Starting tonight, the San Francisco Giants will have the privilege of getting their brains bashed in by the most recognizable player in the game today: Shohei Ohtani.
More and more, he’s the one player even non fans have come to know as “a big deal,” which is a good thing because it means more people are aware of Major League Baseball, even vaguely, and that there’s one player who’s among the best at pitching and hitting. A fun thing to do is google “Shohei Ohtani historic” to get a lot of this:
Los Angeles Angels Star Shohei Ohtani Dominates in Historic Fashion...
Did Shohei Ohtani just have the best month in MLB history?
Is Shohei Ohtani having the best season of all time?
Is Ohtani the best MLB player ever?
As a batter, Ohtani leads the AL by fWAR (5.7) and as a pitcher is #14 (2.1). Baseball Reference’s WAR (bWAR) says he’s at 8.4 combined. Basically, an 8-win player. Of course, he plays for the Angels, so we’re looking at the equivalent of 2004 Barry Bonds — the best player in the sport on a team that would be nothing without him.
It certainly doesn’t help that Mike Trout has been out with an injury and Anthony Rendon has been out with indifference — those two guys were supposed to be tremendous lineup protection. In their absence, Mickey Moniak (2.0 fWAR), Taylor Ward (1.6), Brandon Drury (1.6), and Luis Rengifo (0.7) have been capable fill-ins and thanks to a 10-3 finish to July, powered in part by all those guys plus Ohtani, for a moment it looked like the Angels were setup to be a playoff team for the first time since 2014.
They haven’t won a game in August.
Their 0-6 streak has knocked them back to 56-57, from 4.5 games back of the Rangers for first place in the AL West and 3 games back of the Wild Card slots to 10.5 and 7 back. They’re doing what they normally do: be exciting and then suck.
Unfortunately, that has moved them from “a challenge the Giants relish” to “a team the Giants will rover for.”
While the Giants’ lineup is abysmal, the worst in Baseball for the past month and a half, on the season, they have a better OPS (.747) against sub-.500 teams than against winning teams (.677). Pitching-wise, though, they’re a full run worse by ERA: 4.42 vs. sub-.500 and 3.38 vs. +.500, though still 27-24 overall. The strength of the team is its pitching, and it just doesn’t show up against teams where it ought to be demonstrably better than. They also lost a pair of games to the A’s, a team that’s trying to lose in every way. The Giants looked really, truly awful against a team that’s much, much worse.
Will that happen in these three games in Anaheim? The Giants have managed to keep Ohtani the hitter in check in the 8 times they’ve faced him: .115/.207/.115 (.322 OPS) with just 3 hits (0 XBH) and 10 strikeouts against 3 walks. Against the National League for his career, he’s been a little less spectacular, too: 114 games, .263/.361/.465 (.826 OPS) with 15 HR, 15 2B, 4 3B. Baseball Reference claims he’s about 17% worse than his average production in interleague play. 30 of those games have been against the Dodgers, though, and he’s done the most damage against them versus the other NL teams: .263/.341/.488 (.828 OPS; 91 PA).
So, why should Giants fans be worried that he’s going to wear the team like a skin suit over the next three games? Well, for one thing, they should want him to.
There’s no chance he signs with the Giants in the offseason. For one thing: top of the market free agent hitters do not want to hit in San Francisco (Carlos Correa was not a top of the market free agent hitter). And another thing, Ohtani seems like he’s about to exit Farhan Zaidi’s zone of “acceptable risk.” He just turned 29 on July 5th, meaning he’d hit 30 midway through the first year of a 7+-year deal. If Zaidi doesn’t hand out five-year deals to 30+ year old pitchers, he’s not obliged to change his mind just because he’s Shohei Ohtani.
Unless you’re spending time at BALCO, Oracle Park is no friend to left-handed hitters. If Ohtani was injured to the extent that he could no longer pitch reliably (or even just convert to a reliever), he probably won’t ever be a 40-home run guy as a Giant, something he’s already done twice as an Angel, notching his most recent #40 on August 3rd.
I’ve no doubt that the Giants will participate in the bidding, but know it will only be a formality. The Giants will offer a lot of money, perhaps even the most money, but there’s no reason for him to choose the Giants and beyond the 2004 Bonds era-level marketing, there’s not a lot of reason for the Giants to go against their own risk model to add him. The best case scenario is that they get three years of Logan Webb + Joc Pederson-level production with a 3-4 year tail that might resemble Brandon Belt’s final five seasons with the Giants, and the worst case is getting 10+ years of Anthony DeSclafani + Michael Conforto.
So, consider this week Peak Ohtani, because if he signs with the Dodgers next year we’re probably going to switch to hating his breathing guts. Tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday, we get to watch with admiration. Maybe the Angels won’t pick off the Giants as easily as the A’s did and we Giants fans will get to watch another Tungsten Arm O’Doyle series as so many other fan bases have witnessed the past few years. The Giants haven’t lost a regular season series to the Angels since 2012, which maybe doesn’t matter given that the Giants lost the World Series to the Angels in 2002 (you thought I wouldn’t mention that?)
Ohtani is simply the best and he’s in his prime. The Giants are a miserable team successful because of mathematically perfect pitch sequencing and pretty good execution paired with a bunch of hitters who have a decent grasp of the strike zone but can’t really do anything with hittable pitches. It’ll be fun to watch a guy who plays above the lower range of a projection, and rather than being upset about what will never be (Shohei Ohtani, San Francisco Giant), let’s just enjoy what is.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Where: Angel Stadium, Anaheim, California
When: Monday (6:38pm PT), Tuesday (6:38pm PT), Wednesday (6:38pm PT)
National broadcasts: None.
Monday: Logan Webb vs. Patrick Sandoval
Tuesday: TBA vs. Lucas Giolito
Wednesday: TBA vs. Shohei Ohtani
Where they stand
Record: 56-57, 4th in AL West
Run differential: +11, 8th in AL
Postseason standing: 7.0 games back of Wild Card, 10.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 6-game losing streak; 2-8 in their last 10 games
Record: 61-51, 2nd in NL West
Run differential: +24, 5th in the NL
Postseason standing: +3.0 up in Wild Card, 4 games out of the division
Momentum: 2-game losing streak; 6-4 in their last 10 games
Angels to watch
Shohei Ohtani: His offensive profile just blows me away. He’s 4th in Baseball in average exit velocity (94.7 mph), has hit the farthest ball of the season so far (493 ft), is 8th in Hard Hit percentage, and is 3rd in Barrels per PA (12.1%) behind Aaron Judge and Corey Seager. If you’re wondering why you should care at all about Barrels per plate appearance, here’s a comment from a betting site called Fantasy Pros dot com:
Another statistic you might see is Brl/PA (Barrels per Plate Appearance). This is just the number of barrels divided by the number of plate appearances a player had. This is useful because it brings walks into the picture. [...]
These statistics are very useful just because of their simple nature. You should not be expecting a player to hit a lot of home runs unless he is registering a good amount of barrels since such an enormous share of home runs are classified as barrels. This gives you a new, useful, park factor independent way of seeing which players are making the best contact and are likely to hit for power in the future.
Meanwhile, we’ll get the chance to see him pitch against the Giants in Wednesday night’s game, something he’s done only one other time. Back in 2021, Ohtani struck out 9 in 6 IP allowing just this Mike Yastrzemski home run:
His astonishing season like as a hitter (.306/.409/.672) is tempered by an unremarkable 4.07 FIP with his highest walks per 9 (3.7) since his rookie year (2018; 3.8). He’s also allowed a career-high 18 home runs. On July 27th, he had an incredible day in Detroit, pitching a shutout in one game and homering in the second of a doubleheader. But in his very next start, he left after 4 innings because of a blister issue, and since the beginning of July (5 starts) he’s had a 4.30 ERA (5.10 FIP) in 29.1 IP on a .239 BAbip against. It’s a good thing he gets to face the Giants lineup!
Eduardo Escobar: As I note in the latest episode of the Giants Chroncast I host with former site contributor Doug Bruzzone, Escobar has been a Giants killer, hitting .317/.362/.533 (.895 OPS) in 60 career games (246 PA). I didn’t even realize he’d gone over to the Angels until I looked at his transaction record and saw the Mets traded him away on June 24th.
Since the trade, he’s hit .230/.269/.322 (.591) with 5 walks against 24 strikeouts. Every lever the Angels pull to try to improve the team enough to make the playoffs seems to backfire. This series might give them a mirage if Escobar returns to form against a team he owns.
Luis Rengifo: At one time, Rengifo was part of a trade that would’ve sent Joc Pederson from the Dodgers to the Angels. You would think that a 26-year old switch hitting middle infielder would have things like speed and contact skills, but Statcast hates him: 56th percentile sprint speed, 23rd percentile expected batting average, 8th percentile Outs Above Average. All that said, in the time it’s take the Giants as a team to make us realize that they still have a few more years left to go in their rebuild (so, since July 1st), Rengifo has been on a perception-altering heater: .292/.376/.594 (.970 OPS) in 28 games (109 PA). That includes 7 home runs and just a 2:1 strikeouts to walk ratio. He also has 4 doubles and 2 triples, meaning 13 of his last 28 hits have been for extra bases, which tells you how hard he’s been hitting the ball. He has 0 stolen bases in 0 attempts over the same span.
Lucas Giolito: This was the starter the Giants were at one point maybe rumored to be looking at or at the very least hoped to be looking at, but the Angels actually got him for a level of prospect the Giants would never surrender for a player who will be a free agent at season’s end and has wonky peripherals (4.86 FIP, 1.73 HR/9, 35% groundball rate). He features a 93 mph 4-seamer and a low spin slider, which on paper means this should be a great matchup for the Giants, and maybe it will be... but probably not, because the Giants’ lineup is the worst lineup in baseball.
Giants to watch
Logan Webb: His 7-inning, 2-run start in Cincinnati was a moment’s reprieve in a season that has been extremely rough on the road for the team’s ace. In his very next start, the Nationals played his rib cage like a xylophone and sent him to the showers after the shortest outing of his MLB career (1.1 IP). His home/road ERA split this season is stark to the point that it’s now concerning: 2.23 at Oracle Park (76.2 IP), 4.75 on the road (72 IP). The Angels’ lineup is generally less effective against groundball pitchers, which might be Webb’s one hope, but if he comes out of the gate missing his spots, it’ll probably be another Nationals game.
Michael Conforto: We really need him to get hot so that he opts out of his second year. If the Giants have any shot of wildly overbidding to hold Shohei Ohtani’s interest until he narrows down his choices to 2-3 teams, they’re going to need that extra $18 million (and roster spot).
Joc Pederson: Just a .475 OPS in 14 career games at Angel Stadium despite a career .800 OPS in 393 career games at Dodger Stadium. Joc! They’re the same city! What’s the problem?
The bullpen: The Angels’ lineup has an .800 OPS in what Baseball Reference considers to be “High Leverage” situations, and as we saw against the A’s, if they choke in those spots, the team is guaranteed a loss. This is still the strength of the team and they’re going to need to avoid slumping even against a tough lineup.
Giants vs. Angels - What will Ohtani do?
This poll is closed
3 home runs in the series
Pitch a shutout
Steal a base against Patrick Bailey
Smile after doing something really cool