Ohtani’s monster 2021 draws comparisons to the game’s greats


Pitcher, designated hitter, outfield

Shohei Ohtani

In the category of players doing things that haven’t been done before, we present for your consideration Shohei Ohtani.

Indeed, in their two-way sensation, the Los Angeles Angels have a designated hitter whose 37 home runs through the season’s first four months and a starting pitcher whose 100 strikeouts in 15 starts (80 innings) has him as the favorite to win the American League MVP Award. In the opinion of Angels manager Joe Maddon, “It’s not even close.”

To list all his accomplishments as a two-way player would be impossible as he seemingly sets new marks by the day. But there is one name that keeps coming up as a comparison and that is an all-time great: Babe Ruth.

Before he gained his reputation as a prodigious slugger of 714 home runs primarily as a member of the New York Yankees, Ruth was a pitcher and a very good one for the Boston Red Sox. In fact, he won more than 20 games twice for the Sox in 1916 and 1917 and his ERA was usually among the league leaders. When he was sold to the Bombers in 1919, he was shifted to the outfield but did make two appearances as a pitcher in 1921, the year he hit 59 homers. For the record, he was 2-0 that year.

Of course, Ohtani has a long way to go before he can approach the Bambino’s career numbers but his 2021 stats as a hitter (.275, 37 dingers, 82 RBIs, .365 on-base percentage, 1.039 OPS) and pitcher (5-1, 3.04 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) as of early August certainly speak to his uniqueness as a talent.

Ohtani and the Angels can be seen in action twice this week on national TV: On the road against the Cleveland Indians Sunday, Aug. 22, on ESPN, and at home versus the San Diego Padres Saturday, Aug. 28, on FS1.

Player Profile

Name: Shohei Ohtani

Birth date: July 5, 1994

Birthplace: Oshu, Japan

Height/weight: 6 feet 4 inches/210 pounds

Teams: Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2013-17); Los Angeles Angels (2018-present)

Position: Pitcher, designated hitter, outfield

Bats/throws: Left/right

No.: 17

Honors and achievements: Japan Series champion (2016); five-time NPB All-Star; Pacific League MVP (2016); Pacific League ERA leader (2015); American League Rookie of the Year (2018); AL All-Star (2021)

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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