Shohei Ohtani made his major league pitching debut Sunday afternoon, and it was nothing short of magical. Aside from a three run home run given up in the second inning, Ohtani was essentially mistake free against the Oakland A’s in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-4 victory. He displayed a variety of different pitches, all with impressive movement and velocity, and notched the first of likely many wins this season. His final stat line read six innings pitched, three earned runs on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts. He also became the first Angels pitcher since 1965 to record six innings and collect more strikeouts than baserunners. Here’s how he did it.
Ohtani has three above average pitches at his disposal, a fastball, slider and splitter. His fastball usually lives in the mid to upper nineties, but has the ability to reach triple digits if need be. On Sunday, Ohtani’s average fastball velocity was 97.8 mph, hitting 100 mph three times and 99 mph nine. Here is his best at bat of the day, a three pitch gem to A’s first baseman Matt Olson.
Olson, the A’s number three hitter, completely whiffs at two straight 99 mph fastballs on the inside half of the plate, then looks helpless as he half swings on a 90 mph splitter in the dirt.
Oakland players swinging at balls in the dirt was a common them of the game on Sunday, as Ohtani consistently used his splitter to produce swings and misses. Here is Ohtani’s first strikeout of the game, courtesy of A’s shortstop Marcus Semien.
Later in the third inning, Ohtani once again used the splitter low and away to get the strikeout and end the inning against Oakland’s third baseman Matt Chapman.
Even when he missed with his location, Ohtani’s stuff was too electric to hit. Early in the second, Ohtani made A’s slugger Khris Davis look absolutely silly with this slider.
While patience is a virtue, it’s hard not to overreact to what we saw this Easter from Ohtani. He kept hitters guessing with a good diversity of pitches, got great movement from both his splitter and his slider, and consistently placed his high nineties fastball wherever he wanted. He played like a number-one starter Sunday, and could be the difference maker for an Angels team with World Series aspirations.