An elbow injury may be limiting Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani from stepping up to the mound, but he looks to be a key contributor offensively. So far, Ohtani’s bat is off to a hot August start. So far, he has hit for a 0.318 BA and a 1.105 OPS. While we will miss the excitement he generates from playing on both sides of the game, Angel fans can still look forward to Ohtani’s offensive production.
Overall, the Angels have stumbled out of the gate due to a lack of offensive production. For a team that had high offensive expectations, the limited run support has been surprising. The Angels must get more production out of their players to compete for a playoff bid.
Ohtani struggled in his return to the mound. He failed to register a single out and gave up five runs before being pulled. His second start showed promise with his fastball generating more velocity, but he left in the second inning. After the game, Ohtani received an MRI revealing a Grade 1-2 strain of the flexor-pronator mass. The injury will shut down his pitching for the rest of the season. While it is unlikely Ohtani will require additional surgeries for the injury, fans will have to wait until the 2021 season for his return to the mound. Manager Joe Maddon remains confident that Ohtani will return to two-way status with a full pre-season work-up.
In addition to his pitching woes, Ohtani struggled offensively to start the season. In the month of July, he held a 0.148 BA with a .586 OPS in six games. His K% stood at 32.1% meaning he struck out nearly a third of the time at the plate. In a total of 28 plate appearances, he netted a total of four hits and only one walk.
Hot August Start
Fortunately for fans, Ohtani’s July performance may have just been a slow start to the season. In the six games played in August, he reversed his offensive woes. Ohtani’s batting average and OPS jumped to 0.318 and 1.105 respectively. His K% dropped to 26.9% and his BB% increased nearly threefold. His 57 wRC+ in July increased to 205 in August. While only six games into the month, these numbers look much better than the six games in July.
According to Rhett Bollinger of MLB News, Ohtani tops the league in a key hitting metric per Statcast. His barrels per plate appearances rank third overall highlighting his optimized launch angle and exit velocity. Currently, his average launch angle increased back to 12 degrees, similar to his rookie year after seeing it fall to 6.8 in 2019.
The Angels struggled to generate offense in the series against the Texas Rangers. After being swept in Texas, the Angels won their next series against the Oakland Athletics taking two of three games at home. A key contributor to the team’s success against Oakland was the 20 runs scored by the Angels compared to the six runs in Texas. In a lineup featuring names such as Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Albert Pujols, the Angels should be more accustomed to generating runs. However, the lack of offensive production has greatly contributed to their 7-12 record in the basement of the AL West.
With the shortened schedule, the opportunity for the Angels to stay in the playoff race shrinks rapidly with each loss. For the Angels to contend, Ohtani will need to keep up this August hot start. The current strategy relying on Trout and David Fletcher to generate the majority of the offense will not lead to a playoff birth. The Angels continue to get moderate offensive production from their catchers, Tommy La Stella, and Brian Goodwin but will need to see more from Justin Upton and Rendon to dig themselves out of the bottom of the division.
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