Through Shohei Ohtani’s first couple of weeks with the Los Angeles Angels, those Babe Ruth comparisons have more than held up. In fact, now the Japanese sensation is doing things even the Great Bambino did not accomplish.
For example, in one of his first two MLB games pitched, Ruth did not strike out 12 batters while allowing one or fewer hits and walks. In fact, that feat had only been achieved twice before Sunday, by Juan Marichal in 1960 and Steve Woodard in 1997 (per MLB.com).
Over seven masterful innings against the Athletics, in a 6-1 Angels win, Ohtani joined that Ruth-less duo, getting his second win in as many starts. Oh, and the gem came after the 23-year-old hit a home run in each of his previous three games as a designated hitter for Los Angeles.
Ruth was among only two players to hit a homer in three straight games and have an outing with double-digit strikeouts in the same season, having done so in 1919 — Ken Brett also did it in 1973 — before Ohtani did so in the same week. He was perfect through 19 Oakland batters Sunday, at which point, combined with a debut outing that also came against the A’s, he had retired 27 straight hapless hitters.
“That’s as good a game,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said (via USA Today), “as you could ever see pitched.”
“It’s a rare kind of talent to do it both ways, and it’s great to watch,” second baseman Zack Cozart said. “It didn’t look like [the A’s] had a chance up there, the way he was throwing.”
Want some more impressive pitching numbers?
- Ohtani became the 14th major leaguer with at least 12 strikeouts in one of his first two starts, and the first since the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg in 2012.
- His game score of 90 is tied for seventh-highest for a pitcher in his second MLB start.
- Ohtani’s 18 strikeouts are tied for the most by an Angel in his first two starts.
- His 54.5 percent whiff rate (the number of misses on total swings by opposing batters) Sunday was the fifth-highest in a game since Statcast began tracking such information in 2015.
Then, of course, there are Ohtani’s heroics at the plate, including a .462 batting average with six RBI in three home games, following a 1-for-5 outing in his MLB debut at Oakland. At the end of Sunday’s game, in which he did not bat — who else can’t wait for him to pitch in a National League park? — his 71.4 percent rate of hard-hit balls (defined as having an exit velocity of at least 95 mph) was the highest among all MLB players with at least 10 balls hit.
“He never looks like he’s out of place,” Angels catcher Martin Maldonado said. “He looks like a hitter when he’s batting and looks like a pitcher when he’s pitching. It’s impressive. We haven’t seen that before.’’
Well, we haven’t seen it in about a century, anyway, but even Ruth didn’t match some of Ohtani’s two-way accomplishments. Sure, it’s early in the season, making the Angels’ phenom something like the Sultan of Small Sample Sizes, but it’s safe to say he’s off to a historic, uniquely impressive start.
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