DENVER, CO – This morning, my suddenly unemployed self found the time to watch the Testosterone Soap Opera that is ESPN. The level to which that network has sunk is an article in and of itself, but the takeaway for me this morning was that no postulation, however absurd, is out of the question in today’s media. In an effort to keep up with my prognosticating colleagues in Bristol, I am going to start an argument twenty-five years too soon.
Shohei Ohtani will be a Hall of Famer? Period. Will anyone care? No. Should he be a Hall of Famer? Maybe. Could he have been one of the best of all time??? Yes, but he insists on pitching.
Currently his stats are as follows; BA .344 (61 AB, 21 H), 4 HR in 18 games as a position player and he has posted a 3-1 record 4.1 ERA in five starts as a pitcher. If we extrapolate these numbers out over a full season based on his current usage, he hits .344 with 105 hits, 20 HR, tosses a record of 12-7 (for those following my math, a 4.10 ERA doesn’t win 16 games).
Let’s compare his potential career to the only corollary/player on the record books that makes sense; Babe Ruth. Let’s begin with numbers on the bump. The Babe tossed a record of 94-46 with a total of five “complete” seasons as a pitcher. His career ERA of 2.28. For Ohtani to equal The Bambino in wins based on the sample size so far, he would need to pitch eight complete seasons to Ruth’s five, and he would need an offense that is twice as efficient, given his ERA is double Ruth’s. Currently, there are 58 full-time pitchers in the league with a lower ERA this season. Each of those pitchers has between 2 and 4 starts more than Ohtani. So, as a GM/Owner/Manager, why do I allow him to pitch? Because I get less innings by a zero WAR pitcher than I would a +WAR pitcher for novelty sake? Not going to happen for long.
Prediction: Ohtani pitches five seasons and totals 50 wins before being made a full-time position player. Oh, and the kicker is he misses a year to Tommy John after the fifth season.
At the plate, let’s assume he hits .300 for the first five seasons, wherein he is pitching. That would amass around 75 hits a season based on his limited number of games with plate appearances. That means he would leave the bump for first base full-time with 375 hits and 65 home runs. Years 7-14 he plays full seasons in the field and hits .300. Only problem is that he misses 25% of all games because five years of pitching ruined his rotator cuff and his labrum. Mix in the fact that he got hold of some deer antler spray somewhere around year 10 and gets caught and suspended. That leaves him with 75% seasons for years 7-14 and his career batting stats look something like: 1336 games played, BA .300, 1275 hits, 200-250 HR.
How many players in the history of the game have 50 wins, a .300 BA, and 1000 hits?
Only Babe Ruth. How many people will ever ask this question? No one. How many players have 2700 hits and are not in the Hall??? Too many to list. How many pitchers are not in the Hall with less than 250 wins but should be? How many players have 400+ HR and aren’t in the Hall? Pitching will ruin Ohtani’s legacy and yet it’s nuance earns him a legacy in bronze. If he played every day he could be a 3000-hit 500 home run guy. Instead, he will be a novelty that everyone forgets about until his day in Cooperstown.
That’s it. Let is percolate and feel free to add your two bits. And come back tomorrow for our Babe Ruth, Sports Rain Man Junoir Blaber.