Shohei Ohtani Could Be A .300 Hitter Under MLB’s New Rules

Nothing has changed. Angels are still Angels.

He opened his season on Thursday night, doing what he has been known to do, throwing out another difficult effort by Shohei Ohtani, who reached base twice as a hitter and as a pitcher in a 2–1 loss. Recorded 10 strikeouts over six scoreless innings. for the Oakland Athletics.

If the eighth-inning slump and resulting loss were a sobering reality check for an Angels team that was hoping this season would be somehow different from their previous eight, then an extraordinary fourth-inning batting spree brought new hope. indicated the emergence of possibilities. Baseball star attraction.

Ohtani could once again homer over 40, as he did in his MVP season in 2021. He can once again dismiss more than 200 batsmen like he did last year.

Now, he might as well be batting .300.

Ohtani’s first hit of the season was insignificant in terms of the game, a grounder that was dropped by diver Tony Kemp and failed to score any runs. In a broader context, the single could represent a game changer for Ohtani and the Angels.

“Probably last year without a doubt,” said Angels manager Phil Nevin.

Under a new rule implemented by Major League Baseball, teams must have two infielders on each side of second base when a pitch is released. Shift restrictions can have a profound effect on left-handers like Ohtani.

Last year, when Ohtani batted .273, opposing defenses shifted against him in 88.3% of his plate appearances, according to the league’s Statcast system. That percentage would be zero this season, resulting in a marked improvement in his batting average.

“Until now, I think there was too much damage to left-handers,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “I think that makes it fair.”

Shohei Ohtani walks back to the dugout after striking out three in the sixth inning on Thursday against the Oakland Athletics.

Shohei Ohtani walks back to the dugout after striking out three in the sixth inning on Thursday against the Oakland Athletics.

(Jade Jacobson/Associated Press)

Ohtani won’t just be a power hitter this year. He will be a power hitter who also bats average.

His single on opening night at the Oakland Coliseum was a prime example of the kind of opportunities it would create for him.

Ohtani struck out on the second pitch of the at-bat, redirecting the high fastball to Athletics’ second baseman Kemp to right. Kemp could not reach the ball, which bounced to right field. Mike Trout, who started off the inning with a walk, advanced to second base.

Anthony Rendon, Hunter Renfro and Luis Rengifo failed to drive in Trout or Ohtani, but ignore for a moment how they were shut down by a pitcher entering a game with a career earned-run average of 8.03 in Kyle Mueller. Done.

Consider, instead, that Ohtani’s batted ball would have been an out under last year’s rules, perhaps even a double play.

Consider how many more hits Ohtani should get this year. This week, in the Freeway Series against the Dodgers, he singled twice from that side of the infield.

Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Mookie Bates and Clayton Kershaw.

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Consider how well Ohtani runs and how much damage he can do on the basepaths.

Is there any question why the Athletics intentionally chose to walk Ohtani with two outs and Taylor Ward to second base in a one-run game?

Any question who should be seen as the favorite despite Aaron Judge’s opening day homer, the American League’s Most Valuable Player?

Ohtani, 28, is a career .267 hitter in the major leagues, but he could actually bat .300.

He should be able to bat .300.

Ohtani agreed.

Ohtani said, “I struck out twice today.” “I wish I could have taken a different approach. But if I can overcome those problems, I think I can aim for it.”

Over the years, Ohtani has talked about shifting his focus from team goals to individual goals due to the Angels’ inability to remain competitive.

While general manager Perry Minasian strengthened the lineup over the winter—”We’re going to score a lot of runs,” Nevin said—the continued absence of hard-hitting relievers once again became a problem.

Aaron Loup and Ryan Tapera’s opening night troubles are a preview of what’s to come over the next six months.

By the middle of the season, Ohtani could very well be relegated to chasing only personal benchmarks again.

He figured he was already a contender for the home run and ERA crowns. He may now be in a position to win the batting title as well.

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