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Monday, July 05, 2021

Only One Player Has Ever Been As Good As Shohei Ohtani

As I wrote in May, this is a modern Babe Ruth season. But that might be understating what Ohtani has been doing. According to’s wins above replacement, Ohtani is on pace for 11.7 total WAR per 162 games this year, including 6.7 as a position player and 5.0 as a pitcher. That would be an astronomical tally — none of teammate Mike Trout’s seasons have reached that level; in fact, it hasn’t been done since Barry Bonds in 2002. But even more remarkably, no player in AL or NL history has even come close to producing 5 WAR on both sides of the ball in the same season. Ruth’s best two-way year saw him put up 6.0 WAR as a batter and 3.0 WAR as a pitcher in 1918, one of his last seasons before becoming a full-time outfielder.

When even the canonical example of a two-way baseball superstar fails to measure up, that means it’s pretty hard to find parallels for Ohtani’s 2021 performance. But it’s not impossible. After Baseball-Reference officially added statistics from the Negro Leagues to its major league records earlier this month, it opened up a lot of new comparisons in the data that weren’t possible before. Because of that, we have a chance to highlight another player that essentially did what Ohtani is doing right now — Bullet Rogan of the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1920s and ’30s.

We’ve talked about Rogan’s two-way prowess before, and we found that his most similar current comparison would be if a single player was like Ronald Acuña Jr. at the plate and Gerrit Cole on the mound. (Which is basically a description of Ohtani, too, if you think about it.) But that was before Baseball-Reference incorporated data from the Seamheads Negro Leagues database into its canon. The numbers now on the site make Rogan’s career look just as impressive: Despite playing in leagues with schedule lengths that usually ranged from 60 to 100 games per season, he produced 23.7 WAR as a batter and 37.8 as a pitcher, for a grand total of 61.5 career WAR — or more than 99.3 percent of all MLB players since 1901. (He and Ruth are also the only players with at least 20 career WAR as both a batter and a pitcher.)

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 05, 2021 at 09:24 AM | 108 comment(s)
  Beats: bulletin board, negro leaguers, shohei ohtani



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