Shohei Ohtani threw a 101 MPH fastball and hit a 451-foot home run against the White Sox on Sunday.
Ohtani came to MLB in 2018 with the nickname “The Japanese Babe Ruth.”
He is living up to that nickname as one of the most versatile players in baseball.
Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani etched his mark in baseball history on Sunday night against the Chicago White Sox.
Ohtani, who pitches and hits for the Angels, hit a 451-foot home run with an exit velocity of 115.2 MPH, the same inning in which he threw a 100.6 MPH fastball. Ohtani has been one of baseball’s anomalies as an impressive hitter and pitcher since coming over from Japan in 2018, but Sunday was the first time in his career that he hit and pitched in the same game.
Ohtani’s home run was the hardest hit, and his fastball was the fastest pitch of the young MLB season. But he also became the first Angels pitcher to ever hit for himself in a game while the designated hitter rule was in play, and just the third pitcher to do so across baseball in the past 45 years, according to The Associated Press.
At just 26 years old, Ohtani is doing things that simply haven’t been done in baseball’s modern era, and it has led to comparisons to one of the game’s most iconic figures: Babe Ruth.
On Sunday, Ohtani took the comparisons a step further. As the second hitter in the Angels’ batting order, he became the first starting pitcher to hit a home run in the first seven spots of a batting order since Ruth did it in 1933.
Ruth was famously known as the New York Yankees’ legendary slugger, hitting 659 home runs across 15 seasons as a right fielder in New York. But before that, Ruth was a pitcher for The Boston Red Sox, winning 89 starts across six seasons.
Ohtani was appropriately dubbed “The Japanese Babe Ruth” when MLB teams looked to recruit him out of Japan in late 2017.
Ohtani’s dominance as a two-way star for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball drew the fascination of American baseball fans. Still, experts were skeptical that his skillset as a pitcher and hitter could successfully translate in America.
Several scouts even said he would have to choose between hitting and pitching and spend time in the minors before being ready to play at the major-league level, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Ohtani quickly proved ready and lived up to the Ruth comparisons as a rookie, becoming the first player to pitch 50 innings and hit 15 home runs since Ruth did it for Boston in 1919.
Other arguments against Ohtani’s long-term success as a two-way star stemmed from long-standing stereotypes about Asian players being less physically durable. Baseball Prospectus co-founder Joe Sheehan supported that skepticism with a study that showed that Japanese pitchers more frequently declined after their third seasons in the majors and were more susceptible to injury.
Ohtani, now in his fourth MLB season, didn’t appear to show any such physical decline on Sunday night, setting the early-season benchmarks for power at the plate and on the mound.
But injuries have put a slight dent in his baseball career to this point, as he’s missed significant time to injury in each of his first three MLB seasons. Sunday’s performance reminded of those concerns alongside his unique skills, as he had to come out of the game in the fifth inning after a home-plate collision with Chicago’s Jose Abreu.
Ohtani admitted he was “fine” through his translator in his postgame press conference. The Angels revealed that he simply had some soreness after the collision, but he will get further tests on Monday and will get a day off from hitting as the team looks to preserve their star for an expectation-filled 2021.
This season will be Ohtani’s big opportunity to defy the stigma around Asian players declining after their first three seasons, as well as build on the Ruth comparisons as he looks to become the first player to pitch 100-plus innings and have 200-plus at-bats in the same season since Ruth.
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