On Tuesday night, Shohei Ohtani took the mound for the third time this season and tossed seven shutout innings to lead the Los Angeles Angels to a 2-0 win against the Washington Nationals.
The Japanese two-way superstar struck out six and held the Nats to just one hit in another dominant outing. The right-hander has improved to 0.47 ERA and 24 Ks in 19 innings, only giving up a single allowed run in his three starts. He’s struck out 32% of batters faced, while he’s been a bit wild in the early going with a 16 BB%. The advanced stats are also impressive, holding hitters to just .150 xBA and .196 xSLG.
This was Ohtani’s tenth consecutive start with two or fewer runs given up, setting a new franchise record and surpassing Nolan Ryan’s nine-game streak set back in 1972-1973.
Sho-Time has another impressive streak going. According to ESPN Stats and Info, this is Ohtani’s 7th straight start dating back to last season with 3 or fewer hits allowed in at least 5 innings pitched. The 7-game streak is tied for the second-highest all-time behind Jacob DeGrom’s 8-game record set in 2021. Ohtani will get the chance to tie DeGrom’s record in his next outing.
Ohtani still sees room for improvement despite his impressive start to the season. “If you just look at the results on paper it looks great, but I haven’t really had too many 1-2-3 innings,” said Ohtani, through his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.
It was a surprisingly efficient outing for the 2021 AL MVP, who is still overcoming his early season control struggles. He finished the game at 92 pitches despite giving up a combined six walks and HBP. He seemed to struggle with the umpire’s strike zone, and the usually calm-demeanored right-hander was more expressive and would turn his head in confusion when he did not get calls on borderline pitches.
Although he struggled with his control, Ohtani was able to keep hitters off-balance by changing speeds and shapes on his pitches. According to Baseball Savant’s pitcher report, Nats hitters made contact with 28 of Ohtani’s pitches, but only three were hit hard into fair territory.
Angels manager Phil Nevin said that Ohtani’s in-game adjustments have been impressive. “He’s added some shapes to his pitches. The adjustments he’s making in-game and between starts are what great pitchers do,” said the Halos skipper. “He got some pitches tonight that we haven’t seen and [Ohtani was] very effective.”
Fans usually think of overpowering 100mph fastballs when Ohtani’s on the mound, but it was another game where Ohtani leaned heavily on his sweeper. He threw his sweeper 51 times in this game, 55% of his total pitches, and got five whiffs. It’s a small sample size, but Ohtani’s sweeper usage has dramatically from 37.4% last season to up to 49% and the pitch has the run value of -6.
The game plan and approach isn’t the only part of Ohtani’s game that is evolving. The average horizontal movement of Ohtani’s sweeper has increased from 14 inches in 2022 to 17.6 inches this year. The movement of his sweeper caught the attention of fans on Twitter after The Pitching Ninja posted a clip of an Ohtani sweeper with 20 inches of break.
Ohtani will get his first day off tonight, as the Angels try to effectively manage his heavy workload. His next projected start is against the Boston Red Sox next Monday, April 17th, at 11:10 EST.