Tag Archives: Shohei Ohtani

Japanese pitcher admits poor spring training “just hoax”

April 1, Oakland, California — In what has to be the most elaborate April Fools Day prank in major league history, a Japanese baseball player admitted Sunday, April 1, he spent all of his first major league spring training tanking in order to dampen expectations.

“I was getting tired of people calling me ‘Babe Ruth,’” the pitcher who wishes to remain anonymous, said in English on Sunday after he won his first game in the majors despite many in the American media saying he didn’t belong.

“Of course, I pitched and hit well in Japan, and I did say I wanted to be the greatest player in the world, but that was before I got to America and realized all the trouble it would cause. So I figured if I dumbed it down, people would just shut up about me.”

“But then, when I said batting practice pitchers in Japan throw from the mound and the American reporters not only believed it but reported it as the truth without checking, I realized I had the start of a good April Fools Day prank. Of course they don’t throw from the mound. What kind of person would believe that?”

“I figured if I played my cards right, I could make them forget Syd Finch.”

He admitted trying to look like a high school hitter in games and doing goofy stuff like going to the bullpen between innings of a spring game and throwing the ball against the bullpen wall.

“I thought about holding the bat by the barrel when I went to the plate, but my interpreter talked me out of it. We couldn’t believe how much the U.S. media bought into it. I even had people say that nobody throws curveballs in Japan. Of course they throw curveballs. Almost every pitcher in Japan throws a curve. Just wait until I see one in a game that matters.”

Asked why he prolonged his prank until he made his Major League debut, the player said, he’d reached a secret agreement with his new club to have him make his pitching debut on April 1, when he decided to show his real ability for the first time.

“I’ve always wanted to play an April Fools joke,” he said. “The American media seemed so gullible that I couldn’t pass it up.”

He said the only people who were in on the joke were the coaching staff and the minor leaguers he pitched and batted against every afternoon in games not open to fans or media. I did have to get my work in and show my team I actually belonged in the majors, after all.

The player admitted not needing an interpreter because he’d been practicing English since he was a child, but that his buddy with his Japanese team had grown up in America and was tired of the snow in northern Japan.

“He’s really from LA, and even the winters in Japan are just too much for him. People talk about how much I live for baseball, but in fact, I like English even more. My dad did too, but said that when he was a kid, his classmates who liked English were picked on and bullied, so I never told anyone about my secret passion.”

How would you pitch to Shohei Ohtani?

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.