Every week on Screaming Line Out I will be sharing my favorite thing from around the baseball world.
Until this Tuesday, April 3rd, Joey Votto was the unopposed supreme troll of Major League Baseball. That all changed when Japanese phenom Shohei Otani hit his first major league home run in only his second game as a hitter.
Shohei has been the topic of this post before, when the news broke that he would be coming to America to play in MLB. The “Japanese Babe Ruth” made a name for himself being not only the best pitcher in Japan’s premiere league, Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, but also the best hitter. We already knew that however, my favorite development in baseball this week was our exposure to Otani’s troll game.
Prior to the season getting officially underway last week Shohei was having a very rough time in his first exposure to MLB, in spring training. It was not pretty, he gave up 17 runs over 8.1 innings while also going a measly 4 for 32 at the plate. That is a very small sample size and often players are experimenting during Spring Training so little stock should be put into those numbers but that was not the worst of it. Along the way he allowed 6 runs over 3 innings in an exhibition against the Tijuana Toros of the Mexican League, a league considered worse than the one he left. Coupled with some injury reports the outlook was not good. With numbers like the ones he turned in, any normal prospect would likely be sent to the minors for further seasoning but Otani is the furthest thing from a normal prospect.
Amongst calls for him to start the season in the minors and plenty of doubters Shohei broke camp with the team and started his first game on Sunday. It is only one start and no real conclusions should be drawn from it but he did very well against one the league’s better lineups. He struck out 6 while going 6 innings and allowing 3 runs, not too bad. He looked really good doing it; his fastball reached up to 100mph and his offspeed stuff well look for yourselves, keep in mind these are professional major league hitters, who get to paid to do this, for a living, their livelihood depends on this.
He’s really good at pitching. We knew this, however a lot of his loudest doubters and even supporters questioned his ability to hit major league pitchers with any consistency. He quieted those doubts for a short period of time by getting a hit in the first at bat of his career but he would go hitless in the following four at bats. He would not be in the lineup again until Tuesday night. After watching his teammate  homer in the bottom of the first, not to be upstaged in his first at bat in front of his new home crowd he matched the feat with a home run of his own. He would follow that up with two more hits on the night. Could he be for real?
The day after Angel’s Manager Mike Scioscia decided to ride Otani’s “hot” bat and put him in the lineup once again as the designated hitter. After being struck out looking on a fastball from the reigning American League Cy Young winner and sentient pitching robot Corey Kluber he took a pitch in almost the same spot but left over the plate to center field for another home run. He also added another hit.
So it looks like Shohei was playing possum all along, we all totally knew it the whole time, right? Nobody stayed up late nerves wrecked wondering if we had been duped, if it was the gyroball all over again. To reiterate, three games is not enough to draw any conclusions on but this small sample size is what we were promised. If he can keep it going especially on both sides of the diamond we may have another MVP from the land of the rising sun before us.
Tweet of the week:
Ohtani now 2 for 2 after a line-drive single off a diving Jason Kipnis’ glove. There is a medium-rare crow in my oven at the moment.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 4, 2018