start.

His second start didn’t go much better; the third-year Angel walked five and allowed three runs in 1.2 innings against the Astros.

The Angels recently announced Ohtani won’t be able to throw for 4-6 weeks because of an elbow injury. He is not expected to pitch again this season.

The Angels need to make Shohei Ohtani a full-time hitter

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If the Angels have their way, Shohei Ohtani will remain a two-way player for as long as is able.

Angels manager Joe Maddon recently told reporters he is staying optimistic, according to ESPN.

“I’m looking forward to him getting well and then utilizing a normal spring training, going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year. That’s what you need to see again, some normalcy, before you make that type of determination [about his two-way status].”

Maddon and the Angels have every reason to be hopeful. But at this point, the Angels are better off treating him as a hitter, and only a hitter.

Ohtani’s problems cannot be blamed solely on the “yips.” He has had numerous injuries in three years and the Angels need him in the lineup, especially if they hope to win a title in the Mike Trout era.

His slow start to the 2020 aside, Ohtani is one of baseball’s best young hitters. Given the injury history, the Angels shouldn’t risk his long-term success for the possible pipe dream he will regain his old form.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference