Well there you have it, folks. The 2018 MLB season has wrapped. The awards have been handed out, the Red Sox have collected their ninth World Series win and sadly, the bats and balls have been stowed again for the winter.
This season I chose to focus on Shohei Ohtani, Greg Bird and Jameson Taillon. Bird and Taillon were carry-overs from my 2017 predictions and Ohtani, touted as ‘The Japanese Babe Ruth,’ simply couldn’t be ignored.
As much as I, and presumably the Yankees, like Bird, the truth is he just can’t seem to stay healthy.
Prediction: 30 HR, 100 RBI, .275/.360/.575, 2018 All Star
Production: 11 HR, 38 RBI, .199/.286/.386 (through just 82 games)
He continues to show flashes of brilliance, like a 17 game stretch from July 7th – 28th in which he notched 19 hits, 4 homers, 16 RBI and slashed .311/.384/.574, before quickly tapering off again. This prediction was a miss but I’m still confident that Bird has the potential to establish himself as a top 5 first sacker. The only question is whether or not his ankle will hold up.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Taillon’s. After beating cancer last year, Taillon was set to embark on his first full, healthy season of big league ball.
Prediction: 32 GS, 16-11, 180 IP, 170 K, 40 BB, 4.10 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 8.5 K/9
Production: 32 GS, 14-10, 191 IP, 179 K, 46 BB, 3.20 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 8.4 K/9
That’s right folks! Read ’em and weep. No need to go into much detail with this gem. Suffice it to say I’m going to go ahead and call this one a 100% success (thank god.) Of his eight no-decisions, Taillon left the game with the lead three times, tied three times and behind twice. When leaving with the lead he left ahead by three once and ahead by two twice. Had the Pirates’ bullpen been able to close one of these out, Taillon could have easily been a 15 game winner. The Pirates would finish 6-2 in Taillon’s no-decision games. I’d also like to add, in 15 of Taillon’s 32 starts the Pirates provided him with less than four runs.
Verdict: 1000% correct!
The biggest issues surrounding Ohtani were his durability and the fact that the talent levels in Japan can vary wildly from player to player. The league is basically made up of a handful young, homegrown studs, a half-dozen Major League washouts and a bunch of minor-league calibre ballplayers. I had broken Ohtani down as two separate players in an attempt to give a more accurate analysis of his talents.
As a hitter:
- I expected Ohtani would struggle to hit MLB calibre pitchers (each team has 1-3 bona fide Aces and a half dozen flamethrowers in their bullpen)
- At bats would be too sporadic to enable Ohtani to get his timing down and really find his rhythm
- His poor spring. In 11 games he went 4-32 with no jagaimos and 10 strike outs. He slashed .125/.222/.125. Now I can’t describe exactly what came to my mind the first time I heard the term ‘Japanese Babe Ruth,’ but it certainly wasn’t this.
Prediction: 10-15 HR, .200/.260/.310 – Will end up hitting in bottom third of order
Production: 22 HR, .285/.361/.564 – September batting positions were: 2nd-1 time, 3rd-5, 4th-15, 5th-3
Ohtani got off to a hot start, going 7-18 and hitting 3 home runs in the Angels’ first 4 games. Despite his early flash of power, he had just three jagaimos in the following 26 games. His drop off in power notwithstanding, the good times continued to the end of May at which point Ohtani was slashing .291/.376/.553. Disaster struck less than a week later when, on June 6th, Ohtani’s already sprained UCL finally gave out. Toeing the rubber for his ninth start, Ohtani lasted just 4 innings against the Royals, allowing 4 hits and 3 walks before leaving in the 4th inning. Despite the bum wing, Ohtani continued to DH… but not well. He went just 13-64 through July, slashing .203/.261/.422. He mashed 3 potatoes but somehow managed to drive in just 5 runs. Ohtani caught fire in August, slashing .328/.423/.672, launching 6 homers and driving in 18. He cooled off slightly in September but still managed to post a line of .310/.371/.632 while mashing 7 jagaimos and again driving in 18. Thanks to his late-season surge Ohtani finished with 22 home runs and 61 RBI over 104 games. He put up a more-than-respectable line of .285/.361/.564, which was good enough to win him the AL’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Hitting verdict: Correct & incorrect… but mostly incorrect. Ohtani was both red-hot and ice-cold at times. He feasted on big-league pitching until they figured him out, at which point he struggled for a few games before making some adjustments and going on another tear. He struggled a little when he blew out his UCL, although that could have been as much mental as it was physical. Overall he looks to be the real deal hitter-wise and he was a deserving winner of the AL’s Rookie of the Year award. Let’s just hope he doesn’t fall prey to the dreaded sophomore jinx (insert Bob Hamelin file photo here.)
As a pitcher:
- I expected that Ohtani would likely show flashes of brilliance
- But historically, Japanese pitchers had struggled to stay healthy and remain effective
Prediction: 25 starts, 120 IP, <10 wins, 5.25 ERA, 1.500 WHIP
Production: 10 starts, 51.2 IP, 4-2, 3.31 ERA, 1.161 WHIP
Ohtani started off well enough in his debut, going 6 innings and fanning 6 on his way to a win against the A’s. He faced off against Oakland again just a week later, again picking up the win. This time he punched out 12 Athletics and held them scoreless before leaving after 7. His next start however, the cracks began to show. In an April 17th contest against the Red Sox Ohtani lasted just 2 innings, and allowed 3 runs on 4 hits. He faced 12 batters and needed 66 pitches to retire just 6 of them. Ohtani was fairly solid for the next 5 starts before blowing out his elbow June 6th against Kansas City. The Angels attempted to let Ohtani’s elbow heal with rest and sent him out to face the Astros on September 2nd. The big right-hander lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits, one of those being a home run. Shortly after that the Angels confirmed that Ohtani would undergo Tommy John surgery this off season.
Pitching Verdict: Correct. Dominant one minute, injured the next. If he does one day manage to string together 25+ starts he will be a mid-rotation guy at best.