In terms of all-around skill set, there might not be a more valuable player in Major League Baseball than Angels Swiss Army knife Shohei Ohtani, who has gotten off to a blistering start in 2021, tying for the AL lead in home runs with ten while contributing a masterful 2.10 ERA in his five turns through the Halos’ starting rotation.
The former AL Rookie of the Year quite literally did it all Tuesday night in Houston, overpowering the Astros over seven dominant frames. The 26-year-old jack-of-all-trades has been erratic at times this season (20 walks in 25 2/3 innings), but Ohtani was hitting his spots Tuesday, yielding all of one run (permitted on a Kyle Tucker solo blast to lead off the fifth inning), four hits and a single walk over his 88 pitches at Minute Maid Park. Ohtani’s gem included a season-high 10 punch-outs, of which nine were of the swinging variety. His blazing four-seamer touched 99 mph on multiple occasions.
In addition to his mound heroics, the 6’4” ace, also delivered a base hit batting from the No. 2 hole in the Angels’ lineup, singling off Lance McCullers to lead off the seventh. After being lifted as a pitcher, manager Joe Maddon inserted Ohtani in right field for only the second time in his major-league career. Though Ohtani has rarely been asked to play the field in America, he previously appeared in the outfield 62 times in his native Japan.
Ohtani, who also leads Los Angeles in steals with six thefts this season, didn’t record any putouts in right field, though he made a spectacular grab on the mound, stabbing a hard-hit chopper up the middle to rob Michael Brantley of a base hit. Per Elias Sports Bureau, Ohtani—who was credited with a no-decision in the Angels’ 5-1 loss to Houston—is just the third big-leaguer in the modern era (since 1900) to notch 10 or more strikeouts and play another position in the same game.
Many dismissed Ohtani as a novelty upon his much-anticipated big-league arrival in 2018, but he’s proven to be much more than that, excelling in all facets as the most dominant two-way player since Babe Ruth. The Angels were judicious in how they employed Ohtani early on, but obviously that philosophy has changed this season with Maddon unleashing his superstar on the masses. The training wheels are off for Ohtani and so far, the results have been staggering. For those wondering, Ohtani is eight games away from gaining outfield eligibility in Yahoo Fantasy Leagues.