9 ways Ohtani broke Statcast in 2021

April 14th, 2022

's unanimous MVP season in 2021 was unique any way you look at it.

It was unique from the eye test: No one has ever watched a player hit and pitch like this at the Major League level. It was a unique stat line: There's nothing else resembling a 45 homer/25 steal/150 pitching strikeout season. And it was unique from a Statcast perspective.

Ohtani didn't just hit 45 home runs and steal 25 bases and strike out 150 batters. He hit the ball 115 mph and threw the ball 100 mph and ran 30 ft/sec. It's cool to be able to measure the elite tools behind the elite numbers for the Angels' two-way superstar.

Here are nine ways that Ohtani broke Statcast powered by Google Cloud in 2021. How will he do it next? To find out, watch Thursday night, when Ohtani starts on the mound and takes his cuts at the plate against the Rangers in the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day.

1) The 100-100 game

Ohtani was already making headlines last April 4 by hitting and pitching in the same game. He made Statcast history, too. When he topped out at 100.6 mph on the mound in the top of the first inning and then crushed a 115.2 mph, 451-foot home run in the bottom of the first, Ohtani became the first player since Statcast's introduction in 2015 to throw a ball 100 mph or faster and hit a ball 110 mph or harder in the same game, let alone the same inning.

2) The 119 mph max exit velo

On April 12 against the Royals, Ohtani turned on a 95 mph fastball from Scott Barlow and ripped a 119.0 mph double to the right-field wall. That double was the hardest ball hit by any left-handed batter since Statcast started tracking -- until Ohtani broke his own record early this season with a 119.1 mph double. Ohtani is one of only six players to hit a ball 119 mph or harder, along with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz, Gary Sánchez and Manny Machado.

3) An unhittable splitter

Ohtani's signature splitter was arguably the all-around most unhittable pitch in baseball in 2021, and we have the Statcast numbers to back it up.

• Hitters went 11-for-127 against it … with 77 strikeouts
• Ohtani's .087 batting average allowed on splitters was the second-lowest for any starting pitcher on a single pitch type with 100-plus plate appearances decided on it (behind Corbin Burnes' curveball)
• His .102 slugging percentage allowed on splitters was the lowest
• His 57% strikeout rate with his splitter was second-highest (behind Jacob deGrom's slider)
• The .099 expected batting average against his splitter was the lowest, and the .142 expected slugging percentage against it was the second-lowest (behind Carlos Rodón's slider)

4) Record-setting home runs

Ohtani hit more than one standout home run in 2021. Consider the 117.2 mph rocket he hit on June 28 against the Yankees -- that's the Angels' hardest home run since Statcast started tracking.

Or the 470-footer he crushed on June 8 against the Royals -- the Angels' longest of the season (actually their longest of the last two years).

Or the 116.1 mph leadoff home run he hit against the Rays on June 25 -- that one, at the time, set a record for the hardest leadoff home run under Statcast tracking (Jorge Soler hit one harder later in the season).

Oh, and this one didn't count, but how about the 513-foot home run he hit in the Home Run Derby? Not just anyone can hit a ball that far, even at Coors Field.

5) Extreme home runs

Ohtani also hit some homers that almost defied belief. Like on Aug. 26, when he hit a towering leadoff moonshot against the Orioles -- 110.7 mph off the bat, at a 45-degree launch angle. The combination of hitting a home run that hard and that high does not happen often. In the first seven seasons of Statcast tracking through 2021, there had only been seven total home runs hit with both a 110-plus mph exit velocity and a 45-plus-degree launch angle. The others were hit by Bryce Harper, Pete Alonso, Ronald Acuña Jr., Luke Voit, Mike Zunino and Lucas Duda.

But Ohtani's wildest homer of the year might have been the one he hit on May 17 against Cleveland. In a lefty-lefty matchup against Sam Hentges, Ohtani turned on a 94 mph fastball way up and out of the strike zone and crushed a 431-foot homer to right field at Angel Stadium. The pitch was 4.19 feet off the ground -- the second-highest pitch anyone hit for a homer in baseball last season, and the highest pitch hit for a homer by any Angels player in the entire pitch-tracking era, which goes back to 2008.

6) Triple-digit K's

Ohtani dialed up the heat in a big spot en route to his ninth win of the season on Sept. 3 against the Rangers. With two runners in scoring position in a tie game, he blew away Jason Martin with a 100.4 mph fastball. That was the first 100-plus mph strikeout pitch of Ohtani's career, and the fastest strikeout pitch by an Angels starting pitcher since all the way back on June 25, 2008, when Ervin Santana had one at 101.3 mph. Ohtani was one of only 11 starters last season with any 100-mph strikeouts. Let's just say the other 10 were not close to leading the Major Leagues in barrels as a hitter.

7) Elite sprint speed

Ohtani's hitting and pitching gets the attention, but he has a third elite skill: his speed. And "elite" is not an exaggeration. Statcast's sprint speed metric track runners' top speeds on the bases, with Major League average 27 feet per second and 30-plus feet per second being elite. Ohtani had seven different runs last season with sprint speeds in the elite 30-plus ft/sec range -- including three infield hits that he beat out thanks to that sprint speed. Ohtani averaged 28.8 ft/sec for the season, making him the fastest DH in baseball by a full foot per second … and he was the only DH with even a single elite 30-plus ft/sec run.

Ohtani was faster than 91% of all MLB players in 2021. So those MLB-leading eight triples should not surprise you -- Ohtani reached a near-elite 29.4 ft/sec sprint speed on his eighth of the year on Sept. 30, for example.

8) Frisbee slider movement

Back to Ohtani's pitching. The 100-mph fastball and unhittable splitter aren't even his only weapons. How about his nasty slider? In 2021, he allowed a batting average of just .193 against it, with 40 strikeouts. The highlight is how much it breaks -- Ohtani's slider averaged 15.9 inches of horizontal movement, and he got the sixth-best break of the 211 pitchers who threw at least 250 sliders last season. Check out this one he threw on Aug. 25 to strike out Ryan Mountcastle. It broke 20.4 inches.

9) The new unhittable splitter

Ohtani was making his second-to-last start of the year against the A's, pushed back a few days because of arm soreness and coming off a six-run beating at the hands of the Astros. And he made a very interesting change -- he changed his splitter grip, throwing his signature pitch with more side-to-side rotation compared to its usual straight down tumbling action.

The results? Ohtani's horizontal splitter movement basically doubled. He racked up 10 strikeouts in the game, nine of them on splitters, and a career-high 26 swinging strikes, 18 of them on splitters. Ohtani's 18 splitter swings-and-misses were tied for the most by a pitcher in a single game in the pitch-tracking era.