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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Japanese Babe Ruth The Real Deal

I have to admit that when I heard about Japanese baseball player Shohei Ohtani (surname last) was coming to the MLB to ply his trade for the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim), I was a wee bit wary.

A Japanese Babe Ruth?

The Babe... George Herman Ruth was first known as one of the better left-handed pitcher in all of baseball... and one who could also hammer a ball as a batter. Which he did, while playing for the Boston Red Sox... but when he was traded to the New York Yankees, despite him being one of the best pitchers in the game, they halted his pitching career and had him concentrate on being an every day position player, just so they could get his heavy bat into as many games as possible... and the rest is, as they say, history.

But Ohtani... a Japanese Babe Ruth?

He's 23... 1.93 meters (6'-4"), and 92 kilograms (203 pounds)... a big man by anyone's standards... but the weight is still under the ideal for his height... in other words, he has room to pack on more muscle. Should he need it.

Yes, I had heard that as a pitcher he could hit 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) with his fastball - an elite skill... apparently he has the Japanese record of throwing 102.5 mph (165 kph).

And, I had heard that he could also play as a position player on non-pitching days and could power home runs... but that was in Japan.

Not to denigrate Japanese baseball, but the parks in Japan are a lot smaller than those in the MLB... and surely the big strong men in MLB could catch up to that 100 mph heater and take him over the fence for home runs...

And... during Spring Training, he under-performed... couldn't hit... wasn't locating his pitches... and the talk was they should send him down to Double A or Triple A to learn how to play the game better... to get used to the North American style of play.

But the manager must have seen something... because they didn't send him down to the minor leagues and kept him with the major league team.

It turned out to be a great decision, as over the past week or so of MLB's season, Ohtani has impressed... and I mean really impressed.

He has his first MLB win as a pitcher, throwing flaming fastballs, but then he also has a devastating split-fingered fastball that flies strait and then drops at the end like a ball falling off a table... just nasty stuff.

And then there's his hitting... three home runs, seven hits in 18 at bats, and has 7 RBIs (runs batted in) for a .389 batting average... and yeah... it's only 18 at bats in a season where an everyday player can expect over 500, it's a very short sample size.

But, this is a guy coming over from Japan, and performing...

It's why I waited a week before writing about him here. I had to be sure he wasn't a flash in the pan...

He's not. I actually look forward to watching him play and pitch and bat.

I'll continue to check in on his progress.

Andrew Joseph

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