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Should Angels Only Have Shohei Ohtani Hit If Playoffs Are Out Of Reach?

Should Angels Only Have Shohei Ohtani Hit If Playoffs Are Out Of Reach?

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MLB starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels throws during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 17, 2021 in Anaheim, California.
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

 

The Los Angeles Angels are currently 66-68, 12.5 games behind the Houston Astros for the American League West lead and 9.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the second Wild Card spot.

Mike Trout, arguably the best player in MLB in the past decade and still an elite contributor, is feeling some soreness in his right calf even after months of rest and rehab.

He could very well be shut down in the next week or so.

At this point, the Angels are about to waive the white flag and call it a season, given the very large gap separating them from a spot in the playoffs and how little time they have to make a push.

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Ohtani Is Still Shining As A Two-Way Player

The Angels, as you know, have MLB’s home run leader and premier two-way talent, Shohei Ohtani.

He is still functioning as a hitter and as a pitcher, still dominating in both facets.

One has to wonder, however, if Los Angeles can’t cut back some of its deficit in the next week or so, if they should just shut down Ohtani the pitcher.

Being an MLB hitter is hard enough, and when you add the constant stress of pitching a regular (or semi-regular) starter’s workload, it takes a heavy toll on the body.

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If the Angels are out of the playoff hunt, and with Ohtani’s MVP award all but safe (a couple of September starts really won’t make much of a difference at this point), shutting him down as a pitcher and letting him play five days a week as a hitter seems like a wise choice.

Los Angeles definitely doesn’t want to risk a long-term injury to his pitching arm in a meaningless September game.

It would be a different scenario if the Angels were in a playoff push, or if the MVP race was much closer.

 

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There Is No Reason To Keep Risking Him As A Starter This Year

There is no way to determine how close Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the presumed top competitor, is from Ohtani in the mind of voters, but it’s pretty safe to say that the Angels’ star is considered the favorite.

After all, he is slashing .260/.361/.618 with 42 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .978 OPS while putting a 3.00 ERA in 105 innings, with 127 strikeouts.

Yes, Guerrero’s batting average is way higher, but that’s about it.

The Toronto Blue Jays slugger is having an MVP-worthy season, and that’s incredible, but there is no way he competes with what Ohtani has done.

He has been the Angels’ best pitcher and best pitcher while occupying only one roster spot.

Shutting down Ohtani as a pitcher eliminates a substantial injury risk from his rest-of-the-season outlook while giving him the opportunity to keep putting up huge numbers as a batter.

At this point, he won’t approach 120 or 130 innings as a pitcher, but he does have a chance to finish with 50 home runs or something close to it as a hitter.

That is worth pursuing, and that way, the Angels would be able to monitor his innings tally with 2022 in mind.



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