A look back at Ohtani's season for the ages

October 5th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- Angels interim manager Phil Nevin has made it clear he believes two-way star deserves to win the American League MVP Award for the second straight season, and he took it a step even further when asked to put into context what Ohtani has been able to do over the last two seasons.

"He's the best baseball player I think anybody has ever seen, to be honest with you,” Nevin said. “I really believe that. All-around. I don't think there's any argument you can make that he's not the best baseball player that's played the game."

Ohtani is having another historic season, as he entered Wednesday hitting .273/.356/.521 with 34 homers, 30 doubles, 11 stolen bases and 95 RBIs in 156 games. He’s also gone 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts in 161 innings on the mound. He was scheduled to make his 28th start of the year in the season finale against the A's on Wednesday and will become the first player in AL or NL history to be qualified as both a hitter and a pitcher in the same season.

Fellow superstar Mike Trout who has won three AL MVP Awards himself, said he believes that people take what Ohtani is doing for granted because he set such a high bar last year. Trout said he thinks it’s hurt Ohtani’s case this year against Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who hit his AL-record 62nd homer on Tuesday and is considered the favorite to win the award.

“He’s unbelievable,” Trout said. “I think a lot of people are overlooking his season because of what he did last year. I asked a lot of people this, and if he had this season this year and didn’t do what he did last year, he’d be the MVP. It’s hard to argue. But I can’t take anything from Judge because I love Judgey, so it’s fun to watch.”

Pitching coach Matt Wise aid Ohtani has made huge strides as a pitcher this year, as he’s increased his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate while incorporating two new pitches into his arsenal. Ohtani is now throwing a two-seamer and a hard slider with more depth to pair with his sweeping slider, giving him multiple pitches he can lean on during an outing, especially if he feels like ditching his fastball as he did in his previous start against the A’s that saw him take a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

“He’s improved his stuff throughout the year, and he really shows the other guys how to compete,” Wise said. “A few years ago, there was the question of whether he would throw enough strikes, and he answered that last year and was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. He’s continued to do that while adding a two-seam fastball that is one of the best two-seamers on planet Earth, and he just added a new slider. He’s just been consistent with out-of-this-world stuff.”

The one area where Ohtani is slightly down from last year is in the power department, as he went deep 46 times last year. But hitting coach Jeremy Reed noted that Ohtani has improved his contact rate and is a better all-around hitter than last year. He’s struck out in 24.2% of his plate appearances this year, compared to 29.6% in 2021.

“It’s evident that he hasn’t hit as many home runs, but the other numbers are way up,” Reed said. “It’s a complete hitter that has power. He gets better every day. I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of him. That’s a tribute to his talent. He’s such a good worker, and he’s such a pleasure to be around. Every day, you see something special in the box.”