Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani has quickly gone from being the most hyped unknown quantity in baseball to must-see-TV. So far during his short MLB career, he’s showcased ridiculous power at the plate and filthy stuff off the mound. He’s doing something that hasn’t been seen in decades by being a legitimate two-way threat for the Angels.
The only problem, so far, is that he doesn’t get to play every day. While it’s obvious that Ohtani can’t throw 80-to-100 pitches every day, there was a belief that the Angels would let him bat in most other games (or even play the outfield, on rare occassion). So far, that hasn’t materialized.
Ohtani doesn’t get a spot in the batting order on the day before or after he pitches, and the Angels still use a DH when he is on the mound. That translated to him playing roughly three out of every five games — hitting in two, and pitching in one. With his early success, fans and media are starting to ask when the team will truly unleash Ohtani. The answer, sadly, appears to be: “not anytime soon.”
“[It is] something we might consider in September if it was something that was really critical and we needed his bat in our lineup,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Orange County Register.
“Obviously you’d like him to hit in your lineup, but not to have a DH in your lineup really gives you a tactical disadvantage,” Scioscia said. “If he got a blister in the second inning, or if his pitch count got up and he was done after five innings, right now our bench isn’t deep enough to be able to play a National League game.”
Scioscia is referring the rule that causes American League teams to lose their designated hitter altogether if they don’t start a game with one. If Ohtani leaves the game after five or six innings, the Angels would be forced to either have their bullpen pitchers attempt to hit, or constantly make substitutions in order to send up competent batters — something that would stretch their bench thin in a hurry.
When September rolls around, rosters expand and make such a scenario easier to handle. When Ohtani is in the lineup, he’s slashing .348/.392/.652. On the mound, he’s 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.102 WHIP, with 43 strikeouts over 32.3 innings pitched.