In sports, there are generational talents. Then, there are talents that change the game.
Shohei Ohtani has become the latter.
According to Joel Sherman, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to a “Shohei Ohtani Rule” in the new CBA, which will fold in with the universal DH. In essence, the rule will allow Ohtani (and other players who may follow in his footsteps) to finish out games he pitches in the batting order. Effectively, it adds a second designation to him on the depth chart. He will be the pitcher AND the DH in games he plays.
Why ‘Ohtani Rule’ good for the Angels
This should be self-explanatory. Ohtani won MVP with a slash of .257/.372/.592. The rule will give Ohtani more at-bats and will lead to less juggling with his status in-game.
Ohtani brought an extra layer of management for Joe Maddon. He appeared in 155 games for the Angels last year, a career-high in both Japan and the United States. He averaged just under six innings per start, which meant that the Angels lost about an at-bat per game of Ohtani in games he started. For a player who hit the way Ohtani did last year, that makes a difference for the team over the course of a season.
Why ‘Ohtani Rule’ is good for Ohtani
Once again, the answer here is simple: It’s one less thing for Ohtani to worry about. For all of the hand-wringing about Ohtani splitting time as a two-way player, he’s never seemed phase. Maddon has cited how unflappable Ohtani already is during games, and it shows in his composure.
Anything that makes it easier to keep Ohtani on the field is, ultimately, good for him. This is an easy way to give him the two-way status that caused MLB teams to be enamored with him in the first place, and it will only make him more indispensable as his career goes on.
Why it’s good for MLB fans
Baseball is the only sport where this situation is an issue. If an NFL player misses a snap, he can come back in. Basketball and hockey players rotate constantly. Baseball and soccer are the sports where when you’re out, you’re out.
Now, fans will get a full nine innings of Ohtani, whether he’s pitching or not. Ohtani starts were great because it meant fans got to see him playing on both sides, but it was always bittersweet when they were over. This way MLB can have its cake and eat it too. Ohtani pitches six innings, and still comes out to hit without having to stick him somewhere on the field. It’s a win-win, and a no-brainer, which makes it shocking it went through this easily.
This may also allow young talents to pursue a two-way career, something that was impeded before because of the difficulty of juggling pitching and batting training. That, however, is purely speculative.
Why ‘Ohtani Rule’ is not good for Angels’ opposing MLB teams
See above… more of Ohtani is not good for any opposing team.
However, a silver lining is teams’ ability to utilize this rule themselves. They will just need to find another generational talent like Ohtani.
Other MLB rules negotiated
MLB and the MLBPA came to terms on a few other rules as well. Runners will be back on second to start extra innings in 2022 (and only 2022, for now), and we’re going back to nine-inning doubleheaders. Rosters will also expand to 28 from 26 for April without a limit on pitchers due to the shortened offseason, before going back to 26 with a 13-pitcher cap on May 2.