Red Pinstripes: Ohtani to the moon

Can the two-way player keep it up and become an MVP?

Good morning,

Welcome to MLB Wednesdays here at Red Pinstripes. On Wednesdays, we get a reprieve from the Phillies to talk about what else is going on in baseball. And today, I want to talk about the amazing Shohei Ohtani, who has hit and pitched into MVP contention.

I also have stuff on MLB’s cryptocurrency idiocy, more dumbness with foreign substances, and some big homers from a couple of players. Also, an update on the College World Series.

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Can Shohei Ohtani win the MVP?

Shohei Ohtani took his first at-bat in Yankee Stadium Monday. It ended the same way so many of his at bats have ended this season: with a home run.

Ohtani homered again (twice!) Tuesday night and he’s expected to start on the mound Wednesday night, where he’s been nearly as good as he’s been at the plate. (He’ll also hit Wednesday.) In the year of the pitcher, I think we have to start asking whether the pitcher who’s better as a hitter will win the MVP.

Ohtani has been a good hitter his entire major league career, but this year he’s taken it to another level. Entering Tuesday’s games, Ohtani was hitting .276 avg/.360 OBP/.670 SLG with 26 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Ohtani’s 174 wRC+ is second in the American League, far behind leader Vladimir Guerrero’s 199. Ohtani’s 3.2 fWAR is third in the American League. Most of his hitting time has come as the Angels’ designated hitter. 

A lot of times, if you’re going to win the MVP as a designated hitter, you have to dominate the competition. You should be putting up a 25 point gap between you and the second-place hitter, like Guerrero is this season. It’s because DHs don’t provide any value in the field. So why should we consider Ohtani for MVP over Guerrero?

Shohei Ohtani has been a good pitcher over his career, but much of his time on the mound has been cut short by injuries. He started 10 games in 2018 and 2 games in 2020. So far this year, Ohtani has started 11 games and pitched to a 2.58 ERA with 82 strikeouts and 31 walks. His 59.1 innings pitched aren’t enough to qualify for the ERA title, but if they did, he would be fifth in the league. His 1.3 fWAR would rank 27th among American League pitchers. These are good numbers, but Ohtani doesn’t have the bulk innings to contend for the Cy Young Award.

Normally, for a pitcher to win, or even contend for an MVP award, the pitcher has to have a truly dominant season. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw have reached that rarefied air, but no one would reasonably suggest that Ohtani’s season pitching alone would make him an MVP candidate.

But you have to look at things differently with Ohtani. He’s a pitcher and a hitter, doing things that not even Babe Ruth did during his prime. He DH’s regularly and the Angels sacrifice the DH when Ohtani pitches so he can keep hitting. 

Nothing Ohtani has done on either side of the plate screams MVP on its own. But to be a top-5 hitter and a top-5 pitcher halfway through the season is kind of crazy. MVP crazy.

Send Manfred to the moon and don’t let him come back

Last week, the MLB Twitter account tweeted the following:

What could be happening? Big things mean an end to blackout restrictions, announcements about the All-Star game, something to improve the fan experience, or something along those lines, right?

Nope. MLB is putting the patch of a cryptocurrency exchange on umpire uniforms. 

This deal, the first-ever partnership between a professional sports league and a cryptocurrency exchange, was established to create increased brand awareness for FTX and continued innovation for MLB.

So, crypto is a big deal in finance right now. It’s been crashing all over the place though and MLB, in typical MLB fashion, decided to strike while the iron was hot. These bumbling idiots.

Also, this:

And this:

Here’s what I’m really upset about: baseball has a lot of issues right now that fans are rightfully concerned about. It also has a lot of exciting things happening on the field that the league could address and get behind. When the league teased a big announcement, it could have been about any of those things. Instead, the tease was basically a joke to tease a marketing partnership.

I’m a broken record on these things at this point, but baseball’s leadership cares so much more about making money right now than it does the game. Rob Manfred bristled early this year at the insinuation that he doesn’t care about the game, but can you blame anyone for asking? Nothing Manfred has done has demonstrated any thought or care for the actual playing of baseball games. Instead, this regime has accelerated plans to make more money by making fans pay more money for tickets and concessions, and merchandise. I’m getting tired of the sport I love being turned into an MBA exercise instead of glorified as an athletic competition.

Here’s something else the moron keeps screwing up

What are we even doing here?

Some fun performances

OK. Enough of the bad stuff. Here are some of the fun performances from baseball over the last week.

Who do you start with right now but the leadoff man himself, Kyle Schwarber. He did it again Tuesday night, hitting his 25th home run of the year, his 12th in 10 games, and his 16th home run in 18 games. An absolutely crazy stretch of baseball.

Let’s cross the country now to see the man Schwarber is dueling with for the National League home run league, Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis, who’s missed time with shoulder issues this year, hit three home runs Friday night. He’s essentially reworked his swing so he doesn’t keep hurting his shoulder, but Tatis still has easy power to all fields.

College World Series final

We’ll get a big showdown in the final game of the College World Series tonight. The all-SEC showdown between Mississippi State and Vanderbilt will come down to each team’s ace as the Bulldogs’ Will Bednar faces the Commodores’ Kumar Rocker. Rocker, you might remember, won the 2019 College World Series for Vanderbilt. The action gets going tonight at 7.

Hopefully, tonight’s game will be something more than the blowouts each of the last two games have been. Vanderbilt won 8-2 Monday night and Mississippi State won 13-2 Tuesday night. But a duel between aces has the promise of a more dramatic deciding game.