On March 29, 2018, five years ago, the Los Angeles Angels opened their season by introducing a player who would come to dominate the MLB. In his first game and first at-bat in the MLB, Shohei Ohtani began the start of a historic career with a single. Ohtani’s pitching debut April 1 earned him his first MLB win by striking out six batters in six innings. On April 3, Ohtani stepped up to the plate and hit his first home run in the MLB. His rookie success continued, hitting three home runs in just three days.
By the end of the Angel’s opening week, the new rookie sensation took Los Angeles by storm, bringing excitement to fans across Southern California. But that was just the beginning.
Before signing the deal with the Angels, Ohtani began his professional baseball career at 18 years old with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball). By the end of the 2013 season, Ohtani posted a .238 batting average and a 4.23 ERA. However, despite just average statistics as both hitter and pitcher, Ohtani’s popularity grew almost immediately as he was voted into the All-Star game during his first season.
And it didn’t stop there. As Ohtani mania mounted, so did his skills. After gaining his team’s trust as a hitter during his rookie season, he significantly improved his batting game in 2014, hitting 10 home runs and posting a .842 OPS in 212 at-bats — compared to three home runs with a .660 OPS in 2013.
In 2015, Ohtani took a lesser role in the batter’s box and threw a successful season on the mound. As a pitcher, he held a league record 2.24 ERA for the season. In 2016, his best NPB season overall, Ohtani posted a 1.86 ERA while carrying the Fighters to victory in the Pacific League and Japan Series championships.
Now playing with the Angels, Ohtani’s baseball career only got better. His past few seasons in the MLB have been game-changing pale in comparison to his 2023 campaign. June was his most historic month yet. After hitting a 493-foot home run June 30, the longest home run in the MLB this season, Ohtani had 15 home runs, 21 walks and 25 extra-base hits, making him the first player in MLB history to do so. Although his batting records from July aren’t as historic as his June stats, Ohtani is still batting at an MVP level. He’s currently slashing .241/.408/.638 with a 1.046 OPS, six home runs and 10 RBIs in 18 games.
On top of that, Ohtani successfully climbed his way to the top of the WAR (wins above replacement) batting leaderboard with a whopping 6.8. With a 1.444 OPS on a triple-slash of .394/.492/.952 in June, Ohtani is playing at the peak of the MLB on the mound and from home plate.
From an MLB newcomer to a rookie sensation and now to being compared to the all-time great Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani is well on his way to winning his second AL MVP. With this season somehow topping the already historic MVP season he had in 2021, and with Ohtani entering the free agent market at the end of the season, he is likely to command one of the largest contracts in MLB history. Ohtani is at the top and he’s not coming down anytime soon.