Joe Maddon announces controversial new batting order change for Shohei Ohtani
LA Angels manager Joe Maddon has announced that two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani will be up front to start the season in 2022. That’s a bit of a surprise, as he was the two-hole hitter for the Halos last year, and not only succeeded but was the best offensive weapon in the game there.
You’d think Maddon wouldn’t fix it considering it’s definitely not broken – Ohtani just had the best season ever last year. Ohtani played very well in his 23 games as a first player last year, but not as good as he was in second place.
Ohtani had a better batting average in the first roster than in the second (0.272 to 0.252). He also had better on-base percentage in the first roster than second (0.388 to 0.363). The problem is, the power wasn’t there last year from the tee the same way it was in both holes (.543 to .613 SLG).
For me, Joe Maddon is doing this move with Shohei Ohtani so he can use Ohtani’s speed on bases for the LA Angels. Obviously, a manager wants someone who can get up on the first hit, and Ohtani is better at getting up on base and getting his hits as the leadoff hitter.
Therefore, he will beat him in the lead and then use his speed to threaten to take second base. He had five of his 26 stolen bases since first place last year when he played only 23 games there (0.22 steals per game) compared to 21 in 117 games in the two holes (0.18 steals per game).
I still wouldn’t, because Ohtani is a better overall two-spot hitter. His OPS in both holes is 0.976 OPS compared to a 0.931 OPS in the front row. He also hit just 0.26 home runs per game from the first hole, which is great, but not quite as good as his 0.33 home runs per game from the second hole.
He’s also had just two doubles and just one of his Major League-leading eight triples in 2021 from the first hole in the lineup. Scoring just 12 points in 23 early games, he was a scoring machine on the second hole, crossing the plate 87 (!) times in 117 games on the two holes.
It’s a decision I wouldn’t have made, but Maddon’s reason for doing so is clear. He wants that speed to hit base as much as possible. He sacrifices Ohtani’s power, but hopefully the move pays off and we’ll see over 30 stolen bases with .390 on-base percentage.