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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 Baseball-Reference.com’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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