OAKLAND -- It took until the final game of the regular season, but Shohei Ohtani made history yet again, becoming the first player in the World Series era to qualify for the leaderboards as both a hitter and a pitcher in the same year.
With a perfect first inning in an eventual 3-2 loss to the A's on Wednesday, Ohtani reached the necessary 162 innings to qualify among the league leaders for pitchers. He already passed the 502 plate appearance mark to qualify as a hitter, as he singled in the first inning in his 663rd plate appearance of the year. Ohtani led the Angels in both innings pitched and starts as a pitcher as well as games played and plate appearances as a hitter, marking yet another historic season for the two-way superstar.
"Normally, I don’t really worry about those types of numbers but I was getting close to it and wanted to see what it feels like to get the minimum number of at-bats and innings pitched," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I think I learned a lot from that."
Ohtani went five innings in his 28th and final start of the season, allowing one run on one hit and one walk with six strikeouts before coming out of the game due to a blister. He took a perfect game into the fifth inning -- a start after taking a no-hitter in the seventh inning against Oakland -- but walked Stephen Vogt with one out before giving up a double to Chad Pinder. After allowing a run on a sacrifice fly to Conner Capel, Ohtani was visited at the mound by head athletic trainer Mike Frostad.
Ohtani was dealing with a blister on his right middle finger but remained in the game and struck out Dermis Garcia on three pitches. He didn’t come back out for the sixth inning despite having thrown just 69 pitches, but manager Phil Nevin felt it was the right decision, as the top layer of Ohtani’s blister had come off.
"He’s just a special player, a special person," Nevin said. "After four innings, you start thinking about that history stuff again, being perfect through four. It was a really good ending to a great year. We have something special, and the baseball world has something special. When he goes out there, you anticipate great things happening."
Ohtani finished his season 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 166 innings. He also hit .273/.356/.519 with 34 homers, 30 doubles, 11 stolen bases and 95 RBIs in 157 games. Among AL pitchers, Ohtani finished the year third in strikeouts (219), fourth in ERA (2.33) and tied for fourth in wins (15), while among AL hitters, Ohtani ranked fourth in homers and fifth in OPS.
"He’s unbelievable," said fellow superstar Mike Trout, who hit his 40th homer of the year (and the 350th of his career) in Wednesday's season finale. "I mean, it’s amazing. We’re fortunate enough to see it every day. I don’t think we’ll ever see this again."
The reigning American League MVP, Ohtani is again a candidate for the award, along with the Yankees' Aaron Judge, who hit his AL-record setting 62nd homer of the season on Tuesday night in Arlington and is considered the favorite.
With his strong finish on the mound, Ohtani is also in the mix for the AL Cy Young Award with the Astros' Justin Verlander, the White Sox's Dylan Cease and the Blue Jays' Alek Manoah. Ohtani leads American League starters in strikeouts per nine innings.
Ohtani, 28, said he’s enjoyed the award races down the stretch, but lamented that the Angels are missing out on the postseason yet again, as he’s never played in the playoffs since joining the club in 2018.
"I feel like I had a good season this year, probably better than last year, overall," Ohtani said. "But I would like to be in the playoffs and this is supposed to be the starting line. Unfortunately that’s not the case this year, but hopefully it is next year."
Ohtani, who signed a one-year deal worth $30 million on Saturday to avoid arbitration, also gave no hints about his future beyond next year. Ohtani is set to be a free agent after the 2023 season and said he hasn’t thought about a possible extension or reaching free agency just yet. The Angels are also in the midst of a possible ownership change, which could complicate things for Ohtani’s future with the organization.
Ohtani, though, was pleased to get his new contract out of the way before the offseason started and indicated that both his agent, Nez Balelo, and the Angels are on good terms.
"I’m glad we got this over with early, keeping a good relationship with the organization," Ohtani said. "Getting paid means a lot more expectations, so I’ve got to perform."