Ever since he signed with the Los Angeles Angels, we’ve been clamoring for a fully healthy season from Shohei Ohtani on both the mound and at the plate. Well, we got it in 2021, and the returns were glorious, ultimately resulting in him running away with American League MVP honors. What really gets me, though, is that as I watch Shohei Ohtani home runs, I keep remembering that the dude is also a pitcher.
When he pummels baseballs into the upper tank, it just blows my mind with exactly how talented he is. Considering all the things he can do at a high level, it’s no shock that he’s the most talented player in baseball today, and maybe even within the past few generations.
Mike Trout is still Mike Trout, but can he hop on the mound and do what Ohtani can do, all while hitting 40-plus home runs? Maybe, but he’s not.
Shohei Ohtani Home Runs So Far in His Career
Outside of struggling overall at the plate in 2020, Ohtani has shown us he’s more than capable of handling big-league pitching while standing in the batter’s box. His 2021 breakout was just so wonderful to watch because of how much better it was.
Through his first three MLB seasons (967 plate appearances), Ohtani owned a 124 wRC+ with 47 homers, 47 doubles, 147 RBI, 133 runs scored, and a .234 ISO. In his MVP campaign of 2021, he posted a 152 wRC+ with 46 homers, 26 doubles, 100 RBI, 103 runs scored, and a .335 ISO.
Phew. Let’s look at Shohei Ohtani home runs through the years, shall we?
2018 Season: 22 Home Runs
While Ohtani’s rookie season was limited because of injury, he still flashed the kind of potential we were drooling about when he signed with the Angels. What specifically jumps out at you when looking at his stat page was how his offense took off in the final two months of the regular season.
Through the end of July, which was his first 199 plate appearances in the big leagues, Ohtani slashed .258/.333/.494 with nine home runs, 25 RBI, and 26 runs scored. That’s nothing to scoff at considering his situation, as well as his 124 wRC+. But from August 1st through the end of the year (168 plate appearances), he clearly hit another gear, slashing .318/.393/.649 with 13 homers, 36 RBI, and 33 runs scored, which sussed out to a 179 wRC+.
He also flashed elite Statcast numbers in various areas, including a 16.4% barrel rate, a 92.9 mph exit velocity, a 113.9 mph max exit velocity, and a 50.4% hard-hit rate. While 15 of his 22 homers came in front of the home crowd, the situation he took the most advantage of was facing right-handed pitching. In 110 plate appearances against lefties, he posted just a .654 OPS with two homers, but in 257 trips to the plate against righties, Ohtani posted a 1.043 OPS with 20 homers.
2019 Season: 18 Home Runs
Ohtani’s 2019 campaign was once again impacted by injury, as he appeared in just 106 games as a hitter and none as a pitcher while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He obviously enjoyed another year of double-digit home runs, but his overall production took a slight step back despite getting more plate appearances than the year before.
His wRC+ dropped down to 120 and his ISO went from .279 to .219. It’s not as if he still wasn’t a positive contributor for Los Angeles – his .286/.343/.505 line and 1.7 fWAR certainly suggest he was.
When looking at his monthly splits for this season, though, it’s clear June is the part of the calendar that made his overall numbers what they ended up being. Through 103 plate appearances that month, he slashed .340/.379/.713 with nine home runs, 22 RBI, and 19 runs scored, which was all good for a 177 wRC+. In months he played at least 20 games, June was the only month where his wRC+ was higher than 113. It was under 100 in both May and August, as well.
2020 Season: 7 Home Runs
Although the 2020 regular season was shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still plenty of time for Ohtani to learn a lot about himself as a big leaguer. He did get himself back on the mound after completing his Tommy John rehab, but it was only for a couple of unsuccessful innings. His time at the plate was more extensive, but just as disappointing, evidenced by an 81 wRC+, .657 OPS, and 28.6% strikeout rate.
The most concerning parts were the drastic rise in soft-hit rate and drop in hard-hit rate. Between 2018 and 2020, his soft-hit rate went from 10.2% to 8.6% to 19.4%. Meanwhile, his hard-hit rate went from 43.1% to 49.6% to 35.0%. Simply just seeing those numbers helps explain why he struggled as much as he did.
None of his 2020 statistics particularly jump off the page in a good way, but it was clear that he was more comfortable at home in Anaheim over being on the road. His home OPS (.751) was nearly 200 points higher than it was on the road (.555), and his home wRC+ (107) was also drastically better than it was away from the Big A (57).
2021 Season: 46 Home Runs
Ohtani’s AL MVP campaign would’ve been eye-popping enough on its own, even though he just missed out on being the AL home run king despite leading the league at the All-Star break. But when you also include how much he struggled in 2020, it should make your jaw drop to the floor. He was finally fully healthy and had a regular offseason under his belt heading into this year, and boy oh boy, did it show.
His quality-of-contact numbers returned to his previous career norms, and the Japanese slugger added more fly balls and cut down on the ground balls to join the fly-ball revolution in his own way. Not only did he post a 152 wRC+ and 5.1 fWAR as a hitter, but Ohtani also slashed .257/.372/.592 with 46 home runs, 26 doubles, 100 RBI, 103 runs scored, and 26 stolen bases.
He slowed down in August and September following the All-Star break, but he went into the break quite hot with 33 homers. Once again, June was the banner month of Ohtani’s MVP performance. In 97 plate appearances, he hit .309/.423/.889 with 13 home runs, 23 RBI, 20 runs scored, and a 236 wRC+.
Ohtani also hit some moonshots within those 46 dingers. Six different homers traveled more than 450 feet (with three going at least 460), and a whopping 25 owned an exit velocity greater than 110 mph.
What’s Next for Shohei Ohtani?
This breakout sets a high bar that he’ll likely be measured against for the remainder of his career (unless he blows past it, of course). What does Ohtani have in mind for an encore in 2022? We’ll have to wait and see, but we’re hoping there will be plenty more homers included. Once his campaign is complete, we’ll come back and update this article with his newest batch of dingers. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that if he keeps up (or is close to) his 2021 pace, he’ll be on the Los Angeles Angels’ all-time home run list very soon.