Shohei Ohtani will be utilized similar to how he would in a regular 162-game season. He’ll still pitch once a week. Maddon said he expects as a six-man rotation as a result.— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) June 24, 2020
Currently the season is set to run from July 24 through September 27, meaning it will be a nine week sprint to the finish. Knowing that Ohtani will only pitch once per week, that means he’s already capped at nine starts (as opposed to 11-12 for a pitcher going every five days). All pitchers will likely be handled cautiously early on, with many teams already saying that pitchers would likely be limited to 3-4 innings the first time through the rotation. In other words before anything else we may be looking at a maximum of eight “viable” starts for Ohtani. He also isn’t a lock to be ready for Opening Day.
Now you add in the extra limitations that will likely be placed on him, as he didn’t pitch in 2019 after throwing just 51.2 innings in 2018. Suddenly you have to wonder how many opportunities he’ll get for Wins or Quality Starts, as there could be five starts or fewer where he’d even be allowed to go 5-6 innings deep into a game.
Luckily for fantasy owners Ohtani also brings value with his bat. He’s going to lose some AB, as he likely won’t be in the lineup on days he pitches. That does put a little bit of doubt, even though he’s coming off a year where he hit .286 with 18 HR and 12 SB.
There are also going to be questions, especially in the short season, about a regression in his career .352 BABIP. The underlying numbers do support an elevated mark (2019 metrics):
- Hard% – 49.6%
- Oppo% – 31.3%
- Exit Velocity – 92.8 mph
- Barrel% – 12.2%
The Exit Velocity placed him in a tie for seventh best among qualified hitters, and there’s no questioning the power/speed combination he brings. As long as he keeps his strikeout rate in check, something that needs to be monitored (12.3% SwStr%), there won’t be a concern. In fact you could argue that if he ditched trying to pitch, keeping his bat in the lineup every day, he’d be even more valuable.
Verdict – Must use hitter, avoid as a pitcher
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant
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