Shohei Ohtani has been one of the league’s best hitters since he entered the league in 2018. He’s got 151 career homers, a lifetime OPS+ of 143 and slugging percentage of .544. This season though he seems to have hit a new level with a triple slash line of .300/.384/.632 in addition to leading the league in homers at 24 and in OPS+ at 174. Due to his success, Dodgers pitchers are going to be in for a had full against the favorite for the AL MVP. Down below we are going to look at just how Dodgers pitchers can attack him and where he dominates as a hitter.
Strengths at the plate
Just about every aspect of hitting is a strength for Ohtani. He makes constant hard contact with a hard-hit rate in the 88th percentile and his average exit velocity is in the 95th percentile. Additionally, he draws walks with a walk rate of11.8 percent (82nd percentile) and he is league average when it comes to strike out at 21.4 percent.
In terms of individual pitches Ohtani has had major success against just about everything he has seen. The two pitches he has had the most success against though this season are the four seamer and cutter. Against four seamers he has an xBA of .352, xSLG of .658 and xwOBA of .469 with a hard-hit rate of 67.3 percent. His average exit velocity against four seamers is somehow 98.7 MPH, a number that does not even seem plausible to average. Against cutters, the numbers read .342, .757 and a ho-hum .489 with a hard-hit rate of 44 percent. In other words, complete domination. His average exit velocity against them really takes a step back as it sits at a lowly 93.4 MPH.
In terms of his splits, Ohtani has crushed right-handed this season with an xwOBA of .430 when facing them. Additionally, 18 of his 24 homers on the season coming against righties.
Weakness at the plate
Surprisingly, Ohtani does have a few attackable areas at the dish. The first being his willingness to chase pitches with a 30.1 percent chase rate (34th percentile) and his propensity to whiff with a 30.3 whiff rate (22nd percentile). When it comes to chasing individual pitches, Ohtani has been victimized by the sweeper this season with a chase rate of 51.9 percent. In addition to the sweeper, he struggles against split fingers as well with a chase rate of 42.1 and whiff rate of 42.9 percent, 23.7 percent higher than his whiff rate against sweepers.
Against pitches he has seen 100 or more times this season, his worst expected metrics come against sliders. When facing them, he has an xBA of .191, xSLG of .414 and xwOBA of .312 with an average exit velocity against of 89.5, his second lowest mark against any pitch this season. The pitch he has the worst average exit velocity against is the changeup which sits at 88.9 MPH. He has struggled to elevate changeups and cutters this season as he has ground ball rates of 59.5 and 60 percent against them respectively.
Key matchup: Clayton Kershaw matchup
This is a battle that is going to be must-see TV for any baseball fan as two MVP winners will go head-to-head. As highlighted above, Ohtani struggles the most against sliders, which happens to be Kershaw’s most used pitch.
Kershaw excels at getting batters to both whiff and leave the zone against his slider with a chase rate of 45.4 percent. which he pairs with a whiff rate of 39.3 percent. This season lefties have an xBA of .226, xSLG of .282 and xwOBA of .274 against his slider. Based on the metrics it would be surprising if Ohtani was not fed a heavy diet of sliders from Kershaw in their matchups.
Prediction: Ohtani goes one for three off of the future Hall of Famer with three chases, a strikeout and a single.