I was asked this morning how I would pitch to Shohei Ohtani, and since I can’t pitch, the answer would be to roll the ball up there until he takes first base.
Kidding aside, I hadn’t really thought much about it until now. It’s hardly an educated analysis, but he does hammer fat fastballs that aren’t at his knees, and chases sliders, splitters and changes that drop out of the zone when he’s looking to hit the ball hard. He’ll swing and miss a lot on those and on good high fastballs.
With that in mind…
He tries to drive the ball so much that he’ll chase splitters, sliders away, and change ups and look bad doing it.
I’d start him with a fastball or cutter (RHP) high and inside, then try to go low and away with something that drops. Two-seamers should kill him the 1st 6 months. NPB’s low mounds and rough balls make it hard to throw a good two-seamer here, so it’s a rarity.
You can mix in a slider on the hands to keep him off those pitches away. But don’t hang it. Same with fastballs that aren’t low in the zone. He’ll crush anything without bite or movement and drive it to center if its middle away.
He’s used to seeing the best curves in the world, so unless it’s coming off a fastball with two strikes it needs to be really good. To get ahead in the count, you have to throw strikes or be on the edge of the zone to start with because he has good discipline. However, because the NPB zone is truer horizontally — not shifted away from the hitter — than MLB’s used to be, so until he makes that adjustment, pitches outside that are balls in NPB but MLB strikes will be another challenge.