This Will Not Be Finished Until Mike Trout Is Allowed To Pitch To Shohei Ohtani
1:31 PM EDT on March 22, 2023
They say it provided the storybook ending to the 2023 World Baseball Classic: Shohei Ohtani, the brightest star in baseball today, facing Mike Trout, possibly the best baseball player in history, for the final out of the final game. That the final out should be contested between two mythic superheroes of the sport, otherwise teammates on the accursèd Los Angeles Angels, with one going mighty Casey mode on a series of untouchable pitches from the other, seemed downright scripted. Mike Trout himself would have a hard time writing up a more dramatic climax, even if he did not particularly enjoy being on the wrong end of this one. "It sucks it didn’t go the way I wanted it to," Trout said after the game. Respectfully, sir: I disagree! In fact, to me it ruled.
If I were Mike Trout today, steam would be shooting out of my ears from a desire to go another round with Ohtani. And, indeed, Trout is already looking ahead to the next clash. "He won Round One," Trout said Tuesday, conceding defeat in this battle but clearly indicating that he intends to do a Douglas MacArthur in 2026. This also rules. But here I would like to pause and note that staging future clashes in this same format—Ohtani on the mound, Trout in the box—is somewhat unfair to Ohtani. After all, only one of these guys had to spend the later innings of Tuesday's final sprinting back and forth between the dugout and the bullpen, between at-bats and warm-up pitches. Ohtani hit third for Samurai Japan, had four plate appearances on the night, and got on base twice, including legging out an infield single on a bullet grounder in the seventh inning.
Pitching is only part of what Ohtani does as a professional baseball player. That he is one of the best in the world at it while also being one of the best in the world at clobbering the ball to hell is what makes him a phenom, but there is no denying that pitching is the smaller part of his job. In his major league career to date, Ohtani has pitched 350 innings in 63 games, and has made 2,272 plate appearances in 566 games. Ohtani is mostly a hitter, and while it is no small thing to sock a mighty dinger off of Shohei Ohtani, limiting Ohtani to pitching prevents him from bringing his full arsenal of gifts to this clashing of baseball titans.
And then there is the simple fact that no one at-bat is a fair contest between a pitcher and a hitter. Ted Williams is considered the greatest contact hitter in baseball history, and it is because he registered a hit on four out of 10 at-bats in just one of his 19 seasons as a major-leaguer. A pitcher who does not have a huge, overwhelming advantage in any single plate appearance is not even an average pitcher, let alone a great one. Samurai Japan won the game Tuesday, and the end was extremely cool, but the matter of Trout vs. Ohtani is far from settled. It would be dishonorable, discreditable, even disgraceful for either man to claim the crown without without first granting Trout the same literal higher ground enjoyed by Ohtani Tuesday night, and Ohtani the opportunity, unclaimed by Trout, to sock a mighty dinger. In short, Mike Trout must be allowed to pitch to Shohei Ohtani in the 2026 World Baseball Classic. Only then can this conflict be truly settled.
Please hold all mewling about how this would be unfair to Trout due to the fact that he is not a professional pitcher. Here are some alternate facts you must consider:
Fact Number One: Mike Trout Was A Pitcher
Would it surprise you to learn that back when he was a prospect out of Millville High School in Millville, New Jersey, Trout was also a pitcher? Probably not, since you have probably assumed that most great baseball players both pitched and hit during the parts of their lives when they were permitted to compete against puny mortal children. Trout was a two-way star for the Thunderbolts, and in fact according to this goofy scouting video, the uncanny contact hitting that has made him into an all-timer was among the later of his tools to develop into a consistent strength, behind his speed, defense, arm strength, and power. Wow!
Fact Number Two: Mike Trout Was A Very Good Pitcher
Trout was not some fifth-starter bozo for Millville. In fact, the Daily Journal of Vineland, New Jersey informs me that in April of 2008 young Mike Trout led all pitchers in the area in strikeouts. Meanwhile, The Press of Atlantic City informs me that winning pitcher Mike Trout threw a complete game shut-out against Cherokee in the first round of the 2008 South Jersey Group IV baseball playoffs, striking out 14 hitters along the way, including eight of the last nine batters he faced. And the Daily Journal goes on to inform me that in the third game of that season Trout struck out 18 batters in a no-hitter against Egg Harbor Township. Do you know what they call a pitcher who throws a no-hitter, leads his area in strikeouts, and starts the first game of a postseason tournament? They call him a freakin' Ace. Mike Trout was his team's ace pitcher. Defector reached out to Roy Hallenbeck, Trout's coach at Millville High School, for perspective on how easily Trout would fan Ohtani if the tables were turned, and will update this post as soon as he responds.
Fact Number Three: Mike Trout Can Still Throw The Ball Real Hard
Leaving pitching behind in his professional career has not cost Trout much by way of arm strength. According to Statcast, Trout is in the 84th percentile among MLB fielders in arm strength, and last season reached a maximum velocity of 95 miles per hour. Wow! This tells me that the right arm of Mike Trout can probably still fire home a bitchin' fastball. Consider: Trout's big 95-mph throw came without refined pitching mechanics, without the aid of an elevated pitcher's mound, and without the eight warmup pitches pitchers usually take between innings. Give Trout some minor league work to regain his comfort throwing from a mound and it seems reasonable that he could build up a creditable numero uno. Then simply use him as the closer in a one-run do-or-die game against Japan three years from now, against one of the most fearsome sluggers of all time.
Since you are clearly wondering about it, Statcast only records one defensive throw for Ohtani, from 2021, thrown at a pathetic 54.7 miles per hour. Seems like our pal Ohtani is getting a lot of help from the 10-inch rise of the mound. By my calculations this would seem to indicate that Trout's fastball would cross home plate at a highly respectable 190 miles per hour. Let's see Ohtani get around on that.
Thanks for reading!
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