Whatever team you’re a fan of, there’s always at least three “best shape of his life” stories in various forms that come out of Arizona or Florida. Whether it’s the vet who had a disappointing season or two, the reclamation project, or the prospect who never quite panned out. It’s boilerplate. Maybe it’s a new stance, or a new grip on a cutter, or they cut out dairy. IIt’s always something.
Shohei Ohtani is some combination of all of it. He’s coming back from an injury. He had a disappointing season last year. He changed his diet. It’s almost spring training Yahtzee.
The Angels are still letting Ohtani play both ways this year, at least that’s the plan right now. How they’re going to manage that is another question. Ohtani has thrown exactly 52 innings in three seasons in MLB. He’s thrown one in the past two. It’s hard to see how Ohtani is going to give them any more than 80 innings this year. You can’t go from throwing 1.2 innings in two seasons to a starter’s load.
But of course, Ohtani can’t pitch out of the pen. Because he wants to DH, and the Angels want him to DH, his outings to the mound have to be regulated. He has to know when the days off come. And the Angels need to know when they can pencil him into the lineup at DH. Can’t do that if he’s spotted out of the pen.
You wonder what the Angels are missing if they’d made Ohtani just a hitter. The focus is always on what they’re missing when he’s not doing both, but maybe it should be reversed. L.A. barely gets half a DH with Ohtani trying to do both, and he’s shown in the past that he can be a plus-hitter. Are the Angels leaving a couple wins on the shelf to let Ohtani chase it on the mound?
Reports glowed about his stuff in live batting practice, but that’s the thing. It always has. And maybe after going through his injury problems, he can stay healthy throwing as hard as he does. Many names who populate the highest velocity leaderboard have missed significant time at some point with arm problems. But none of them are trying to hit in the four or five days they’re not pitching.
It was a beautiful dream of Ohtani being able to DH three or four days a week, and then mow down a lineup once a week as well. But he’s had three goes at this now, and has never done both successfully. And he’s proven he can stay healthy. But he has proven he can hit in the majors. The Angels could have a pretty productive lineup with him at DH joining Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher, and Max Stassi. If they get any sort of revival out of Dexter Fowler, so much the better. And they need the offense, because the rotation still is lagging. Maybe it’s time the Angels to settle for what they know instead of hoping for what they haven’t seen.
I missed the boat on the updates to the Mike Babcock story, as he ended up back at University of Saskatchewan again, where his coaching career started. It’s truly an awkward sight. It would be like Andy Reid coaching at Valdosta State. Maybe that’s the only place Babcock could find work. He’s given a couple of sob-story interviews of late, but they’re no different than the one we covered here not so long ago.
I’ll leave it to Jeff O’Neil to sum up the whole deal, and it applies to just about everybody in sports and elsewhere who meets modern times smack in the face.