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Should Shohei Ohtani Remain As A Designated Hitter?

Sebastián Vermut

Shohei Ohtani looks out to his adoring fans at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.

Shohei Ohtani has had a better season this year than last. That may sound crazy to say, but it’s true. Through 48 games this season, he’s hitting a 0.353 batting average, 0.424 on-base percentage, and an MLB-leading 1.077 on-base plus slugging percentage. To put it another way: he has 16 doubles, 13 home runs, and a whopping 67 hits. Despite not being the best player on the Dodgers right now (Mookie Betts is doing wild things at shortstop), comparing Ohtani’s OPS+ from this year to his OPS+ from last year, we can see that 2024 Shohei is 18% better than 2023 Shohei. Where he was 84% better than the average MLB hitter in 2023, he is 102% better than his opponents this year.

Ohtani’s improvement could be due to many things. Notably, he is not pitching this year due to his recent Tommy John surgery, condemning him to designated hitter. Ohtani can focus solely on his offensive production without stressful pitching starts every fifth day to distract him from his hitting, and this focus shows. His Los Angeles Dodgers boast a 33-17 record, and his relentless bat has contributed, according to the wins above replacement statistic, three of those victories. 

The Dodgers are in a situation where they may not even need Shohei to pitch next season. Their five-man starting rotation has been near flawless, so it seems unreasonable to slot Shohei ahead of aces like Tyler Glasnow, Walker Buehler, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Considering his success without pitching, the Dodgers may ask Ohtani to remain at the designated hitter position.

Is this the right move? It’s hard to say. I believe that the Dodgers will want to see how Shohei pitches after his second UCL tear. Some pitchers never throw as well as they did before their first Tommy John, let alone their second. But, if Shohei continues to be able to rip 100-mile-per-hour fastballs past the Show’s best, he will likely continue to pitch. Only time will tell how he heals.


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