It is very important that we do not take Shohei Otani for granted.
The Los Angeles Angels pitcher is finishing the best two-way season in MLB history – yes, even better than Babe Ruth – and could very well surpass him this year. He’s an unparalleled talent in baseball, but he’s gotten so big that it’s hard to remember how impossible it seemed to think of him as a prospect.
So when he does something like, say, post two homers, eight RBIs, and then knock out 13 batters in eight close innings, we should probably do our best to appreciate it. So let’s talk about the last two days.
On Tuesday, Otani had arguably the best offensive game of his career as he went 3-for-4 with two homers and eight RBIs, the latter a career-high, against the Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately because there is a reason Tweet O’Doyle “Tungsten Hand” went viral for some reason, the Angels lost 12-11 in extra innings.
The next day, when Otani was on the mound, the Angels did not kill him. Or rather, he didn’t let them kill him.
The day after Ohtani went off the plate, he scored eight scoreless for a career-high 13 points, allowing only two hits and one move in a 5-0 win. Oh, and he went 1-on- 3 with two walks for good measure.
This season, Otani is now hitting .260/.336/.487 with 15 homers, 45 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 298 plate appearances while having a 2.90 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 68.1 innings. Those pitching now are ahead of almost everything he did last season on an innings basis, while hitting is a step backwards, but still ridiculous considering Otani pitches every fifth or sixth day.
In a world that didn’t have a 2021 season, Otani would be the biggest story in baseball. But it happened, and the biggest story in baseball doesn’t quite work when it’s the same two years in a row, even when Otani overcomes the impossible.