After he secured Japan’s World Baseball Classic win, there is no doubt that Shohei Ohtani is one of, if not the best player in the world.
When Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani was nicknamed “Shotime,” they really meant it, because watching him play makes fans of the sport feel lucky to witness a talent like him.
Just yesterday, Ohtani closed out Japan’s World Baseball Classic triumph over the United States, striking out MLB teammate and US Captain, Mike Trout. This, plus his performance throughout the entire tournament, proved him as one of the best baseball players in the world right now.
Here are three reasons why Shohei Ohtani is the “sho” in baseball that you shouldn’t be sleeping on.
1. He’s a two-way player.
By “two-way player,” we mean that as a baseball player, Shohei Ohtani can pitch and hit. To put things into context, it is considered rare to see true two-way players in baseball. This is because pitching is one of the most challenging positions to play on its own, so most position players do not pitch, and on top of this, most pitchers aren’t great at bat.
But Shohei Ohtani can do both. In fact, in 2021, Ohtani was the first MLB player in history to make the All-Star team as both a pitcher and a hitter. Additionally, before Ohtani, the last player in the MLB to pitch 100 innings while making 200 appearances as a batter in the same season was the legendary Babe Ruth in 1918 and 1919.
It’s rare to see a player who can do both to the degree that these players have done it because they don’t just play both sides — they play both sides well.
2. He plays both ways well.
Let’s use the Japanese star’s recent performance at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) which earned him the MVP award to illustrate just how good he is on both ends of the game.
On the offensive end, Shohei Ohtani helped Japan make it all the way to their third WBC victory with a .435 batting average, hitting four doubles and a home run. For context, in recent years, the league-wide batting average in the MLB is just around .250. He also recorded the hardest-hit ball in the 2023 WBC, with a speed of 118.7mph, and tied for the longest home run, reaching 448 feet.
On the pitching mound, he was perhaps even more impressive. In three pitching appearances that covered just over nine innings, he recorded 11 strikeouts and just two walks, while also tying for the fastest-thrown pitch of the tournament at 102mph. average, but he is also doing so wearing two different hats against the best baseball players in the world.
Not to mention how he struck out his LA Angels teammate Mike Trout, who is considered the best in the MLB, to win the whole WBC.
These numbers show an anomaly. Not only is he recording stats well above average, but he is also doing so while wearing two different hats.
3. The Sho’s only getting better.
Though the 2023 WBC may be his best run so far, the craziest part may be that we haven’t seen the best of Shohei Ohtani just yet.
As a stat-heavy sport, one of the numbers that showcase Ohtani’s increasing value is his WAR number. WAR stands for ‘Wins Above Replacement‘ and it measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by determining how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player in his same position.
In his debut season, he had a WAR of 3.9. In 2021, this went up all the way to 9, and in 2022, to 9.6.
And this is considering that he plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs yet with Ohtani, as their last post-season appearance was in 2014. If the Angels, or some other team, could take him to the playoffs, his prowess would definitely shine all the more.
But after watching him dominate the World Baseball Classic, and looking at the numbers of his contributions to the sport of baseball, he is already one of, if not the best player in the world right now.
Banner image from Los Angeles Angels on Instagram.