Shohei Ohtani's struggles are now a concern

(Photo Credit: Ken Lund)

The Japanese Babe Ruth. That is a monstrous title that comes with expectations. While the idea of Shohei Otani is extremely enticing, in practice, it will be a little tougher to have that Babe Ruth-like prophecy become a full-on reality. 

I think most people thought Ohtani would come over to the United States and immediately put up these astronomical numbers. What we've seen so far this month has been impressive, but there will still be an adjustment period to his game. Coming out of Spring Training, I was ready to admit that he might have been a bust of a purchase for the Los Angeles Angels. However, once the season kicked off, it made his spring performances completely irrelevant. 

All aboard the struggle bus

While Ohtani has shined at the plate with an impressive slash line of .333/.378./619 with three home runs and 11 RBI and done well on the mound so far, injury has already crept up on him this season. He left his last start against the Boston Red Sox with a blister. While not a season-ending injury for pitchers, it's still a tough one to deal with. If Ohtani can't grip the ball the way he wants because of a blister on his fingers, those beautiful pitches we're all so used to seeing will lack command. 

Which is exactly what we were seeing from Ohtani in this last outing against the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros. There's no doubt that this blister is still healing. We've all dealt with them at one point or another. They're frustrating as far as the healing process and that's without trying to go out on a mound and throw 95 mph. 

The headline we all saw last night was regarding the fact that he could return and throw a 101mph pitch to get a swing and miss by Josh Reddick. But despite throwing that one impressive pitch, the Astros still lit him up for four earned runs, five walks, and one home run. So while that velocity is impressive, it seems pointless. The Angels still lost the game and Ohtani's ERA ballooned back to 4.43 after standing at 2.08 just two starts ago. 

The headlines of Ohtani's abilities would have you believe he's doing better than his numbers suggest. Maybe part of that is the baseball media not wanting to admit that he hasn't done anything completely astronomical yet, which is completely okay. Ohtani has the ability to get himself to that level. But if we're looking at the numbers, Ohtani's only real solid start was on April 8th against Oakland. He pitched a solid seven innings and only gave up one hit and one walk the entire time. In his other three starts, he has not gone past the sixth inning and given up at least three runs. 

Moving forward

If Ohtani is going to play the ace on this Angels pitching staff, he has to do more than just make headlines for the single pitches and the one good week at the plate. He has to remain healthy and consistent throughout the year. Setting your own personal bests are usually a lot better when you're helping your team win. Hopefully, Ohtani gets it together soon.

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