It was easy to roll your eyes when you heard what the Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani was going to attempt this season: become the first full-time pitcher/hitter since Babe Ruth. No one has successfully done it since then. But Ohtani had set his sights on shattering conventional wisdom, breaking rules that have been in place for generations. He wanted to make baseball fans stretch the limits of what they believe possible.
When the season started, Ohtani's mission quickly became the game's best story. Cynicism turned into passionate fandom, within the first week. Now, with nine starts and 34 games at the plate, Ohtani has a 3.10 ERA with 61 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP in 49. 1 innings on the mound and is hitting .289/.372/.535 with six homers, eight doubles, one triple and 20 RBI.
Those numbers are impressive to say the least. He's essentially attempting to be Russell Wilson and Jalen Ramsey, or Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist. At the same time. He's trying to pull the equivalent of baseball's EGOT, one of the most ambitious athletic endeavors since guys like Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson played multiple sports professionally.
What Ohtani is doing is remarkable for many reasons, but one that stands out is how different it feels in the current baseball climate. In recent years, baseball has gone all-or-nothing and become highly specialized. Relievers routinely come in to huck three 100 mph fastballs before being replaced by other relievers. Hitters like Joey Gallo mash more home runs than singles, singularly aiming to hit the ball over the fence. Ohtani is doing the opposite. He is playing how many of us did as kids—doing it all.
And he's doing it at a high level.
We're already seeing the ripple effects of Ohtani's success—the Ohtani effect, if you will. Rays prospect Brendan McKay, a two-way first baseman and pitcher, is starting at both positions. More surely will follow, even in light of Ohtani's recent injury, which has put a damper on his dreamlike season. (Maybe even his career, given the precarious nature of arm injuries for pitchers in the modern game.) And while we may not see him on the mound again soon, we can all imagine one day watching a pitcher win the Home Run Derby. Thanks to Ohtani, that dream isn't as far-fetched as we once believed it was.
Check out more game-changers on the B/R POWER 50 Level Up list: