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Friday, December 08, 2017

For Ex-Big Leaguers in Japan, Ohtani A Special But Not Invincible Talent | BaseballAmerica.com

OK, we’ve all seen a lot of coverage on Ohtani. One option I haven’t seen mentioned is, why not have him work out of the bullpen for the next year or two while giving your team some time to make a decision about the long-term value of his bat? I know there might be some issues getting him warmed up but, with his limited innings last year, it might be a workable idea that appeals to him in his quest to be a true two-way player.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 08, 2017 at 10:43 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: shohei ohtani

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   1. Baldrick Posted: December 08, 2017 at 11:13 AM (#5588728)
It seemed to me that he'd be most useful as a 'two times through the lineup, and no more' starter. Give him ~25 starts that way, and another ~90 games as an offensive starter, trying to give him days off on either side of his starts where possible.

Using him out of the bullpen also could make sense, but how would that work with him getting offensive starts?
   2. aberg Posted: December 08, 2017 at 12:07 PM (#5588775)
I remember when Houston Street was at Texas. He was their closer and also a position player (I believe he played a corner OF). I remember watching him warm up while in the field, playing long toss with a bullpen catcher in foul territory in between pitches. Let's have Ohtani do that, if only for the comedic value.
   3. DCA Posted: December 08, 2017 at 12:20 PM (#5588792)
The one I remember is Bobby Thigpen (was at Mississippi State with Raffy Palmeiro, Will Clark, and Jeff Brantley). He started in RF and would come in to pitch in relief.
   4. Barnaby Jones Posted: December 08, 2017 at 12:31 PM (#5588804)
Matt Wieters was the closer at GA Tech.
   5. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 08, 2017 at 12:46 PM (#5588810)
Seems to me the question is how much Ohtani lives up to the hype. AFAICR the only three Japanese players who've made a major splash over here are Ichiro, Matsui, and Darvish. Kuroda was a solid pitcher for about half a dozen years, but he came over late in his career and never showed signs of superstardom. And Nomo's major talent was just sticking around, unless 21.8 WAR over 12 years and a career ERA+ of 97 indicates anything more than that. Ohtani may have superstar talent, but then supposedly so did Dice-K, who had one great year and that was it.
   6. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: December 08, 2017 at 12:55 PM (#5588813)
I think Tanaka has lived up to the hype. His health issues are dragging him down but he strode into MLB giving star performance right off the bat*.

*I couldn't resist
   7. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 08, 2017 at 01:24 PM (#5588834)
I think Tanaka has lived up to the hype. His health issues are dragging him down but he strode into MLB giving star performance right off the bat*.

I might have included Tanaka, but three good years and one good postseason still make me want to hold off a bit on him. He's certainly shown breakout signs, but I'd give him a year or two to see if he can sustain it.
   8. Rally Posted: December 08, 2017 at 01:30 PM (#5588839)
Ohtani is far younger than most of those players were when they came over. If Ichiro had come over at 23 instead of 27 he'd be closing in on 4000 hits next year.
   9. JJ1986 Posted: December 08, 2017 at 02:09 PM (#5588883)
Ohtani signing with the Angels.
   10. Stevens Posted: December 08, 2017 at 02:09 PM (#5588884)
Whither Nomo?
   11. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2017 at 02:35 PM (#5588899)
And Nomo's major talent was just sticking around


This is a fairly serious underbid on Nomo. He had four seasons of excellent pitching, and a few more of above-average pitching. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young vote each of his first two seasons. He never prospered outside LA, but he was an excellent pitcher for the Dodgers.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: December 08, 2017 at 05:32 PM (#5589051)
Nomo also led the league twice in Ks and regularly K'd 9-10 per 9 for the first 10 or so years. There's no obvious missed injury time in his record but his K-rate plummeted over his last 600 or so innings. Not that ERA+ performance was that great over those years, lots of BBs and HRs to go with the Ks, but he definitely had ML stuff.

An oddly shaped career with odd transactions (claimed off waivers on Oct 28 1999, granted FA on Oct 29 1999) with him pitching very well early and late for the Dodgers. In 5 full seasons, he gave the Dodgers 18 WAR -- that's very good pitching. In two partial seasons at the end, he gave back 4 WAR. In between his two very good stints, he was mostly average.

On the idea of Ohtani as a reliever -- why? This only makes sense if you think his real future is as a 5-6 WAR hitter. Unless he's going to be Kimbrel or something (possible), he's only gonna generate maybe 1 WAR as a reliever so he's only a star if he really, really hits. And if you think he's really that good of a hitter, then just make him a full-time hitter and don't worry about the reliever stuff.

In the more likely scenario that he's no better than an average 1B/LF/RF/DH bat (say a 110-120 OPS+) then the only way you get big value out of him is from his arm and he needs to start.

As I've said all along, assuming he can't really play everyday (i.e. he's limited to a couple of field starts between pitching starts, maybe 300-400 PA a year), the only way double-usage will generate substantial extra value is if he is both a really good pitcher and a really good hitter ... and even then it's not clear you shouldn't limit him to one or the other.

I know the Angels won't but to simplify stuff, let's assume he plays DH/P for about 330 PA. Let's say he's as good a hitter as Nelson Cruz who happens to have averaged about 660 PA over the last 4 years. So he gives you have a Cruz which is about 2.2 WAR. Let's say he pitches as well as Verlander over the last three years -- that's 5 WAR. (Verlander is 5th in pitcher WAR for 2015-17).

So if he's one of the best SPs in the game and one of the better hitters (but limited defensively) then he's about a 7 WAR player. That's excellent but not re-defining the game. It also assumes that hitting (and maybe playing the field) between games doesn't take away from the pitching. Sure, if you can add 2 WAR without harming is pitching production then obviously you do it but do we think that's realistic?**

The flipside then is to hit him full-time which gives you Cruz's 4.5 WAR ... if Ohtani plays the field competently, maybe that gets pushed up to 5-6 WAR. Then, sure, maybe you can add a WAR or two as a reliever or spot starter, again pushing him to about 7 WAR.

That seems like a lot of risk and hassle to squeeze out an extra 2 WAR ... an extra 2 WAR you only get if he's something like a mix of Cruz and Verlander. If he's a mix of Verlander and Trumbo (or Ozuna and Jason Hammel/Corey Knebel), you might be adding .5 to 1 WAR. At that point, you're only doing it because it's cool.

So the only way he becomes the super cool god we're hoping for is if he is outstanding at both and starts in the field nearly every game he doesn't pitch and that doesn't affect his pitching or hitting. Then we've got the 10-WAR god.

It makes sense to me that you do this for a while until you have sufficient information to evaluate his potential in both areas, maybe a half to a full season. But then you probably should pick one.

** Even Ruth was a two-way player for only two seasons ... and actually only for about half of each of those seasons. His first stint was along the lines of what we envision for Ohtani where he was reduced to starting only every 5th-6th game and played a few in the field in-between. I recall there's only one period in 1919 when he was playing nearly every day and pitching every 4th-5th. 1919 also happened to be his worst year as a pitcher. The most optimistic point is that his stretches of regular two-way usage didn't seem to affect his pitching performance.
   13. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 08, 2017 at 05:48 PM (#5589065)
And Nomo's major talent was just sticking around

This is a fairly serious underbid on Nomo. He had four seasons of excellent pitching, and a few more of above-average pitching. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young vote each of his first two seasons. He never prospered outside LA, but he was an excellent pitcher for the Dodgers.


I didn't say he was a bad pitcher, only that his career numbers were unimpressive. And there are plenty of pitchers most people have never heard of who've put up four seasons with ERA+ numbers between 112 and 149. Does anyone think that the Angels will be satisfied if that's all Ohtani's pitching accomplishments amount to, after all this "second coming of Babe Ruth" hype?

Personally I'd love to see Ohtani either blossom into another Mike Trout or a longer lasting version of Dean Chance,** because baseball can always use fresh superstars. All I meant to say is that so far the Japanese players who've made the jump have been kind of a mixed bag. But I'm glad that at least he'll be in the American League, where he'll have a much better chance to blossom both ways.

** Who was a lot better than Nomo, and mostly forgotten today.
   14. Khrushin it bro Posted: December 08, 2017 at 10:44 PM (#5589143)
I don't think he's going to hit enoughto be a 5 to 6 war guy. I hope I'm wrong since it would be fun to see. I think he's Darvish.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: December 09, 2017 at 07:08 AM (#5589155)
It seemed to me that he'd be most useful as a 'two times through the lineup, and no more' starter. Give him ~25 starts that way, and another ~90 games as an offensive starter, trying to give him days off on either side of his starts where possible.

Using him out of the bullpen also could make sense, but how would that work with him getting offensive starts?


Ohtani is a potential stud pitcher. He could be a true top starter.

As a hitter - and one possibly limited to DH - he's a potential Kendrys Morales. If he were a pitcher only, he'd still be famous, and clubs would be fighting to pay that $20M posting fee. If he were a hitter only, you and I would have never heard of him.

His hitting just isn't likely to be important enough. It's fun. It's cool as hell. But no team is going to limit his potential on the mound in order to foster his potential as a hitter.

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