Could Shohei Ohtani be even better in 2023?
Ohtani won the AL MVP award in 2021, but Yankees judge Aaron is the frontrunner for the award this year. Justin Verlander of the Astros is considered the point guard to win the AL Cy Young. But it’s yet another amazing feat for Ohtani, who slashed .273/.356/.519 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs in 157 games and also went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 166 innings.
Ohtani was somehow even better than he was in 2021. He improved as a pitcher by limiting his walk rate and striking out more batters with the addition of a double-seam and d a second slider. But the question now: is it even possible to do better next season?
The answer might lie in how the angels decide to use it. They wondered if Ohtani could withstand the rigors of throwing in a traditional five-man rotation instead of the six-man rotation he’s been on since joining the club in 2018. That would be a tough task for Ohtani, this is why the angels pay attention to the decision. Switching to a five-man rotation could give him 3-5 more starts in his 28 outings in 2022, but it would also come at the cost of more fatigue and a change in his routine.
“I wouldn’t rule it out, but there’s also the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. “There’s a balance there. Is the risk worth the reward? And that’s something we need to talk about through the whole offseason and a game plan. We’ll have those discussions. I think he can do whatever he wants.”
Pitching coach Matt Wise wouldn’t rule it out either, but he said it’s something he hasn’t told Ohtani yet. He noted that he believed the six-man rotation helped young starters such as Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmer and Jose Suarez. Right-handed only Michael Lorenzen lost a lot of time due to injury, as he missed two months with a sprained right shoulder.
“I never really talked to him about it, but I’m sure we can challenge him to do anything,” Wise said. “But we were in a good position with our starters. We stayed healthy.”
Minasian, however, added that he gave Ohtani permission to launch into the World Baseball Classic next year, which could also affect his ability to be ready for the start of next season. There is a chance Ohtani could be used as the closest to the Japan team instead of a starting pitcher, but none of that has been decided yet, as he has yet to officially announce that he will be playing in the Classic.
Angels pitchers and receivers will report for spring training on Feb. 13. Team Japan will begin play in Pool B in Tokyo on March 9.
“I don’t bother anyone,” Minasian said. “Shohei has earned the right if he wants to go play, go play.”