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The truth about Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout

Thursday 8/24/23

It could be the beginning of the end for Shohei Ohtani, he who has been treated and talked about as a mythological creature come to life, given that he tore his URL for a second time yesterday and won't pitch again this year. He may not pitch again next year. So now you have a twenty-nine-year-old DH. I think Ohtani is one of the most overrated players in the game's history and his legend, as such, is a product of these times, where people just aren't very smart and social media dominates how they think, if we're even going to call it that. Nothing is evaluated. All is surface and sheen. Nothing is vetted and looked at all the way through, from the top to the bottom.

You have a power hitting DH who also pitches who had a season where he won 15 games and another where he won 10. I don't expect him to ever reach 10 wins again. Someone will say, "Wins for a pitcher mean nothing!" because of course that is how people think now (which begs the question as to why the best pitchers in the game's history always managed to win a lot of games), because people think in terms of excuses and have and love a defeatist mentality.

If it's not about winning for a pitcher, then what is the point? So that someone on the team's social media staff can post a tweet about how a pitcher threw the ball 102 mph? Who cares? That doesn't mean anything. It's not anything important in and of itself. Or that a pitcher had this many strikeouts in this many innings? And it's always limited innings. We are a society where we always want to do less, not more. Starting pitchers don't pitch much, star NBA players sit out twenty games a year. Then we're talking about 152 strikeouts in 130 innings as this buzzy wow thing from a pitcher's season stat line which included a 3.27 ERA and 8 wins. "He's one of the best."

No he isn't. It's like we're trying to do away with anyone being the all-out best and now best is a matter of "He went in there sometimes and did pretty okay and winning doesn't matter because he threw the ball this hard and this number of outs came in this fashion."

Imagine caring about how a goal scorer in hockey scored 60 goals if he got that many in a season? And then valuing his scoring prowess more if a greater number of goals came this way vs. that way? That's insane. But that's how it works with pitchers. And that's how pitchers pitch now. And that's why pitchers win less games than ever, and why they have less value than ever.

So what did all of this get you, really? A few seasons of nice power stats from a DH in his twenties--so there's no fielding value--and forty wins since 2018? What was the point? Sensationalism? It plays on Twitter, though. And it plays with people who don't know baseball. He may never pitch again. So then what? If you're a full-time DH at thirty, you're usually like Greg Luzinski or someone. It's kind of embarrassing for an athlete. Not a hitter--an athlete. Ohtani is an athlete. And he did all of this for the Angels? Guys get hurt so easily now, because they're brought along so gently. It's like they're built to be injury prone. This is the wrong age to have someone go out there and do both of these things. It's the brittle age.

But to keyboard warriors who know nothing about baseball's history, Ohtani has given them a chance to go online and say he's the best ever, etc. He's unlikely to even match Cal Ripken's WAR total from the 1991 season. But who doesn't think of Ohtani as worlds better than Ripken?

This is a very good power hitter, and a whole lot of novelty. It's not sustainable what Ohtani was doing, and it may be all done now. Take away the novelty, and now he's a guy who hits a lot of home runs on a bad team. He'll likely go to another team next year, but at less money than he would have been paid before this URL tear. Someday he'll make the Hall of Fame, though he'll have very low career totals. He'll make it on the back of the novelty, and people will talk about him the way they talk about Bo Jackson and what could have been, though as someone who had better seasons than Jackson did. Bo Jackson is similarly one of the overrated baseball and football players in history, because he wasn't that good at either sport. Jackson was an above average hitter and running back. He was brute force; he wasn't a player. With baseball especially, it's not about brute force. That's why you can be a better throwing 88 mph than someone else throwing 102 mph.

Mike Trout--who is the single most overrated player in baseball history--also had an injury issue yesterday immediately after coming back from injury and will once again be out of action. Trout has been out of shape for many years. Look at him. How can you not see that? He's overweight, and additionally, look at the bulk he put on. Baseball players and bulk don't mix. You'll be hurt. Not that kind of bulk. You can have a gut, you can have muscled arms, but you can't be as top heavy at Trout is. He looks like a cartoon character. Joe from Family Guy.

There is no one, later on, who will rhapsodize about Trout's career after the fact the way people did when it was happening. He'll never have had a meaningful moment. (His most meaningful moment, I'd say, was being struck out by Ohtani in a meaningless preseason tournament.) He won't have the career stats, save WAR, and that won't be nearly the total that people thought it would be (I saw many times where he was predicted to be the first 200 WAR player), and ultimately WAR is pretty lame and forgettable so far as one's legend and legacy goes. No one is going to say, "Trout was amazing with his career WAR. And his OPS+."

That's not going to happen. People don't even know what anyone's career WAR is. Quick: What's Wade Boggs'? Warren Spahn's? Roberto Clemente's? Joe DiMaggio's? Johnny Bench's? Pedro Martinez's? I bet anyone guessing along isn't all that close. Do you know who has the second highest career WAR? Who fills out the top ten? You know who has the highest career WAR total of the above guys? It's Warren Spahn. And most people who don't know baseball--which includes people who follow baseball and people who read baseball books and take part in baseball history discussions--would have picked him last from that group.

Trout is also someone who I think just wanted to have an easy go of it and didn't care at all about winning. That's why he signed that lifetime type of contract with the Angels. I think he likes no one really paying attention, and I don't think he likes big moments. I think he's just a guy who likes playing and not being bothered. It's recreational for him, the way it is for a kid coming home from school to play with friends, and he gets paid a ton of money. I don't think he has any drive to be the guy, to be this big winner, to have the big stage, whatsoever. I think he's perfectly content being on a team twenty games under .500, catching balls in the outfield despite being this chunky centerfielder with limited range, hitting home runs in 9-5 losses, getting some sun, and going home.

He was supposed to be the best player in the game, and the best player of all-time, because people say players are better now, which is false. Again, baseball is not a brawn game; that's why someone who played the game in 1948 could be better at the game of baseball than someone in 2023. There is so much more to it than force and brawn. People are brainwashed now. They think 102 mph matters more than 97 mph because it's higher, and it means anything at all that a home run came off the bat at 105 mph.

Who cares? A ball goes over the fence, it goes over the fence. That's all that matters. And strikeouts are ineffective outs. A groundout to second base has more value for a pitcher than a strikeout, because chances are it takes less pitches and if one pitches well, it's can also be less wear, less exertion, more innings, more years, more impact.

Then Ohtani came along, and most people think of him as better than Trout. So that would mean, according to many such people, that the two best players in the history of baseball were on this same piss-poor team. Stop it. That's just false.

Trout is around the 100th best baseball player in history, and Ohtani is a guy who will be evaluated for maybe a half dozen seasons. How many more years do you expect him to hit this many home runs for? Two? Three? Do you think it's five? Okay, say it's five, taking him to his mid-thirties. That will still be like only eight such seasons. You take away the novelty of his dual-action game, and no one talks about him the way they do, because it's just modern day novelty for simple people.

I like Ohtani. I think his swing is long--it's like a loop, and he's too pull-reliant--and as he ages he'll have more and more problems keeping holes out of his swing and getting around on pitches. He seems like a good guy. But he's just not what people say he is. He would only be talked about the way he is in this age of the lazy, social media inebriated dumbass. I could be totally wrong about what's next for him. He may recover, he may go on to win a Cy Young award in the next year or two, he may move to a contender and pitch and slug them to World Series glory. I don't think so, though. My expectation is he contributes minimally as a pitcher going forward, and that part of his game is phased out. But then do you have this great athlete just be your DH? Does he move to the outfield? Is he any good at fielding? You get a few more big power numbers seasons. He retires with 340 career home runs, 950 RBI? I don't know. What does that do for you? Then you add that he had a couple seasons where he was this great pitcher, too, though the numbers look pretty meager? And that's the best of all-time? Why?

Trout I just don't have any use for. No player's reputation will age worse than his will. No one is going to tell their kids or their grandkids about Mike Trout and his WAR that he accumulated in meaningless West Coast games the rest of the country was asleep for and MVPs he shouldn't have gotten because everyone was WAR-drunk, and his injuries and how quickly his game fell off but that he was really good for a while--until he lost his eye--at walking. He's unmemorable.

Having made these remarks, I'll also say that Ohtani has a real shot at the Triple Crown this year and I am rooting for him to do it. He's going to lead in home runs unless the Angels sit him out as a hitter for the rest of the season (and even then he still could). He's right there in RBI. The batting title--a term people scoff at now, but which I believe means and says something--will be trickier, but if the leaders fall to .315 or so, and Ohtani gets hot, it could happen. That would be the magic number, I believe--.315. I'll put it at somewhere between a five to ten percent chance, but that's the kind of hitting year he's having.

But I think this will end up being the best he got, and now with the pitching probably be scaled back going forward, or coming to an end, what does it all really add up to? For me, that's what I'm always most interested in: What does it all really add up to?


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