When Shohei Ohtani burst onto the Major League Baseball scene six years ago, the entire league was intrigued and somewhat skeptical of the promise he brought. A player who could excel as both an elite pitcher and hitter? It was an audacious idea, and while Ohtani had proven himself in Japan, there were doubts about how long he could sustain this dual role.
Fast forward to today, and Ohtani is a well-established two-way superstar, redefining the game. His incredible talent and versatility have reshaped the financial and risk calculations for MLB teams. However, Ohtani is not immune to physical challenges, having undergone two elbow procedures since 2018. He’s 29 years old, and the question looms: What if he faces struggles or injuries during his new contract?
While it’s natural to wonder about Ohtani’s future, his impact on baseball has already been monumental. His unique abilities and historic success over the last three seasons have made him worthy of consideration for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While Hall of Fame rules require a player to have ten seasons under their belt, Ohtani has completed six, with the potential for more to come.
Since 2021, Ohtani ranks among the top players in the league in various offensive categories, boasting a .964 OPS, 124 home runs, and a 161 OPS+. Remarkably, he’s accomplished all of this while also being an outstanding pitcher. His 2.84 ERA, 151 ERA+, and 31.4% strikeout rate from 2021-23 place him among the elite pitchers in the league.
Ohtani’s combination of hitting and pitching has resulted in impressive wins above replacement (WAR) numbers: 9.0 in 2021, 9.6 in 2022, and 10.0 in 2023. Only a select few in history, including Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, have achieved such consistently high WAR figures.
Beyond the numbers, Ohtani has become a trailblazer who has left an indelible mark on baseball. He’s challenged conventions, even leading MLB to rewrite its rulebook. In the 2023 Draft, a record number of two-way players were selected, a testament to Ohtani’s influence. His impact extends beyond the field, strengthening the connection between MLB and Japan and increasing international interest in the sport.
In conclusion, Ohtani’s legacy is already secure. While we hope for more incredible seasons from him, his contributions to the game, both on and off the field, have made him one of the most important players in baseball history. Regardless of what the future holds, the story of baseball in the 21st century is incomplete without Shohei Ohtani, and that’s why he’s a Hall of Famer in our eyes.