Economics of Shohei Otani playing in AL

So I went to an Angels game this weekend. I am not by any means a follower of baseball, so I had not heard of Shohei Otani until the game.

It seems to me that a player who is good enough to pitch and be DH is leaving a lot on the table by playing in the AL. Teams that have to have their pitchers go to bat should be much more interested in him, and more willing to pay, right?

So, what am I missing? I’m sure that people who play and manage baseball professionally did what they did for good reasons and that I’m wrong. I’m just curious why?

Well, whatever his value to an NL team, the Angels made the most attractive offer. That doesn’t mean you’re not wrong; it just means the Angels are the team most willing to overpay.

Ohtani by all accounts was VERY limited in the number of teams he would even consider, so most NL teams had no shot anyway.

A starter in the NL would hit at most every 5 days and maybe some pinch hitting. In the AL he would in theory pitch every 5th and DH 3 other days. So they actually get more use out of him. Of course it is not working out that way due to injuries.

The thing is, if he played in the NL, he’d only bat ever fifth day (i.e., when he was the starting pitcher), and only for as long as he was in the game as the pitcher; once he was pulled for a reliever, his day as a batter would be over. (Though, he could also pinch-hit, of course, as well as DHing in games when his team would be playing on the road against an AL team.)

In the AL, he can bat (as a DH) much more often, as well as being able to pitch. He’d only be unable to play DH on days on which he’s the Angels’ starting pitcher.

Edit: ninjaed by What Exit?

I’m curious to see how he plays out long term. He was already injured this year and isn’t back pitching yet, but even before the injury he wasn’t playing everyday (meaning that he wasn’t DH’ing every game that he wasn’t pitching in).

Seems to me like he wont be a full two-way pitcher, just a pitcher that plays DH 1 or 2 out of every 5 games. Still makes for an interesting conversation regarding value & salary though. But as interesting as it is to see a pitcher that can hit, seems to me like he’d be better served by just focusing on one or the other.

Edited to add:

I am also curious if he will become a victim of too much hype. I know he’s only a rookie, but he’s a few bad games away from a batting average in the .240’s (or even lower).

Why? The most games started last year was 34. Let’s be really generous and say that Ohtani pitches 35 games every year. And then lets get crazy and assume he bats leadoff, pitches all 9 innings (or at least enough to get his last PA each game), and gets 5 plate appearances every game. That’s 175 plate appearances. He already has 194 PA this season via the DH, and he’s been out since June 4. Sure, they could play him in the OF every now and then in the NL, but it sounded like teams weren’t thrilled with that option during his signing period - they knew that an AL team was going to get him more playing time.

Interestingly enough in college baseball a pitcher can act as his own DH.

Thanks for all the answers.

Sounds like the major thing I was not considering is that pitchers play way less often than players in other positions. Obviously my knowledge of baseball strategy is very shallow. Now, very slightly deeper.

Unless, of course, he plays the outfield or first base when he is not pitching. He does have some experience playing outfield.

Fair point. I imagine that part of the attractiveness of using him as a DH, rather than a position player, on non-pitching days, is to give him more of a chance to rest his arm between starts.

I would assume that to be the case, yes, as well as the possibility that he’s just a shitty outfielder.

Ohtani has never fielded any position but pitcher in the majors, and played only 64 games in the outfield in NPB. (85 as a pitcher, 256 as a DH.) He never quite played full time in Japan; this P/DH/days off thing has always been how he played.

A lousy outfielder can improve their defense enough to be at least non-lousy, but that wouldn’t be a guy who is also focusing on pitching.

Kyle Schwarber was a catcher who played some outfield and was one of the worst defensive outfielders I’ve seen in a long time. But, after his injury and when it became apparent that he’d never be a MLB catcher, Schwarber seems to have been working his butt off to become a slightly below average MLB outfielder, so he’s not a huge liability in the field.

There’s simply no way that Ohtani could devote enough time to become an acceptable MLB level outfielder without lots of practice and abandoning pitching.

And, frankly, if he’s my pitcher, and if I feel he has significant value to my team as a pitcher, I’m not at all sure that I want to expose him to the sorts of things that can injure an outfielder in the field (e.g., running into the wall, colliding with other fielders, etc.) Plus, a pitcher’s arm is vulnerable enough to injury as it is; I don’t know that asking him to also be making throws in from the outfield is a great idea for his longevity as a pitcher.