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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Shohei Ohtani experiment isn’t just working—it’s been perfect

Hardly anything has ever worked as well as the Ohtani experiment has so far. Pitching in the Los Angeles Angels’ six-man starting rotation, Ohtani has made seven starts and the Angels are 6-1 in those games; playing three or four days a week as the club’s DH, he has batted 90 times and outhit everybody on the team except Mike Trout. Short stretches of baseball are inherently inconclusive, but we can now say Ohtani is certainly one of the 50 best pitchers in the world, probably one of the 30 best, plausibly one of the 10 best, and there’s an outside chance, a glimmer of hope, a faint possibility he’s actually the best pitcher in the world and we’re just waiting to find that out. And we can almost say the same about him as a hitter.

Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 23, 2018 at 02:51 AM | 57 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, shohei ohtani

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   1. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 23, 2018 at 09:22 AM (#5677945)
hyperbole much?

he is a wonderful player. Too bad he can't/won't play the outfield. The Angels could certainly use someone better than Calhoun (ops+ 12) out there.
   2. formerly dp Posted: May 23, 2018 at 09:27 AM (#5677955)
But if he's playing the OF, who is going to DH that's better than Calhoun?
   3. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 23, 2018 at 09:33 AM (#5677959)
just about anyone? certainly more options available for dh than people who can play the outfield. I see the Angels have been playing Chris Young also. He hasn't been much better than Calhoun. Do the Angels not have any outfielders in their farm system that can put up a .600 OPS?
   4. PepTech, the Legendary Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:11 AM (#5678036)
a faint possibility he’s actually the best pitcher in the world
Does anyone actually buy this?

Thought experiment. Let's assume he *is* the best pitcher in the world. Do you trot him out there as an everyday player and risk injury to that asset? At what point is it not worth risking the HBP, hamstring pulls, foul balls off the big toe? Or maybe the question is, how good would his hitting have to be to be worth it... I guess the same question in reverse. Is it worth it to risk "the best hitter in the world" to a non-hitting-related UCL tear?

I suppose the counter to all that is, you get what you can while you can, just like any other good player. Can't live in fear, right?
   5. McCoy Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:16 AM (#5678043)
Faint? How in the world is a 124 ERA+ in 7 career starts an argument for the best pitcher or even top 50 in the world?
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:16 AM (#5678045)
At what point is it not worth risking the HBP, hamstring pulls, foul balls off the big toe?


It's definitely much more satisfying to have the best pitcher in the world blow out his elbow.

   7. PreservedFish Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:20 AM (#5678051)
Faint? How in the world is a 124 ERA+ in 7 career starts an argument for the best pitcher or even top 50 in the world?


I think the fact that he has always had scouts creaming their jeans has something to do with the claim.

Or maybe the question is, how good would his hitting have to be to be worth it... I guess the same question in reverse.


This is exactly what TFA addresses - if he's X good as a hitter but Y good as a pitcher, does it make sense for him to split duties?
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:22 AM (#5678053)
I think the fact that he has always had scouts creaming their jeans has something to do with the claim.
Well, except for when the scouts decided toward the end of spring training that he'd never succeed in MLB.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:22 AM (#5678054)
Yeah, except for that.
   10. Rally Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:28 AM (#5678060)
Do the Angels not have any outfielders in their farm system that can put up a .600 OPS?


Probably Kole Calhoun. Sometimes players just lose it all of a sudden, but it's hard to believe that a guy with a career OPS+ of 105 all of a sudden has the batting ability of a pitcher.

But the dreadful start, almost a third of a season, certainly lowers his expectations. The various rest-of-season projections on Fangraphs have him between 90-96 WRC+. If Ohtani was in RF you could play Young, Valbuena, or Marte at DH (or 1B with Albert DH). Is that a better option, thinking about what you expect of these players going forward instead of what they've don in 2018? Also, Calhoun still brings value as a defender.

If Calhoun doesn't turn around than the next waiver wire guy you can pick up is an upgrade. Looking at the system, last year's top pick Jo Adell hit 326/398/611 in the Midwest league, just got promoted to A+ at age 19. If he keeps hitting we could have a Juan Soto situation and have him playing next to Trout before the year is over.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:30 AM (#5678063)
Do the Angels not have any outfielders in their farm system that can put up a .600 OPS?


They got caught snoozing on Jose Bautista!
   12. Batman Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:36 AM (#5678065)
There's a faint possibility I'm actually the best pitcher in the world. I was one of the best three or four pitchers on my Little League team 30 years ago, and I'm well-rested now. Or I will be well-rested after I lose this hangover.
   13. JRVJ Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:42 AM (#5678068)
or even top 50 in the world?


I'm sorry, but this is madness.

Guy didn't start playing baseball in January. He has a track record from Japan that HAS to be taken into account (and last I heard, Japan is in this here world).
   14. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:42 AM (#5678069)
There's a faint possibility I'm actually the best pitcher in the world. I was one of the best three or four pitchers on my Little League team 30 years ago, and I'm well-rested now. Or I will be well-rested after I lose this hangover.
Are you in the best shape of your life?
   15. bookbook Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:49 AM (#5678083)
I think the odds are that he'd be most valuable over the course of his career as a full-time outfielder. With rare exceptions a very good hitter/defender adds more to his team than a great pitcher, especially with modern usage trends which will only continue. Add in the decreased injury risk, and for me it's a no-brainer.

This way is much more fun, but I doubt he's so much better as a pitcher that this constitutes optimal usage.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: May 23, 2018 at 11:56 AM (#5678092)
If you think he should stop playing both ways, you suck. Fact.
   17. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: May 23, 2018 at 01:12 PM (#5678144)
If he was qualifed, he'd be 20th in FIP. He's been good, there's zero evidence he's the best pitcher in baseball. That said, being one of the 100 best hitters and 20 best pitchers in baseball is pretty impressive from any player, let alone a foreign, 23 year old rookie.

I think articles like this cheapen the Ohtani experience overall. There's plenty of time to crown him.
   18. Shredder Posted: May 23, 2018 at 01:28 PM (#5678159)
Probably Kole Calhoun. Sometimes players just lose it all of a sudden, but it's hard to believe that a guy with a career OPS+ of 105 all of a sudden has the batting ability of a pitcher.
It seems like every team is heavily shifting on just about every Angels hitter, and this is probably just me projecting on to Calhoun, but I get the sense the shift is getting to his head. Can't remember if teams shifted this much on him last year. It's like he's going up and and saying "You think I'm gonna to pull? Well then I'm going to try to pull the #### out of this!" But man, after last night's debacle in right field, if I were Scioscia, I think I'd just say "Keep playing great defense, and just go up there and bunt for a while. Swallow your pride* a bit and take the nearly always free base".

*This should be fairly light meal, since there can't be much pride left in a OPS of 12+.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 23, 2018 at 01:42 PM (#5678181)
If you think he should stop playing both ways, you suck. Fact.

Concur
   20. PreservedFish Posted: May 23, 2018 at 01:46 PM (#5678192)
Your concurrence is unnecessary, I had already proven that it was a fact by saying: "Fact."
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 23, 2018 at 01:50 PM (#5678198)
Your concurrence is unnecessary, I had already proven that it was a fact by saying: "Fact."

Dude, it's 2018. Everyone gets to have their own facts.
   22. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 23, 2018 at 01:52 PM (#5678203)
The Shohei Ohtani experiment isn’t just working—it’s been perfect

Perfect seems like a pretty high bar. Ohtani couldn't pitch every 6 days rather than once a week? Couldn't bat in the games he pitches? Seems a little early to say for sure. Now, I think it's smart for the Angels to be cautious - Ohtani is in his first year, adjusting to MLB and a different country, so doing what he's comfortable with makes sense. The intriguing question is whether the Angels would adjust his usage in a playoff series, where there's more at stake, and more off days, than in the regular season.
   23. Batman Posted: May 23, 2018 at 02:56 PM (#5678296)
Dude, it's 2018. Everyone gets to have their own facts.
You forgot to say "Fact" at the end, so you're lying. Fact.
   24. Khrushin it bro Posted: May 23, 2018 at 04:27 PM (#5678393)
Everybody agrees he's an exciting player. It's also May let's see how he holds up over the long haul.
   25. Walt Davis Posted: May 23, 2018 at 05:53 PM (#5678439)
I went through these sorts of possibilities for y'all before the season began and obviously I was thorough and correct. Fact.

The conclusion was he'd have to be really good at both for this to make (strict actuarial) sense. And of course so far he has been. So let's tally up as if this is his true talent level.

The Angels have played 48 games and he has 1.7 WAR. Pro-rate that out over a full season and it's 5.7 WAR.

He has 0.8 WARpos in 94 PA. Pro-rate that out to 650 PA and you get 5.5 WAR.

He has 0.9 WARpit in 7 starts. Pro-rate that out to 32 starts and you get 4.1 WAR.

So you gain 0.2 WAR and don't suck (fact!) if you continue to use him in the way he has been so far. You really suck if you turn him into a pitcher (wild speculation but fact!)

But you know who really sucks? Anybody who wants him to hit and relieve ... cuz relievers suck! (Fact. Fact. Fact. Fact. Fact.)

   26. Batman Posted: May 23, 2018 at 06:10 PM (#5678440)
Walt Davis's mind works a lot better than mine does. Fact.
   27. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 23, 2018 at 06:46 PM (#5678452)

I think the odds are that he'd be most valuable over the course of his career as a full-time outfielder. With rare exceptions a very good hitter/defender adds more to his team than a great pitcher, especially with modern usage trends which will only continue. Add in the decreased injury risk, and for me it's a no-brainer.

He's more likely to keep up the 124 ERA+ pitching than the 160 OPS+ hitting, though.

I think the current usage is optimal over the long-term because in addition to keeping him happy I think it actually reduces your risk. If he suffers an otherwise career-ending pitching injury he will still have maintained his hitting skills and can probably return as a full-time DH or OF. If his hitting skills decline he may still be able to pitch (more pitchers seem to be useful into their early 40s than hitters).

I expect by the end of his career, he's either a full-time position player or pitcher. But I honestly don't know which.
   28. bookbook Posted: May 24, 2018 at 01:36 AM (#5678663)
Just in terms of optimizing his WAR, if it were safe to put him in right field... even if he sucked he’d get away from the massive DH penalty.
   29. Rally Posted: May 24, 2018 at 08:27 AM (#5678686)
even if he sucked he’d get away from the massive DH penalty.


Depends how badly he sucked. The DH penalty is -15 per full season, but corner OF is -7.5. So if he's worse than -7.5 his WAR is better when he DHs.

Not that I think Ohtani would be a Luzinski or Adam Dunn. He's the 2nd fastest Angel after Trout, so I assume if he dedicated himself to being an outfielder he'd be pretty good one. Ohtani is a 10-tool player.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: May 24, 2018 at 10:08 AM (#5678784)
he’d get away from the massive DH penalty


At some point we need to consider what the Angels need rather than a hypothetical team. Moving him to RF today might give him a nice WAR boost, given average defense, but the Angels can't just immediately go acquire a capable DH - the boost to Ohtani's WAR would be illusory.
   31. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 24, 2018 at 10:15 AM (#5678787)
Calhoun with another 0'fer. hitting .120/.184/.120 in May. OPS+ down to 8.

edit: as reference, NL pitchers are hitting .121/.150/.156 so far this season.
   32. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 24, 2018 at 10:17 AM (#5678790)
Just in terms of optimizing his WAR, if it were safe to put him in right field... even if he sucked he’d get away from the massive DH penalty.


Optimize his value maybe, but not team value. On a team level, it's a zero sum game. Every team has to have a RF and a DH. Unless there is an upgrade in actual defensive value, there is no gain to the team by swapping a RF with a DH, or putting a DH in RF and someone else at DH. I mean, yes, if you can find a DH who is a better hitter than the current RF, and the DH now in RF doesn't field worse than the Curren RF, then yes, there is upgrade potential. But merely butting the DH in RF to boos his value doesn't help the team barring the other theoretical upgrade.
   33. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 24, 2018 at 11:33 AM (#5678896)
Perfect seems like a pretty high bar. Ohtani couldn't pitch every 6 days rather than once a week? Couldn't bat in the games he pitches?
The Angels just moved back Ohtani's next start. Workload management is the reason that was given.
   34. Rally Posted: May 24, 2018 at 11:43 AM (#5678907)
Calhoun with another 0'fer. hitting .120/.184/.120 in May. OPS+ down to 8.


I think MLB told them in secret that if they use a pitcher who hits like a DH, they have to have someone else in the lineup who hits like a pitcher. Thought it would be the catcher position but apparently Calhoun has stepped up. He did earn another save though by throwing out the tying run in the 9th last night.
   35. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 24, 2018 at 12:46 PM (#5678947)
I think MLB told them in secret that if they use a pitcher who hits like a DH, they have to have someone else in the lineup who hits like a pitcher. Thought it would be the catcher position but apparently Calhoun has stepped up. He did earn another save though by throwing out the tying run in the 9th last night.


At least he has that.
   36. Shredder Posted: May 24, 2018 at 02:15 PM (#5679019)
Calhoun with another 0'fer. hitting .120/.184/.120 in May. OPS+ down to 8.
Don't let those numbers fool you. Calhoun singled, tripled, and homered on opening day. He has 32 total bases this year, and 25% of them came on the first day of the season! He's been much worse than his numbers indicate. That said, not starting him on Tuesday probably cost the Angels the game, and his peg of Granderson last night probably saved the game for the Angels, so we can talk about WAR and value over the course of a season, but it never really captures those day to day impacts.
   37. Baldrick Posted: May 24, 2018 at 02:17 PM (#5679022)
Don't let those numbers fool you. Calhoun singled, tripled, and homered on opening day. He has 32 total bases this year, and 25% of them came on the first day of the season! He's been much worse than his numbers indicate. That said, not starting him on Tuesday probably cost the Angels the game, and his peg of Granderson last night probably saved the game for the Angels, so we can talk about WAR and value over the course of a season, but it never really captures those day to day impacts.

The first game of the season is part of the season.
   38. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 24, 2018 at 02:23 PM (#5679035)
That said, not starting him on Tuesday probably cost the Angels the game, and his peg of Granderson last night probably saved the game for the Angels, so we can talk about WAR and value over the course of a season, but it never really captures those day to day impacts.
Exactly. For example, in last night's game, Calhoun left seven men on base, including four on 2nd or 3rd. One base hit in those situations, and the Angels don't need a 9th inning miracle to win that one. The defense is great, but going 0-5 day to day, day AFTER day costs the Angels many, many games.
   39. PreservedFish Posted: May 24, 2018 at 02:32 PM (#5679047)
Sorry, I am now convinced that Calhoun is the clutchest fielder in baseball. Get your logic outta here.
   40. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 24, 2018 at 03:16 PM (#5679092)
Another 0-4 today for Kole.
   41. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 24, 2018 at 03:31 PM (#5679104)
Another 0-4 today for Kole.

You wouldn't think a guy could just forget how to hit.

Calhoun is the only qualified player with a wOBA below .200, at .174. Even Chris Davis is at .218. man is he toasty.
   42. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 24, 2018 at 03:52 PM (#5679120)
You wouldn't think a guy could just forget how to hit.

As America's greatest philosopher once said, baseball is ninety percent mental; the other half is physical. Cole must have the hitting version of the dreaded Steve Sax/Chuck Knoblauch syndrome.
   43. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 24, 2018 at 03:53 PM (#5679122)
With today's 0-4, Calhoun is now at .111/.169/.130 for the month of May. His May OPS is .299.

EDIT: 59 PAs for the month so far.
   44. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 24, 2018 at 04:06 PM (#5679127)
With today's 0-4, Calhoun is now at .111/.169/.130 for the month of May. His May OPS is .299.

Yeesh. DL him for 10 days. Tell him to take a vacation. Get drunk. Whatever. Just try and break the pattern.
   45. Hysterical & Useless Posted: May 24, 2018 at 04:10 PM (#5679132)
Get drunk.


"The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."
   46. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 24, 2018 at 04:13 PM (#5679135)
With today's 0-4, Calhoun is now at .111/.169/.130 for the month of May. His May OPS is .299.


Since March 30th, he is hitting .139/.178/.146
   47. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 24, 2018 at 04:36 PM (#5679149)
Since March 30th, he is hitting .139/.178/.146

Lou Gehrig in 1939: 143/.273/.143.
   48. Rally Posted: May 25, 2018 at 09:22 AM (#5679455)
Are you suggesting that the Angel RF is soon to be diagnosed with Kole Calhoun's disease? That would explain the drop-off.
   49. Rally Posted: May 25, 2018 at 09:28 AM (#5679460)
Looking at Brooks Baseball - you can slice and dice the data so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin. But this detail sums it up - SLG on pitches right down the middle (from zone profile charts):

2015 .811
2016 .661
2017 .733
2018 .188
   50. Baldrick Posted: May 25, 2018 at 10:47 AM (#5679517)
Looking at Brooks Baseball - you can slice and dice the data so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin. But this detail sums it up - SLG on pitches right down the middle (from zone profile charts):

2015 .811
2016 .661
2017 .733
2018 .188

My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
   51. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 25, 2018 at 01:15 PM (#5679633)
Apparently Calhoun's standards are too high to go out for a night of slumpbusting.
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 25, 2018 at 03:52 PM (#5679687)
Not even the fatties will bang a guy hitting .139.
   53. Leroy Kincaid Posted: May 25, 2018 at 09:38 PM (#5679825)
a faint possibility he’s actually the best pitcher in the world


Sure, if you don't consider the U.S. to be part of the world. Ever hear "world" music? There's no country/western or jazz in there.
   54. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2018 at 10:16 PM (#5679858)
Lou Gehrig in 1939: 143/.273/.143.


Did he improve after that?
   55. Howie Menckel Posted: May 25, 2018 at 10:29 PM (#5679870)
Lou said he later got "luckiest" - as opposed to poor Calhoun.
   56. dave h Posted: May 26, 2018 at 08:05 PM (#5680163)
He did earn another save though by throwing out the tying run in the 9th last night.


Has anyone seen him in the same room as Jeff Francoeur?
   57. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: May 28, 2018 at 10:32 AM (#5680644)
There is no risks of injury as long as he doesn't participate in the home run derby or the WBC.

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