In his last 20 appearances, Ohtani has the lowest ERA (1.59) and highest pitching fWAR (4.9) in the majors.
The greatest pitcher in baseball is Shohei Ohtani. At least, that’s the picture the data over his last 20 starts portray. Since the Angels started using PitchCom to communicate pitch selection to Ohtani on June 9 of last season, Ohtani has led the majors in ERA (1.59) and pitching WAR (4.9) over his last 20 starts.
He raised the standard once again last night, starting the season against the Athletics with six scoreless innings pitched, zero runs allowed, and 10 strikeouts in a 2-1 loss. The fact that he did it by calling his own pitches on PitchCom rather than depending on the catcher is by far the most impressive aspect. What’s more, unlike other pitchers, he learned the keypad to punch the numbers in rather than wearing it on his wrist or forearm.
Because of the pitch clock and Ohtani’s extensive pitch repertoire, it is the first time pitchers have been given authority over PitchCom. He is no longer required to perform the elaborate ritual of shaking off the catcher’s summons. Ohtani can now expand on the spotless statistics he has produced since the Angels first began using PitchCom with him in June by taking full charge of the situation.
In his last 20 appearances, he has led the majors in ERA (1.59) and pitching fWAR (4.9), is second in strikeouts (164), and third in opponent batting average (.184).
He hasn’t just been probably baseball’s best pitcher. This pitching stretch ranks among the best in recent American League memory. A 20-start span with an ERA that low (1.59) and that many strikeouts (164) was only achieved by five AL relievers in the previous 50 seasons. Johan Santana (2004–05), Pedro Martnez (1999–2000), Justin Verlander (2017–18), Corey Kluber (2017), and Roger Clemens (1997). Except for Verlander, who won a World Series during that stretch, every pitcher during those runs earned a Cy Young award. Ohtani wouldn’t mind either, I’m confident.
Ohtani has been depending on his sweeping slider a lot more since the PitchCom switch. In his last 20 appearances, he has thrown it 41% of the time, compared to 23% in his previous 44 starts. It ranks behind Dylan Cease’s slider as the second-most valuable pitch in MLB (-22.2 run value) over his last 20 starts, according to Statcast. He ended the World Baseball Classic by getting Mike Trout out with the same fastball. Naturally, a triple-digit fastball and a vicious splitter that hitters must keep in the back of their thoughts also set it up.
Oh, and during this time, while he was the greatest pitcher in baseball, Ohtani also hit 23 home runs. His fWAR for hitting (3.2) ranks 29th in baseball at that period. If Thursday’s results are any sign, perhaps another leap is in store for Ohtani in 2023, just when you thought he had reached his peak.