Thursday, August 19, 2021


So Shohei Ohtani now has 40 HRs...the last coming on August 18th (as he also continued to make a strong case for the MVP Award by throwing eight strong innings, improving his '21 won-loss record to 8-1). 

It's the dual thing that's truly special, of course, but the Angels--missing Mike Trout for more than three months due to a calf strain that has apparently taken on epic proportions--aren't going anywhere in the pennant race. Thus the media is still making a bigger to-do over Ohtani's HR total, even though (as we will see) it is only mid-pack in terms of "per-game pace" since the end of the dubious century and the beginning of the downright rotten one.

Don't misconstrue (or, as Marvin Milkes used to say to Jim Bouton, "misconscrew") what we're saying: Ohtani's HR pace is impressive. The chart below, however, takes a good bit of the gasbaggery out of the  lingering heavy breathing. As you'll see, Ohtani is tied for fourteenth on the list of 21st century HR leaders as of August 18th. 

We gathered up all the leaders from 2000-2019 and 2021, including the folks below Ohtani (in order to provide total context) and added in their final HR totals for the year in question. The hitters who hit 50+ HRs in these years have those totals shown in bold type: 13 of them made it across that line.

The average % of HRs added from August 19th to the end of the season for this group works out to 19%. If Ohtani matches up with that average (a rare feat: as you can see, the %'s are all over the place), he'd wind up with 49 or 50 HRs for the year.

Perhaps a more useful mode of assessment, however, is to look at the Angels' remaining schedule and examine how Ohtani has done against the teams he'll be facing. The Angels have seven games left with the Astros, and six each with the Mariners and the Rangers. It turns out that these teams are three of the four teams Ohtani has struggled with the most in '21: he has an aggregate batting average of .213 against them (though he has hit a total of nine HRs against them, over a total of 36 games).

If he matches that HR pace in those 19 games, he'd hit 5 more homers against them. That leaves 21 more games on the schedule, with Ohtani's biggest opportunity coming up in the next 7-10 days, when the Angels will face the pitching-strapped Orioles at Camden Yards, where they've given up nearly two HRs a game this year. If there is any place where Ohtani is going to redeploy his prolific home run stroke, Camden Yards is it. (We will be very interested to see if Joe Maddon decides to push back Ohtani's next start, which is scheduled for that series: doing so would allow him to concentrate on his hitting and permit him to take his next turn on the mound at home, where conditions are more favorable.)

If Ohtani could hit four HRs in Baltimore and match his pace in the games against the Astros-M's-Rangers, he'd had 49 HRs with 18 more games still unaccounted for. That would be the scenario that would give him a very good chance to push his total into the mid-50s and fully justify all the heavy breathing we've been surrounded by since his magical six weeks before the All-Star break, when he hit 18 HRs in 34 games. As we always like to say at this point: stay tuned...

Saturday, August 7, 2021


We are just at the point where the number of games played this year, when combined with the abbreviated 2020 season, gets us to totals that approximate a full we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the top 125 hitters in baseball over that time frame. (We are using OPS+ as the measure here.)

A few notes are in order. First, it is highly unlikely that there has ever been another time when four hitters aged 23 or younger were in the top ten, as is the case right now (Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr.). Second, Shohei Ohtani (who has been pitched to with increasing care since the All-Star break and is currently in a tailspin) does not show up at the top of this list when his 2020 performance is taken into account, suggesting that we are seeing either a prolonged hot streak and/or a career year. (Time will tell.) Third, Brandon Belt--kicked around by his fan base for years--has benefitted from the dimension changes in his home park and is taking advantage of it in a belated career surge. Fourth, comparisons between Mike Trout (suddenly fragile) and Bryce Harper (suddenly consistent) are almost becoming valid again. Fifth, the players whose names are shown in lighter blue than the rest are all members of the Los Angeles Dodgers. How in holy heck did they manage to get Trea Turner in that deadline deal? 

That last note prompts us to look at from where all of these players (and the 99 others on the wall we are not showing you lest you start taking them off the wall and force your fellow readers to break into off-key song) are currently collecting their paychecks (some meagre, some incredibly bloated). The Dodgers have six fellows in the Top 26 (per the above chart), and eight overall--not including a guy (Cody Bellinger) who won an MVP Award in 2019. If their bullpen wasn't snakebit (1-12 in extra-inning games), things would be a bloodbath. Hell, they might still be a bloodbath...

Add up the totals in the last three columns on the right and you'll get a general sense of which teams have the best offense. The Giants, transformed into an extra-base hit juggernaut this year (will it last? we think not...) are even better than this presentation suggests, given that Buster Posey (160 OPS+) is just under the 300 PA threshold needed to appear on this list.

There's an intriguing surprise for Motor City fans who've been waiting for at least half a decade for signs of life in their beleaguered Tigers. When we focus in on the top two tiers of top hitters (covering the folks in the Top 70), we see that the Tigers have developed a cluster of young swingers who might just be helping to lead them out of the wilderness. The list of the top number of hitters in the Top 70 by team goes as follows: Dodgers 8 (!!), Giants 4, Yankees 4, Padres 4, Blue Jays 4...Tigers 4.

It's a slender thread, but it is a thread. We'll see if it frays, or turns into a stitch. In the meantime, folks in Detroit can take solace that they are not living in Dallas, where the Rangers have no hitters in the Top 70, or even in the Top 125, now that Joey Gallo has been shipped off to New York. Though Joey did not personally spurn his fan base in Big D, his departure could result in many of his fans switching their daily allegiance to his close relatives Ernest & Julio, who will at least help them drown their sorrows...