Sensational Shohei, Garbo Giancarlo and the Slow-Start All-Stars
Around the office water cooler...
YOU: How about this Shohei Ohtani, huh?
CARLA: What did you just call me?
YOU: Oh, I, uh ... Shoehei Ohtani, I mean. The baseball player. He's a pitcher but he also hits too!
GREG: Well actually all pitchers in the National League are hitters. That's real baseball if you ask me, none of that DH stuff.
YOU: Yeah well Ohtani is a really good at both. He hits on days when he doesn't pitch, and he has three home runs already!
GREG: So? Babe Ruth did that.
YOU: Greg that was a hundred years ago.
GREG: Where's this kid from?
YOU, NERVOUSLY: ... He's Japanese.
GREG: Hrmph. Babe Ruth was Dominican, you know.
YOU: All right nice talking to you guys.
The world is buzzing about Angels rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani, a 23-year-old bomb-hitting, bomb-throwing baseball phenomenon who could probably kick a field goal if necessary. In a few short months, he's gone from a gimmicky free agent to a fantasy conundrum to Babe Ruth reincarnate. Look at his stats from the Angels' homestand against Cleveland and Oakland last week:
Tuesday: 3/4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI (better than Scooter Gennett's entire season FYI)
Wednesday: 2/5, HR, R, 2 RBI
Friday: 1/4, HR, R, 2 RBI
Sunday: 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 12 K, six perfect innings
What the fuck! This is like if Isaiah Dickson had better control ... and played Jane Boyd right now.
Small sample size and all that, but Ohtani is just 23 years old, so it's easy to let our imaginations run wild. Like, how does he not win an MVP at some point? Even if he's a "only" a slightly above-average hitter and "only" a slightly above-average starting pitcher for a year, that has to be worthy of consideration. No has done this in our lifetimes!
Some recent historical context: Madison Bumgarner is one of the better hitting pitchers in baseball. Two years ago he hit three home runs in 35 games. Shohei did that last week.
Some old-ass, ludicrous historical context: In Babe Ruth's final season with the Red Sox -- the last year of the Dead Ball Era and Ruth's emergence as a power hitter -- he hit 29 home runs and started 15 games with a sub-3.00 ERA. Even if Ohtani's pitcher-to-hitter usage ratio is higher, the way things are going, this stat line may be within reach.
Babe Ruth, age 24, 1919 season:
Hitting: 130 G, 432 AB, 103 R, 139 H, 29 HR, 113 RBI, 7 SB, 101 BB, 58 K, .322 AVG, .456 OBP, .657 SLG
Pitching: 9 W, 5 L, 15 GS, 12 CG, 133.1 IP, 2.97 ERA, 30 K, 1 SV lmao
Ohtani would be the most exciting baseball star/oddity to root for since Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, if not for one significant snag: He's on Maloof's roster.
As a rule of thumb, I root against every player on Maloof's roster, every year. It never works, of course, so my frustration compounds annually. (I'm ashamed to admit I haven't finished ahead of the Evil Empire since 2009.) And based on Maloof's required haul in exchange for Ohtani, it's clear the rest of us will probably have to wait until March 2020 for a crack at the New Ruth. Not fun.
Jealousy aside, Ohtani may have broken our fantasy evaluation systems. Right now, his Player Rater value is 16.96, the sum total of his contributions as a hitter and as a pitcher. But is this 16.96 better than a hitter contributing 16.96 "points" of value, because Ohtani is helping nine categories? Is it more valuable because he's taking up just one roster spot, allowing for hitting subs on days he starts as a pitcher? Is he less valuable because you're forced to roster a backup hitter who isn't always in your starting lineup? I don't know, and it hurts to think about. All I know is right now, this week, there has never been a more exciting fantasy player to own.
Garbo Giancarlo and The Slow-Start All-Stars
Eleven days into the season, it's much easier to rattle off the guys hurting our rosters than it is to praise the ones carrying their weight. Here are some owned players who stink so far! I mean come on pick it up fellas!!
Gary Sanchez (Maloof)
2/32, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .063 AVG
The catcher position was expected to be a fantasy desert this season, with Gary Sanchez as the lone oasis. But his dismal start (no thanks to a minor calf injury) has Maloof pining for the days of Jorge Posada.
Most of us own dumpy catchers too (Robinson Chirinos and Wilson Ramos are among the four worst of the 65 backstops to get an at-bat this season), but the pill has been tougher to swallow since Sanchez is actually good.
Honorable mention: Ramos, Chirinos
Anthony Rizzo (Kyle)
3/28, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .107 AVG
Rizzo has traditionally been a slow starter (in 2016 he hit .216 in April), but through 11 games this year he's been especially cold. And with a nine-game home stand coming up in snowy Chicago, it could be a while before Rizzo really gets loose.
Honorable mention: Logan Morrison (Seyf), Justin Bour (Ols), Joey Votto (Seyf)
Jose Ramirez (Bayz)
2/33, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB, .061 AVG
Nobody needs a day off more than Jose Ramirez, Basile's prized corner keeper. Ramirez started the season 0-for-15 and hasn't really improved from there.
Corey Seager (Nolan)
7/34, 3 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, .206 AVG
Seager's slow start stands out mostly because so many unheralded middle infielders are contributing more right now: Chris Owings, Dansby Swanson, Nick Ahmed, Yangervis Solarte, Asdrubal Cabrera (shout out Swifty), etc.
Alex Bregman - Ols
7/38, 2 R, 0 HR, 3 R, 0 SB, .184 AVG
Bregman is probably a future star, a 25-25 threat on a great team. But son you're gonna have to string together some hits if you want to make it on Mike Olson's roster.
Giancarlo Stanton - Maloof
7/42, 5 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, .167 AVG
Listen to this stat: Giancarlo Stanton is the first player in the live ball era to have 2 games with 0 hits and 5 strikeouts in the same year.
Guys we're 11 days into the season!
Obviously Stanton is going to mash 50 homers, but that's still a funny stat. [Kurkijian voice] In all the years and with all the great players and all the games, we have never seen anything like it in the history of baseball!
Honorable mention: Kevin Kiermaier (Seyf), Manuel Margot (Bayz)