Major League Baseball

Is this the year Angels dual-threat star Shohei Ohtani stays healthy?

May 7

MLB has a must-see star on its hands in Los Angeles.

And he isn't a member of the defending champion Dodgers.

The Los Angeles Angels are in last place in the AL West, even though they feature arguably the best player in the world in Mike Trout. But their main attraction early in the season has been dual-threat Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.

He is doubling as not only one of baseball's most dominant hitters so far this season …

… but also one of the game's most well-rounded starting pitchers.

Ohtani's talent and greatness have never been in question during his brief tenure with the Angels, which started with his arrival to MLB in 2018.

But the main question surrounding Ohtani in his four-year career has been his health. He played only 210 out of 324 possible games in his first two seasons because of UCL and patella injuries. He also suffered from a flexor strain in his right elbow in 2020.

So far in 2021, however, it has been a clean bill of health for Ohtani, and the Angels are seeing a proper return on their investment.

Ohtani's 10 home runs in 30 games are tied for the most in the majors, and his work on the mound, with 30 strikeouts through his first four starts, has placed him in the history books early this season.

Like most great pitchers, Ohtani has a dominant pitch in his arsenal that just can't be touched: his splitter.

That splitter has been among the most devastating pitches in the game this season, as documented by Jack Harris of The Los Angeles Times.

"Of the 23 times opponents have swung at Ohtani’s splitter this season, 17 came up empty — a major league-best 73.9% whiff rate. Of the six times contact was made, five were foul balls. And on the lone occasion the pitch was put in play by the Chicago White Sox’s Leury García, it resulted in a ground ball hit so weakly to second that García was able to beat out a double play."

Ohtani's splitter is complemented by a fastball that can reach triple digits on the radar gun, as well as a slider and curveball. Altogether, that has helped Ohtani craft a 2.41 ERA through four starts. 

Combine those pitching numbers with the fact that he is on pace to hit more than 50 home runs this season, and you have the recipe for what could be the most complete player in baseball.

The talent is clearly there, so it will come down to health. Can Ohtani finally withstand an entire MLB season? 

If so, this could be not just a historic start for Ohtani but also a historic season for baseball.

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