Remember That Phenom Japanese Pitcher That Could Be Worth $300 Million? He Hit A Ball Into The Roof Of The Tokyo Dome

2016-11-14 10_23_58

Last week, I wrote about Shohei Otani, who is a 22-year-old pitcher from Japan that one scout said “might get a $300 million deal” next offseason. The scout went on to talk about how Otani is a future ace, still hits 99 MPH on the gun as late as the eighth inning, and has “unhittable” secondary pitches, which includes a curveball, a cutter and a splitter. This past June, Baseball America called him the “best pitcher in the world who isn’t currently in Major League Baseball, and included a video where he threw 31 pitches in the 99-101 MPH range within the same start. Note: 163 kilometers = 101 MPH.

Stating the obvious, that’s really, really impressive. It’s not something that we’ve never seen before, but I think we can all acknowledge that we don’t see this kind of consistent velocity from a starting pitcher very often. There were only 54 major league pitchers who registered 99 MPH or higher on the gun this year, nine of which did it just one time. Of those 54 pitchers, 45 of them were relievers, so only 17% of the pitchers who threw 99 or higher in 2016 were starting pitchers.

In addition to that, of the 309 pitchers who made at least one start in 2016, only 4% of them could hit 99 MPH. Of the 565 fastballs that were 99 MPH or higher thrown by starting pitchers this year, 293 of them were thrown by Noah Syndergaard (52%). No other starter threw more than 65, and only five starters (including Syndergaard) threw more than 12 pitches that were 99 MPH or higher all year. Otani threw 31 in one start.

That’s a longwinded way to explain that not many starting pitchers in history could live at 99-101. Syndergaard threw 565 fastballs that were 99 MPH or faster, but he also threw a total 1,100 fastballs in 2016, so “only” 51% of his fastballs were 99 MPH+. Besides Syndergaard, the only other name that comes to mind who fits the description of a recent starter who can light up the radar gun that consistently would be Justin Verlander. Verlander registered as high as 103.36 MPH on the gun as a starting pitcher as recently as 2011, but hasn’t hit 100 MPH since 2013, so Syndergaard stands alone as the fastball king as far as major league starting pitchers go these days.

So, with all of that in mind, that puts into perspective just how rare of a talent Otani is as a starting pitcher. However, the same scout who said that Otani would be worth $300 million, while raving about his pitching talents, also said that Otani could be a 45-home run hitter, and that he has “Darryl Strawberry power.” Strawberry’s career high in homers was 39, but you get the point. That brings us to this past weekend when Otani hit a ball into the roof at the Tokyo Dome. The Tokyo Dome ain’t Tropicana Field, so hitting a ball like that is quite a rare occurrence.

This ball was ruled as a ground rule double, but it would’ve been a home run had the roof not been there to stop it. And this video was great and all, but David Ortiz still holds the title for the most ridiculously crushed baseball in Tokyo Dome history.