Fun Facts About Shohei

1) At Tempe during spring training it was obvious that Shohei was feeling the strain of his MLB debut. Observers, including myself, noticed that whenever there was a lull in the game, Shohei repeatedly tied and untied his shoelaces even though it wasn’t necessary. This “stress reduction” habit is still of feature of his game.

2) Ohtani has NO driver’s licence, but he does have a personal chef. Apparently, American food and the Big Mac diet has not won him over. His fans in Tempe regularly show up at the few Japanese restaurants in Tempe in hopes of meeting him.

3) One of his favourite teachers in high school asked his class to outline their future goals. Shohei predicted he would win the world series at 26, then promptly find a wife. He would have two sons and a daughter, then move back to Japan at age 41.

4) Talk about dedication to sport! Shohei’s love of baseball leaves no room for the dating scene. His teammates say he doesn’t socialize after a game and alcohol is out of the question.

5) Most fans don’t know that Shohei had huge input into picking his translator with the Angels. Ippei Mizahara was no stranger. Ippei had known Shohei in Japan as a translator for American players who were drafted to Shohei’s Japanese team the  Fighters. Ippei has cult status now and has his own rookie cards.

6) When Shohei was in high school, his favourite subject was History. He was intrigued by the history of Shoguns in Japan and the nobility of the Samurai. He researched every document he could find on the subject. His classmates and teachers were in awe of his knowledge.

“YES, TO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR” Canada’s Largest Ohtani Fan Club Makes a Case

Babe Ruth signed ball at a baseball memorabilia store in Las Vegas

Somewhere between a trip to the Grand Canyon, and the Marvel superhero exhibit in Vegas, an acquaintance and myself visited a baseball memorabilia store during the summer of 2017. Our eyes were immediately drawn to an autographed Babe Ruth ball valued at $59 999.00. I recall offering the manager of the store an opportunity to acquire one of my autographed Shohei Ohtani baseballs, “Never heard of him,” he responded. My, how times have changed!

As rookie awards loom, we can’t help but reflect on the fact that after a century, Ohtani has matched Ruth’s record for 50 innings pitched and 10 home runs in the same season. In fact, Shoehei went on to better that record.

Signed Shohei Ohtani baseball

As a fan club, our faith in Ohtani has never waivered. After all, he has already shown himself to be the best pitcher/hitter in Japan while playing in the Fighter league.

I spent a week in Tempe for Shohei’s initial spring training. Even in the “B” games he sometimes struggled on the mound. We also knew he had a ligament tear when he signed with the Angels. We expected the worst after further injury sidelined him into missing half the season as pitcher. But, it’s the big picture that counts!

Shohei kept playing as DH even after the diagnosis was made that he needed Tommy John surgery. He continued to impress, hitting balls over 430 feet on several occasions. We shouldn’t forget that he was pitching 100 mph balls prior to his injury. His full season stats are awesome! In addition, he leads all rookies in slugging percentage.

Shohei Ohtnai Stats in just his first 24 games in the MLB

Most importantly, this guy has been under a huge microscope ever since he entered MLB, not only here, but in Japan where his every sneeze was reported on.

Ohtani is like one of those Marvel multi-powered heroes I mentioned previously. He possesses two super powers, hitting and pitching. Even with one power temporarily removed, he is still a superhero, most deserving of the ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD.Jackie Robinson Award

Shohei…”D-Day”

So what is “Tommy John” surgery?

It’s not new, and 25 percent of major league pitchers have had the procedure. Tommy John isn’t named after the renowned surgeon, rather the first player to have the surgery in 1974. Doctor Frank Jobe lived a long 88 years and astounded fans and players alike with his expertise in the operating theatre where he pioneered the UCL procedure.

(Image retrieved from HowStuffWorks.com https://health.howstuffworks.com/medicine/modern-technology/surgery-change-baseball1.htm)

So what’s in store for Shohei this week. He can expect to have a tendon taken from his arm or leg and grafted in place to stabilize his elbow injury. A small four inch incision will be required to position the grafted tendon. In some cases, the tendon is taken from a cadaver (Hopefully a baseball fan).

Shohei can expect to be under anesthesia for approximately an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the severity of the injury. It is important to note that repeated stem cell injections didn’t really improve his condition. In many cases, the operation can be done on an out-patient basis, but still requires intensive homecare on the part of the recipient. Sadly, many players must endure a second procedure within five years.

shoheitempe5

It’s interesting to note that some pitchers believe that after the recovery period, they can pitch harder and faster. This is still debatable. But what isn’t debatable is that many parents across the country request the procedure for their children even if they are not injured in hopes of improving their game.

Japanese fans expected that Shohei would return home for the surgery to be among family and friends. That isn’t happening. Doctor ElAttrache, a surgeon in Los Angeles will be Shohei’s physician.

So when can we expect to see Shohei in action again? Manager Scioscia predicts it could be 2020 before he can pitch again. Hopes are that in late 2019 he can return as a DH. Many of us were shocked to find Shohei still acting as DH after his diagnosis. Our concern was unfounded. A short time after announcing the need for surgery, Shohei facing Texas, hit his 17th home-run.

It’s been suggested that our fan club will have easier access to Shohei during his recovery. It’s important to keep his brand active. Let’s send our prayers his way for a speedy recovery.

Dave Pollard

Executive Director, Shohei Ohtani Fan Club Canada

Ohtani: Baseball Hero, Gone But Not Forgotten

As a younger baseball player, Ohtani was asked how he felt about seeing Japanese baseball players leave Japan for MLB careers. He answered that he never felt players were abandoning their traditions or homeland. Rather, he believed the MLB opportunities would only serve to showcase the superhero talents of Japanese players to the world. Shohei never felt the greatness of a player would be diminished by crossing the Pacific. He didn’t know then that his comments would very soon ring true for him.

Since signing with the Angels, Ohtani’s popularity continues to soar across Japan. A recent Kyodo news survey confirmed Ohtani is still Japan’s most popular athlete. I had the opportunity to attend several Ohtani games during spring training in Tempe Arizona. Although at first it looked like a dismal start for Ohtani, it was apparent he continued to be a superstar among his fan base in a new land. Hundreds of Japanese journalists and an assortment of giggling Japanese school girls filled whole sections of Diablo stadium, excited to capture footage of every play. MLB Ohtani jerseys quickly sold out as fans scrambled to make purchases.

Back home in Japan, workers in office towers continue to be given “break times” to watch Ohtani at bat in broadcasted MLB games. TV shows featuring fan club members dominate the sports airways as every aspect of Shohei’s life is dissected. Discussions about everything, from diet to the qualities he would look for in his future wife, fill hours of conversation.

Prior to games in many Japanese stadiums, Shohei’s MLB feats are highlighted on large
stadium screens to applauding fans. Package deals to attend MLB games in North America have become a hot ticket item. Outside the USA, Canada’s largest Shohei Ohtani fan club has become a reality.

My sense is that this continued support is because Shohei has never abandoned who he is. He isn’t becoming just an American MLB player; he remains true to his culture and, in Japanese tradition, is humble to his approach of the samurai tradition of “nitoryu” (two weapons as one): batting and pitching. This is truly a one way cultural exchange for MLB.

By: Dave Pollard

May 22nd, 2018 – Recap

The Toronto Bluejays took an early lead in a 5 run 1st inning from the costly error by Chris Young off Russell Martin’s RF fly. The Angels then held the Jays scoreless for the rest of the game, giving a chance for a comeback.

First Appearance

When Shohei stepped up to the plate, the fans in Toronto welcomed him to Canada with a round of applause. At this point the Angels have yet to get a man on base, the atmosphere in the stadium was tense as everyone knew what Shohei is capable of. As he got into his batting stance, all eyes were on Shohei.

Happ delivered a 90 MPH fastball inside for a swinging strike. “I have to admit his swing is really nice” said an unnamed Bluejays fan near me. After working a full count off Happ, Shohei drew a walk of a 94 MPH fastball, first man on.

The Fans

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Shohei Ohtani Fan Club Canada representative at the game. May 22nd, 2018.

There was no shortage of Shohei Ohtani fans around the stadium in Angels gear and Bluejays gear. Every time Shohei stepped up to the plate, everyone had their cell phone cameras out to capture the magic of the moment.

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Shohei fans showing support with Kanji block letters

Catch Shohei tomorrow at 7:07 pm EST against Arron Sanchez (2-4, 4.47 ERA)

Shohei & Angels arrive in Toronto

The Toronto Blue Jays kicks off a three game series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tonight at the Rogers center. This is also the first time that Shohei Ohtani will play in Canada. Coming off a spectacular 9-K performance on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays for his 4th win (see previous post), Ohtani is ready to take a few swings against J Happ on Tuesday at the Rogers Center.

The slumping Jays, having trouble filling the stadium this season due to their abysmal slide (2-8 record in the previous 10 games), will hopefully see a boost in attendance from the appearance of Ohtani. Normally flooded with blue at the Rogers Center (the heart of multicultural Toronto), we’ll no doubt see supporters of Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani (and probably a few for Mike Trout) in the stands this evening.

Game Recap – 05/20/18

The Tampa Bay Rays came into Angel Stadium on Sunday looking to complete their sweep of the Angels and extend their winning streak to seven games. They left disappointed. Shohei Ohtani stifled the Rays over 7.2 innings, scattering 6 hits and a walk with 9 strikeouts while allowing 2 runs, picking up his 4th win of the season.

The Good
All 9 batters Ohtani struck out on the day went down swinging, 6 of them coming on his nasty splitter (29.8 swinging strike rate on the year). I mentioned last week that batters have had trouble making contact against Ohtani all season but it may surprise you to know just how good he’s been.

There are 111 starters who have pitched at least 40 innings this year. Shohei sits at #1 in Contact% allowed as per Fangraphs. Below is a chart of the top 10.

Chart1

That’s some pretty good company to be in.

The Bad

Again, it’s the fastball. 4 of the 6 hits Shohei gave up on the day came on the fastball, with 3 of those going for extra bases (2 doubles and a homerun). This has been a recurring theme for Ohtani this year.

Fangraphs does a split of wOBA by pitch type which is a good indicator of how well hitters are doing against certain pitches in your arsenal. Against Shohei’s fastball, opponents have a .439 wOBA. Mike Trout’s wOBA is .445 this year. Against his secondary offerings? .140 wOBA. That’s Tyler Wade level. Who is Tyler Wade you ask? Exactly.

Ohtani’s fastball has the velocity to be dominant (he ranks #3 amongst starting pitchers this year according to Fangraphs). So far, he’s just been missing his spots too often. Below are the 3 of the hits Shohei gave up from Sunday’s game. Take note of where the catcher’s glove sets up and where the pitch ends up going.

Homerun in the 3rd inning:

Double in the 8th inning:

Single in the 8th inning:

The Filthy

This 2-2 Splitter:

This GOOD 3-2 Fastball:

This 0-2 Splitter:

This 0-2 Slider

Shohei is now 2-0 in his last 3 starts with a 2.25 ERA and 26 Ks. Here’s hoping he can keep it going with a tough assignment next weekend, making his first start in New York against a Yankee team leading the majors in OPS.

 

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