If Ohtani hasn't blown your mind yet, read on

About a quarter of the way in, Angels' two-way star is having unprecedented season

May 13th, 2021

When Angels manager Joe Maddon said in February that two-way star was “full go” in 2021, not even the most optimistic person could’ve imagined how much Ohtani would play so far this season and how well he’d be faring.

Ohtani was coming off a forgettable 2020 season that saw him struggle at the plate and make just two starts on the mound before he suffered an elbow/forearm injury. And in the past, the Angels had been careful with Ohtani, keeping him out of the lineup on the days before, of and after his starts on the mound.

But this year, Ohtani has amazingly been an everyday player, appearing in 34 of the club’s 36 games as a hitter, while making five starts on the mound. He has even batted for himself three different times with the designated hitter available, which is the first time that has ever happened since the DH was instituted in 1973.

He has been in a mini-slump of late but is still batting .257/.303/.574 with 10 homers (tied for the American League lead), nine doubles, six stolen bases, 26 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 34 games. And on the mound, he has posted a 2.10 ERA with 40 strikeouts, 20 walks and two homers allowed in 25 2/3 innings. It has helped him put up 2.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which is tied for fourth in the Majors, according to baseball-reference.com.

Ohtani has set several milestones and records already, so here’s a look at some of his accomplishments with the Angels roughly a quarter of the way through their season:

• When Ohtani batted leadoff against the Astros on Wednesday -- the day after he struck out 10 over seven strong innings and went 1-for-4 at the plate -- he became the first player to start a game on the mound, then bat leadoff in his team's next game since Ray Caldwell for the Yankees on July 25-26, 1916, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• When Ohtani struck out 10 batters on Tuesday and also moved to right field in the eighth inning to keep his bat in the lineup, he became just the third player since 1900 to strike out 10 batters in a game and play a position in the field, joining Sam McDowell (1970, Indians) and Harvey Haddix (1952, Cardinals). And he was the first player to start a game on the mound and then move directly to right field since Twins utilityman Cesar Tovar did it on Sept. 22, 1968.

• Ohtani has twice started this year while entering the day leading the Majors in home runs, marking the first time a player has done that since Babe Ruth for the Red Sox in 1919. Ohtani also did something Ruth never did, however, as he's the only player to ever have at least 10 homers in a season and at least one 10-strikeout game in a season. Ohtani did it during his AL Rookie of the Year Award campaign in 2018 and again this season.

• With 40 strikeouts and only 11 hits allowed through five starts, he's the first pitcher in the modern era (dating back to 1900) with at least 40 strikeouts and fewer than 12 hits surrendered over the first five starts of a season, per Stats. And the only other Angels pitcher with at least 40 strikeouts and fewer than 10 runs through the first five games of a season was Nolan Ryan in 1976, per baseball-reference.com.

• Ohtani reached 100 career strikeouts with his performance on Tuesday and became the fifth player ever with at least 55 career homers and at least 100 career strikeouts, joining Rick Ankiel, Johnny Lindell, George Van Haltren and Ruth.

• Ohtani has been hitting the ball with authority and ranks second in the Majors in barrels per plate appearance behind only Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr., according to baseballsavant.com. He also has hit the second-hardest ball by any player this season with a double on April 12 that had an exit velocity of 119 mph. The highest exit velocity recorded this year is 120.1 mph by the Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton.

• Ohtani has thrown nine pitches at least 100 mph this season, which is the third most among starters behind the Mets' Jacob deGrom (49) and the Rays' Shane McClanahan (10). He even reached as high as 101 mph in his first start against the White Sox and also clobbered a home run with an exit velocity of 115 mph in the same inning. His velocity has dipped a bit in recent starts as he has dealt with two separate blisters on his right middle finger, but he touched 99 mph on Tuesday.

• Ohtani's splitter is nearly unhittable. He allowed his first hit this season on that pitch to Houston's Yordan Alvarez on Tuesday, and it was a squibber that went 4 feet for an infield single. Ohtani has allowed only four hits ever on that pitch dating back to 2018, and only one extra-base hit, a double from Nick Castellanos in '18. He has struck out 28 batters with his splitter this season, which is the second most in the Majors behind Giants ace Kevin Gausman's 29 punchouts.

• An underrated part of Ohtani's game is his speed, as he currently ranks as the 17th-fastest player in the Majors, according to baseballsavant's sprint speed metric. He's just a tick behind speedsters such as Mike Trout and Acuña and just ahead of Jose Altuve and Fernando Tatis Jr. His average sprint speed is 29.1 feet per second, and the Major League average is 27. Trea Turner leads the Majors at 30.8 feet per second.