Shohei Ohtani Got His First Major League Win In His Big League Debut

I don’t really know what my expectations were for Shohei Ohtani once the season started, but I do know that one regular season start doesn’t provide a whole lot of clarification. I’ve gone back and forth on this guy, from believing in the hype prior to his signing, to feeling iffy when he was so particular about a number of factors when determining a team to sign with, to watching him get shelled in spring training. The Ohtani roller coaster has been somethin’ else.

Although he’s considered to be the number one prospect in baseball — and I use air quotes when I say that because he’s not a true prospect — it’s difficult to project a number one prospect who’s coming to the league as an international free agent versus a number one prospect who had been drafted and developed at the minor league level first. Sure, we have Ohtani’s numbers from Japan, but it’s not the same thing. Like, at all.

Despite struggling mightily during spring training, the Angels opted to put Ohtani on their major league roster on Opening Day. When established, veteran pitchers struggle during spring training, nobody give a shit. They’re more than likely working on things like fastball location, maybe a new changeup grip or a brand new pitch to add to their arsenal.

But when you’ve got a kid like Ohtani, who’s trying to make a big league team here, then you kind of look at the spring performance slightly different. Again, it doesn’t count for everything, but I think it counts for a little something when you’ve got a pitcher competing for a roster spot versus a pitcher who’s essentially guaranteed one. That matters.

Then there’s the fact that Ohtani only threw 25.1 innings last year due to injury. He should get the benefit of the doubt if he starts slow for that reason alone, but his first start was actually quite impressive. On Sunday, Ohtani made his big league debut in Oakland against the A’s, and the Angels have to be more than happy with the results. His lone mistake was this hanging slider to Matt Chapman.

Ohtani would retire 14 of the next 15 batters that he faced after that homer. According to Statcast, he hit as high as 99.6 MPH on the gun, and had an average fastball velocity of 96.6 MPH. In all, he’d punch out six batters in six innings of work, allow three earned runs on three hits, and issue one walk before his day was done at 92 pitches. Not a bad way to introduce yourself to the league, but I think we’re all gonna need to see more before the whole Babe Ruth of Japan thing is confirmed.