Oh say can you see Shohei Ohtani pitch and DH?
March 01, 2018 9:53 AM
by Mark Mayer
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Friday, the Miami Marlins).
There is an entire section of the Angels spring training store set aside for Shohei Ohtani gear. Oh, by the way Mike Trout is on the team.
At 80-82 last year, Los Angeles “other” team was second to World Series champ Houston, 21 games behind. That’s a lot to make up so management went to work bigtime. The first huge move was signing Ohtani, who brings a big arm and prolific bat over from Japan. He, like Yu Darvish, has a nation following his every move. And we’re doing the same, finding out if a pitcher can also be an everyday player as a DH.
But management didn’t stop with Ohtani. Justin Upton came over from Detroit where he had a monster year with 35 HR and 109 RBI. And Zack Cozart was acquired from Cincinnati for 3 years and $36 million. His 24 homers will land him as third base instead of shortstop where Andrelton Simmons is firmly set there.
With those pieces, the Angels are much more on paper than just Trout and Albert Pujols. Trout is simply the best player in the majors and comes off a 33 HR, .306 BA, 442 OBP season. The ageless Pujols led the team with 101 RBI. Simmons batted .278 and had 164 hits, but nobody other than Trout batted above .280.
As for pitching, Ohtani is penciled in as the No. 2 starter behind Garrett Richards, but only because we haven’t seen him pitch in the majors. As Ohtani goes, so goes the Angels in their chase to close the gap between them and the Astros. Another asset they have is catcher Martin Maldonado who threw out 39 percent of baserunners. Now all Maldonado has to do is hit a little better than .221.
Pitching is a concern to be sure, as Ricky Nolasco’s 4.92 ERA led the staff. That’s not good. J.C. Ramirez had the most wins with 11 and Blake Parker moves from set-up man to closer.
The Angels open the season facing Oakland in 6 of the first 9 games. Sandwiched in-between is the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians. Vegas has the Halos at around 84.5 wins depending on which book you shop. They rate second to win the division at 5-1 with Houston of course the overwhelming favorite.
If Ohtani is as good as advertised, LAA should finish above .500 but it will take a lot for anyone in the AL West to challenge Houston. So OVER and a Wild Card possibility looks like a winner at the moment.
Encore: Boy does time fly! Mike Scioscia begins his 19th season with the Angels. He was Manager of the Year twice (2002, ’09) and the only one LAA has had in the 21st century.
2017 record: 80-82
2016 record: 74-88
2015 record: 85-77
World Series win odds: 25-1
Odds to win AL Central: 5-1
2018 season win total: 84.5