Shuhei Ohtani He is one of the best shooters in baseball and one of the best hitters in baseball. It’s the first thing everyone thinks of when his name comes up, and it always will be. He walks and hits! How can you talk about anything other than that?
While this is true, it overlooks one important thing. Ohtani is amazing not only because he is a two-way player, but because he completely overhauled his shooting technique in the middle of his best season to date. When Ohtani threw eight runs on his last start, he barely looked like the bowler he was in 2021 – or even early 2022.
When Ohtani put in a show and made his way to the MLS Player of the Year award last year (my colleague Jay Jaffe Recently covered striving to defend that title), he did so with a mix of varied pitch. He relied heavily on the four-seat speedball and supplemented it with two plus minors, a slider and a spacer. He mixed in the cutter and curler game occasionally, but mostly stuck to his top three. It’s a classic coupling: fast ball, ball breaking, and pitch speed. It succeeded because the three pitches are excellent; If you have a fast ball at 100 mph, a dealer falling on the table, and a stinging slider, you should probably do the same.
Despite this, Otani fixed his slider while on vacation. This season has come out by throwing it away Harder and more frequent. On his third start of the year, he was flirting with perfection in front of the loaded Astros lineup, and from that moment on, he was his first slider pitcher. Look at his slider usage by month this year and like:
That’s right: In September, in a completely dominant performance (1.09 ERA, 1.87 FIP), he tossed the slider more than half the time. When you talk about Ohtani, superlatives are thrown like candy from a piñata, but I mean this: He might throw the best slider in baseball. The combination of speed (85.4 mph on average, three full marks harder than he used to throw) and break (7.8 inches of horizontal movement on average per pitch tip, roughly as much as the slow slider break) leaves rackets shaking heads.
I think it’s this way. Blake Trainin It was one of the best painkillers in baseball last year, and Evan Phillips This cloak was taken from him this year. They both succeed on the back of their slides, and both throw a carbon copy of Ohtani’s tune—same speed, same horizontal interval, and a touch more on their way home. Both are excellent accommodation. Ohtani throws the same pitch on the entry-level workload, while mixing in five other classes to boot.
Wait, five more pitches? Yes, Ohtani has done more than just display his slider frequently. Let’s quickly move to his other options. First, there’s the cutter, the pitch that he invented last year and is still in use. He’s throwing it with more overall bearish breakouts this year and using it almost equally against the left and right. It’s not great at drawing chases, but it does a good job if you lose the bat when the hitters offer it:
Another third tier stadium from 2021 is Curve Ball. Ohtani’s curve isn’t his best at breaking balls, but he throws fewer left-hand skaters thanks to his platoon issues. Fills in some of the differences with curves. It exhibits an inconsistent sense of its location, but when it detects it at the bottom of the area, it’s excellent:
Of course, Ohtani still threw the break, his signature tune when he came from Japan. It’s almost the same as ever; He falls off the table after it slips out of his hand like a fastball, resulting in an unreasonable number of bad swings. The big downside to the stadium is that it doesn’t always position itself well. According to Statcast, only 30% of their defectors this year were in the rulebook strike zone. This means that it is better to use it when it is advanced in counting, such as:
Finally when it comes to replays, there are four tailors. Weird fact: Ohtani’s four tailors aren’t as strong as you might expect. He has a low speed but does not boast proper movement. Think of it this way: Former Hokkaido Fighter Fellow Nippon Hamm Yo Darwish He throws a fastball at 95 mph on average. On the way home, it drops 13.5 inches from its starting track thanks to the accumulated help of a pure backspin. Ohtani rushes even more aggressively – 97.3 mph on average this year. That should mean less time for gravity to pull the ball down, but still drop 14.5 inches. It’s a notable move thanks to its speed, but it doesn’t have an outstanding movement. That doesn’t mean it can’t make hitters look bad, though:
This brings us to Otani’s newest game, a sinker. It has a lot in common with some of the pitchers you may have heard of. The two best vehicles for him in terms of horizontal movement and speed are Sandy Alcantara And the Dustin May. It also sinks more than either of these two. The result is the east-west pairing of the slider that always makes speculators look foolish:
If you don’t remember throwing my Utani with a sink, it’s no stranger. He didn’t do that until recently. In the first four months of the season, he threw exactly one. In September, he threw 67, and now he’s throwing divers more than four divers. All this happened very quickly. Heck, on August 19, it was Michael Ajito gravity analysis in more than baseball flyer On the basis of only eight stadiums. Even in early September, it was still a novelty. Just to emphasize the point, oh my Tell time magazine He didn’t have a grip. He learned that in season, and by September he was giving up his four stitches in her favour.
In fact, Ohtani hardly throws any fast balls at all. With his slider well done for 53% of his pitches, there simply isn’t much room for fast balls; It tosses the four-piece sewing machine, the drill, and the cutter 10-12% of the time. This leaves only scraps for the once-strong curved ball and spacer.
I’m not sure if this is Otani’s new normal or just something he’s trying to try at the end of the year for potential use next year. The Angels have actually been out of the knockout race for a long time; Testing some new offerings and getting a head start next season is a perfectly reasonable plan in this context.
If this is Otani’s new standard form, he will start to break new ground when it comes to smashing ball primacy. As Kyle Kishimoto recently noted, Fastball disappearsBut not to the extent that Ahtani is far from his country. Jacob Jones He was the star of Kyle’s article, the first pitcher in over a decade to throw a secondary pitcher more than half the time. stop dylan And the Clayton Kershaw Throwing their slides a little over 40% of the time; They are best for beginners who give a spin-off frequently.
Ohtani’s slider is such a dominant pitch that it’s no wonder he’s relying on it more and more. He threw it to start nearly half of the hits he faced in September, and he showed a good instinctive sense of court in doing so. Speculators swung his first-court showings frequently, so he didn’t flood the area too hard. This sounds like a tricky adjustment, and it is: Bowlers who flip curved balls on the first pitch often struggle to adjust to hitters who swing freely on them. But Ohtani’s slider isn’t a showy lollipop; It’s great that he’s driving it in the strike zone. He may have to counter-adjust and attack frequently with the pitch as hitters realize the futility of swinging towards it and backing away, but for now, he’s doing a good job on the first pitch by leaning on his passer without going out of his way to attack the area.
If he stuck with using that heavy slider – I think Cease’s low usage rate in the ’40s seems reasonable to him – I’d like to see him supplement it with a new sink. Ohtani’s four-pitched tailor has always been good despite the average move, but swapping him for a big-running sink will give him something new: a pitch he can throw back to the rackets when he’s trailed by the slider, plus one that pairs well with that slider.
That doesn’t mean he’s likely to give up on the four-seam fastball anytime soon. Plungers lose potency in the number of jugs; It’s good at reducing damage on contact, not losing the bat. Keeping a fast ball in reserve that can get you swinging shots on useful counts is just good planning. The same goes for the splitter. It’s at its best when he throws two hits, because hitters are more aggressive in defending the area at that time. Using his tunes on instrumental charges should make them all sing.
It is not easy to keep so many playgrounds at your disposal. Most shooters can’t just tap their fingers and develop a new ballistic, and certainly can’t get rid of the two pitches they’ve used so often in the past (four stitchers and a splitter, for Otani) and rely on two new friends instead, just to pull out the old pitches when you need them most. But this is Shohei Ohtani we’re talking about. Normal rules do not apply to him. I can’t wait to see what he’s planning next year on the hill – and what changes he’ll make to his approach to the board while he’s on it.