The Wrangler

Just who is Shohei Ohtani

The details behind this Japanese sensation

Shohei+Ohtani+winds+up+in+a+bullpen+session
Shohei Ohtani winds up in a bullpen session

Shohei Ohtani winds up in a bullpen session

Shohei Ohtani winds up in a bullpen session

By Reid Pitts, Staff Writer, Staff Photographer

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The Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB) is the premier level of baseball in Japan. Similar to the MLB, the NPB drafts players and puts them through a farm system. Teams play 144 games, similar to the MLB’s 162. The NPB and MLB have a history of relations, as many players from the NPB seek to join the MLB. Additionally, many MLB players who struggle to find success in the US join a Japanese team.

Many great players have made the leap from the NPB to the MLB, such as, Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki. Another notable player to cross over is Yu Darvish. Yu Darvish joined the MLB in 2012, signing with the Texas Rangers. Darvish was a pitcher with the NPB team “The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters,” who drafted him in 2005. In Japan, Darvish posted a 1.99 ERA with 1,250 strikeouts and WHIP of .985 in 7 seasons. If  you’re not a baseball junkie and have no idea what that means, it’s very impressive. Darvish started for the Texas Rangers from 2012 to mid 2017, when he was traded to the LA Dodgers. Darvish has been successful in the MLB, a 3.42 ERA and 1.179 WHIP back that. However, when it comes to batting, Darvish isn’t all that there. Being an American League pitcher, Darvish very rarely had at-bats. In his 5 MLB seasons, he had 14 at-bats with the Rangers and 17 with the Dodgers, an NL team. In all his at-bats combines, Darvish has one homerun, four hits and twenty strikeouts. Which is where, Shohei Ohtani comes in.

Shohei Ohtani is a pitcher who is currently with the team Yu Darvish was formerly on, The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Oddly enough, Ohtani wears number eleven, which is the number Darvish wore with the Fighters and with the Texas Rangers. At the end of the 2017 season, it was announced that Ohtani would be eligible to be signed by MLB clubs. Having until December 22nd, Ohtani has a plethora of signing options, especially with his special talent.

The thing that makes Shohei Ohtani so unique is his batting. To compare his batting, the best hitting pitcher in the MLB in the 2017 season was Zach Grienke with a .210 average. Ohtani’s? .332 average. That places him in third place for the overall batting average in the MLB. To be fair, that’s in about 388 less at-bats than Jose Altuve, the batting average leader of the 2017 season, but it’s still very impressive. Ohtani’s ERA last season is an outlier, as he only pitched in five games. His 2016 ERA, however, was 1.86, which lands him in 1st. This isn’t necessarily a tell-tale for how he will be in the MLB, as Japenese players are not as nearly as developed as MLB players, but this low average is very promising.

This young talent that attracted nearly every MLB club, but Ohtani is not mutually interested. Ohtani has narrowed this down to seven teams. The Texas Rangers, who have the most moolah to offer at $3.5 mil. The Angels and Mariners are the other two AL teams, and the NL teams are the Dodgers, Cubs, Padres, and Giants. (Sorry Astros fans). Ohtani has stated that he leans towards West Coast teams due to their location in the range of Japan. This desire shows as six of his desired teams are in the Western division of their league.  The Rangers and the Cubs being the exceptions. The biggest concern for American League teams in that Ohtani would like to hit, and since the AL has the designated hitter rule, pitchers only bat when in National League ballparks. This wish to hit makes National League clubs more attractive to Ohtani.

As a Rangers fan, I am very hopeful that Ohtani will sign with Texas, but at the same time, the pessimistic realist in me feels Ohtani will go to either the Mariners or a National League team. Ohtani’s deadline is December 22nd, so MLB fans everywhere will have to wait until then to see where this potentially outstanding player lands. Until then, we will all be frantically reading headlines to make sure our beloved team makes the cut.

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Just who is Shohei Ohtani