Shohei Ohtani's career in Japan

shohei two-way player in Japan shohei first hit in Japan

This is how Shohei's two-way career began!

Shohei Ohtani (大谷翔平 in kanji) joined the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in December 2012 and began participating in team training in 2013. After completing team training, Shohei said, "I think I had good practice in both pitching and batting. I felt tired at first, but gradually I got used to it in the second half." As Shohei himself expressed his positive response to the training, he steadily worked through the given menu, despite the concerns of those around him.

However, there was a gap in the degree of progress between the pitcher and the hitter. Shohei got his first hit in a pre-season game in February, but as a pitcher he has yet to pitch in a game. He took the mound for free hitting, but he was still a bit rough around the edges, throwing a lot of balls.

When the official professional baseball season began in March, Shohei played in the opening game in right field and had a multi-hit game. It was the first time in 53 years that a high school graduate rookie recorded a multi-hit game in the opening game.

After the game, Shohei said, "I was very happy, and I'm glad we won. My parents and teammates from high school cheered me on. I also want to thank the fans for their support. There were times when I didn't get any results in the pre-season games, and I wanted to do my best to hit the ball in the presence of my seniors."

shohei's first hit in Japan

Shohei's first appearance as a pitcher was in May, two months after the season opener. In that game, he pitched five innings and gave up two runs, but recorded a pitch speed of 97 MPH. This was the fastest speed ever recorded by a rookie in his first outing. Furthermore, in games without a DH system, Shohei entered the game batting fifth and pitching. This was the first time in 50 years that a pitcher batted fifth, which surprised the public.

Shohei showed glimpses of being a two-way player from his first year. As a pitcher, he pitched in 13 games, winning three and posting a 4.23 ERA(earned run average). As a hitter, he hit .238 with three home runs. Although neither his record as a pitcher nor a hitter is that good, he made a solid start as a two-way player. It was also the first time in 46 years that a high school graduate rookie recorded his first win and first home run.

During team training in February 2014, the coaches decided that Shohei had enough ability as a hitter and decided to improve his level as a pitcher in his second year. Shohei worked on training to solidify his pitching form. The hitting, which he also worked on voluntarily during the off-season, was only done to keep his senses intact when he had extra energy.

As a result, he struck out double-digit strikeouts for the first time in his professional career in a game on April 12. In a game on May 13, he struck out 9 in 9 innings for his first complete game as a professional. He also struck out 16 in a game on July 9, making him the youngest player in Japanese professional baseball history to strike out 16 in one game at the age of 20. As a hitter, he hit two home runs in one game on July 5, the first time in his professional career.

Shohei was selected as a pitcher for the 2014 All-Star Game. Since he was selected as a hitter (outfielder) in his first year as a professional, this was his first selection as a pitcher in his second year. In the game, he recorded a pitch speed of 100 MPH, the fastest in All-Star history; he pitched one inning and recorded 100 MPH or more on 12 of his 23 total pitches.

shohei played all-star game 2014

Shohei then won his first 10 games on August 26 and hit his 10th home run on September 7. This made him the first player in NPB history to achieve double-digit wins and double-digit home runs in the same season. Shohei eventually pitched in 24 games, going 11-4 with a 2.61 ERA. As a hitter, he appeared in 86 games, batting .274 with 10 home runs and 31 runs batted in.

In 2015, his third season, Shohei was the opening pitcher and won six straight games. At the end of the first half, he was the only pitcher in both leagues with 10 wins, a 1.43 ERA, and 117 strikeouts, all of which were tops. On the other hand, his hitting was sluggish. He hit his first home run in a game on April 1, the fastest in his professional career, but in a game on June 19, he struck out four times in one game for the first time in his professional career. Because of this, he was selected as a pitcher for the All-Star game.

Shohei eventually had 15 wins, a 2.24 ERA, and a .750 winning percentage. He won the pitcher's triple crown for most wins, best ERA, and highest winning percentage. On the other hand, as a fielder, he was sluggish throughout the year, finishing with a .202 batting average, five home runs, and 17 runs batted in. Some fans suggested that Shohei should concentrate on pitching.

In 2016, Shohei continued from last year to pitch the season opener. He pitched his first complete game of the season on May 1, allowing four runs in nine innings for his first win. However, it took him until midway through the season to get back on track as a pitcher, as his ERA remained in the 3-point range until midway through May. On the other hand, his hitting was strong, and on May 11, he hit home runs in four consecutive games for the first time in his career. In a game on May 29, he started as a pitcher instead of using the DH, even though the DH system was in place. In that game, he allowed one run on four hits in seven innings as a pitcher, and as a batter, he had three hits and drove in one run.

In the July 3 game, Shohei entered the game as the leadoff batter for the first time in his career and hit a first-pitch leadoff home run in the top of the 1st inning. He struck out 10 in 8 innings in that game, winning the game as a pitcher as well. He stated that he was "surprised" at the way he was used, but also said, "I think it was great that we won three games in a row. He played in the All-Star game as a fielder. He won the pre-game home run derby and hit his first All-Star home run as a DH.

Shohei hit a first-pitch leadoff home run in the top of the 1st inning.

And the conclusion of the regular season was a highlight, a climax of the best kind. Shohei pitched in the game that would decide the championship if he won on September 28 and struck out 15 batters on one hit over nine innings. The game was 1-0, and the team won its seventh league championship in four years.

In 2016 he ultimately pitched in 21 games, going 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA. He also set a professional baseball record with his fastest speed of 102 MPH. He was out as a pitcher for about a month in July due to a crushed blister on his finger, but he also played as a DH during that time. As a hitter, he played in 104 games and hit .323 with 22 home runs and 67 runs batted in, which were career highs. As a result, the fans who said he should focus on pitching (or hitting) disappeared.

In the playoffs, Shohei had one hit as a batter in Game 1 and struck out six in seven innings as a pitcher, allowing no runs. In Game 5 he entered the game as the DH, and in the 9th inning he was released from the DH to pitch in relief, earning the save. In the Japan Series, he started Game 1 as a pitcher and played as a DH from Game 2 onward. In Game 3, he contributed to the team's victory with a hit for goodbye. The team won four games, and Shohei experienced his first Japan Series victory. He was honored with the Best Nine award, both as a pitcher and a DH.

In 2017, Shohei missed two months of games after suffering a torn left biceps femoris muscle during a run in a game on April 8. He would return on June 27, but the injury prevented him from playing satisfactorily. As a pitcher, he won only three games, tied for his worst record since his professional career, and as a fielder, he appeared in 65 games and hit eight home runs. However, in his final appearance in Japan on October 4, he played a dual role. In that game, he had one hit as a hitter and pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts.

Shohei's final play in Japan

Shohei announced on November 11 that he would try MLB through the posting system. In December, his agent announced that he had narrowed down the list of candidates to seven teams (SEA, LAA, TEX, SF, LAD, SD, and CHC). He then decided to join the Los Angeles Angels.