Two-way star Shohei Ohtani helped the Angels end a five-game losing streak with a 110-pitch outing against the Rays Sunday. At this point, Ohtani going for nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings and generally bewitching opposing hitters isn’t much of a surprise, since he’s paired masterful control with devastating velocity since he made his major-league debut. There’s chatter about him participating in the Home Run Derby, and he also possesses one of the best pitches in the history of baseball, somehow.
Watch the following highlight reel of his strikeouts, and notice that six of the nine hitters he sat down whiffed on his split-fingered fastball, which flies in at around 88 mph and drops precipitously out of the frame at the last second.
It wasn’t a perfect day for Ohtani’s splitter, however, as Rays catcher Wilson Ramos actually managed to get his bat on one in the seventh inning. That was the first time anyone’s managed to do so this season, and Ramos’s liner almost didn’t survive its journey into the outfield (Zack Cozart had a decent chance at catching it). That brought the batting average against the pitch up to .023.
According to PITCHf/x data from Baseball Prospectus, hitters miss 60.26 percent of the time they swing for an Ohtani splitter. That’s the highest whiff rate for any pitcher since 2006, when PITCHf/x began tracking pitch data. It’s not just that pitch that makes hitters miss, as Ohtani’s overall whiffs per swing percentage is 35.02, also the highest in the tracking era. By any advanced metric, Ohtani’s splitter is fooling would-be hitters at a historic rate. The only counterevidence to Ohtani’s dominance is sample size—he’s thrown 158 splitters this year—which sums up how thoroughly the Angels pitcher is owning opposing batters right now.