One Japanese player that has been making noise in the MLB is Shohei Ohtani. The LA Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani made more history on Monday night, becoming the first player in nearly 100 years to start a baseball game while also entering the day leading the Majors in home runs.
A player has not done this in almost 100 years. The last player that accomplished this was Babe Ruth.
Ohtani, who serves as Los Angeles’ designated hitter in games he does not pitch, tossed 5 innings versus the Rangers, striking out 9 batters and allowing 4 earned runs en route to his first win of the year. At the plate the 26-year-old from Japan was 2-3 with a pair of RBI and 3 runs scored as the Angels earned a 9-4 victory.
Ohtani’s 7 home runs is actually tied for the MLB lead with 7 other players. He has homered in each of his last 2 games and 3 of his last 5.
This will be his third start of the season. In his first two starts, he had allowed 3 hits and 3 runs (one earned) in 8.2 innings while walking 11 and striking out 14.
Since April 13, when Ohtani was hitting .364 with a 1.187 OPS, he has slumped, going 6 for 33 (.182/.229/.485). His season OPS is still .983, good enough for second on the Angels behind Mike Trout (1.325).
On June 13th, 1921, Babe Ruth’s 19 home runs were good for best when he took the mound for the Yankees.
Facing the Tigers, Ruth collected 2 more homers, but allowed 4 runs in the 5th inning and was removed from the ball game. Ruth, whose most effective seasons as a hurler were spent with the Boston Red Sox from 1915-1919, shifted almost exclusively to the outfield moving forward, and did not make another start until 1930.
While Ruth finished his career with a 94-46 pitching record, it’s his prowess at the plate where his legacy lives. In his 22 big league seasons, “The Babe” belted 714 home runs, third most all-time, behind only Henry “Hank” Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762). Ruth is universally regarded as one of the greatest baseball players ever.
All of this is to say that Ohtani has placed himself in extremely elite company. Limited this season by a blister to only three pitching appearances, Ohtani has hurled 13.2 innings, allowing five earned runs while striking out 23.
He’s appeared as a batter in all but one game for the Angels — an April 20 contest in which he pitched but did not hit — and currently sports a .300 average in 80 at bats.
Ohtani, who pitches as a righty but bats from the left side, joined the Angels in 2017 after five All-Star seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball, the highest level of baseball in Japan.
He earned the American League’s Rookie of the Year award in 2018 after hitting 22 home runs and notching a 4-2 record in 10 starts on the mound. The last player to hit at least 15 homers while pitching a minimum of 50 innings in a single season?
Once again that would be Babe Ruth, who did so in 1919.
Story by Jason Kurtz