The incomparable Shohei Ohtani: 10 magic numbers that reflect his rare greatness

The incomparable Shohei Ohtani: 10 magic numbers that reflect his rare greatness

There has never been anyone like him. There may never be anyone like him in our lifetime … not to mention in your great-grandchildren’s lifetime.

It’s also possible there may never even be another contract like the 10-year, $700 million Powerball ticket that Shohei Ohtani agreed to with the Dodgers over the weekend. And that, of course, is because … as we’ve mentioned … there has never been anyone like him.

We’ve been watching the Greatest Shohei on Earth perform these magic tricks in the big leagues since 2018. We have to remind ourselves regularly that he’s a real person, roaming the same planet we live on.

But he must be, because we have seen it, as he has spent the past six seasons doing stuff that defies the imagination … and stuff that also inspired the Dodgers’ accounting department to sign off on the largest contract in the history of professional sports. So let’s recap those feats now, with this special contractual edition of Ohtani by the Numbers.

The magic number — $700 million

The $700 million man. (Troy Taormina / USA Today)

The Gross National Product of American Samoa is $709 million. The Gross National Contract of Shohei Ohtani is $700 million. What a time to be alive.

It’s so easy to fire up the “How can anybody be worth $700 million?” hot takes. But before you post thosehang on one second for this important perspective.

I once had a conversation with a former member of the Angels front office. We got into the whole topic of why the Angels wouldn’t trade Ohtani as his free agency loomed.

“I’ll tell you why,” that executive said. “Because that’s where the money comes from.”

He laid out all the reasons Ohtani was the greatest international revenue machine in baseball. It all made sense then. It still makes sense as you try to digest $700 million. Still, that’s a number that is built for columns like this. So let’s go there.

Ohtani versus the American League Central — The five AL Central teams owed their 26-man Opening Day rosters a combined $638.8 million this year. The Dodgers now owe one person (yep, Shohei) $700 million.

We appreciate the many commenters on X (formerly Twitter) who helpfully pointed out, after I posted that tidbit Saturday, that the AL Central number was just for this year, whereas the Ohtani number is for 10 years. Thank you. Now allow me to helpfully point out that the AL Central number was also the money owed to 130 players, whereas Ohtani is just one player. So that works out like this:

Ohtani: $700 million for 10 seasons.

AL Central: $638.8 million for 130 seasons.

Got it?

Ohtani versus the (economic) history books — Before Ohtani hit the auction stand, the two biggest total contracts in free-agent history were $360 million for Aaron Judge, $350 million for Manny Machado (opt-out division) … or $330 million for Bryce Harper (non-opt-out division). Would you like any help with that math?

Judge plus Harper = $690 million
Ohtani just by himself = $700 million

Judge plus Machado = $710 million
Ohtani just by himself = $700 million

In other words, Ohtani’s contract basically equals the total of the two next-biggest free-agent deals in history put together. Wow. But has anyone mentioned to you: That’s where the money comes from?

Ohtani basically cloned himself — Along those same lines …

Before Free Agent Ohtani became a thing, the biggest total contract for a free-agent hitter was $360 million for Judge. And the biggest total contract for a free-agent pitcher was $324 million for Gerrit Cole. So let’s do that math again.

Judge plus Cole = $684 million
Ohtani just by himself = $700 million

Remember when people used to chuckle and speculate about Ohtani’s next contract by theorizing: Hey, you’re basically getting the best hitter in the game and the best pitcher in the game … so just pay him like he’s those two people in one? Who knew that would actually happen! But you can sing along with me here: That’s where the money comes from!

The magic number — $70 million

Imagine paying one player $70 million a year? Even factoring in the deferred money part, that seems like a lot. So let’s have fun with those numbers and roll out a whole 2023 team that doesn’t come close to raking in $70 million (combined), because why the heck not. My only rule here was that everybody on this team had to earn less than $5 million this season.

1B — Nathaniel Lowe ($4.05 million)
2B — Nico Hoerner ($2.525 million)
SS — Bobby Witt Jr. ($745,750)
3B — Gunnar Henderson ($723,200, plus $750,000 Rookie of the Year bonus)
LF — Randy Arozarena ($4.15 million)
CF — Julio Rodríguez ($4 million)
RF — Corbin Carroll ($1 million, plus $750,000 Rookie of the Year bonus)
C — Adley Rutschman ($733,908)
DH — Adolis García* ($774,760)
Starting pitcher — Spencer Strider ($1 million)
Relief pitcher — Félix Bautista ($731,800)

(*OK, so Garcia didn’t DH much, but he had to be on this team somewhere)

Payroll of that all-bargain team: $20.43 million ($21.93 million if we include Rookie of the Year bonuses)

Payroll of that all-Ohtani team: $70 million

We’ll pause for a moment to let your brain comprehend all that. Now onward we go to some wild numbers that will contain no dollar signs …

The magic number — 148/142

Ohtani the hitter plus Ohtani the pitcher adds up to something we’ve never seen before. (Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)

You know what those magic numbers are? That 148 is Ohtani’s career OPS+. That 142 is Ohtani’s career ERA+. Let’s translate if you’re confused. Since 100 is league average, that means he has been 48 percent more productive than the average hitter of his era and 42 percent more effective than the average pitcher of his era.

This courteous reminder: He’s only one person, just like you and me (but not).

The only active hitters with a better OPS+ (and as many plate appearances as Ohtani): Mike Trout 173, Judge 164 and Juan Soto 157

The only active starting pitchers with a better ERA+ (and as many innings pitched): Clayton Kershaw 157, Jacob deGrom 155, Max Fried 144

So imagine signing the fourth-best offensive player in baseball and the fourth-best starting pitcher in baseball on the same day. That’s basically what the Dodgers did, right?

In other words, they just signed a better hitter than Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, or their two main offensive standouts, Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts (among others). And they just signed a better pitcher (when his elbow is in operating order) than Cole, Corbin Burnes or Zack Wheeler (among others).

Hmmm. I wonder what a guy like that would be worth on the open market. Don’t you?

The magic number — 28

So has anyone mentioned that this year was Ohtani’s age-28 season? And has anyone mentioned his career has gone well so far? In fact, you won’t believe how well.

Ohtani the hitter — Through his age-28 season: 148 OPS+, 171 home runs, 86 stolen bases.

Bet you didn’t know that only nine hitters in the live-ball era have had a start to a career like that, through age 28. Their names might sound familiar: Mike Trout, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson, Vladimir Guerrero and … Shohei Ohtani.

Not pictured: Any hitter in Dodgers history — L.A. or Brooklyn version.

Ohtani the pitcher — Through his age-28 season: 142 ERA+ in 481 2/3 innings, with 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Here’s your list of all the starting pitchers in the live-ball era, through that age, with that many innings, that good an ERA+ and at least one strikeout per inning (since we graciously lowered the strikeout bar to 9.0 per nine): Pedro Martinez, Kershaw, deGrom and somebody named Ohtani.

Seriously, that’s the whole list. Yet somehow, there is one person who’s talented enough to show up on both of those lists. And that should not be possible. But here we are.

The magic number — 1-2-3

Mookie Betts (not pictured), Freddie Freeman and Shohei Ohtani will pack quite a 1-2-3 punch. (Stephen Brashear / USA Today)

Can we all agree that MVP voting isn’t the ultimate measure of everything or anything? (Josh Donaldson over Mike Trout, 2015? Juan Gonzalez over Ken Griffey Jr., 1996? Joe DiMaggio over Ted Williams, 1947?) Sorry to digress, but just asking.

Nevertheless, think about how the Dodgers figure to line up on Opening Day … by which I mean:

The guys hitting 1-2-3 actually finished 1-2-3 in the MVP voting the previous season!

Now it’s true they won’t be batting in the order in which they finished — Betts leading off (after finishing second in the National League voting), then Freddie Freeman in the two-hole (after finishing third), then Ohtani (who finished first in the AL). Whatever. This still feels like a thing we’ve never seen … possibly because we’ve never seen it.

How many teams have ever done that on an Opening Day since the dawn of this MVP award in 1931? That would be none. Of course.

And how many teams have ever hit the 1-2-3 MVP finishers from the previous season back-to-back-to-back in any spots in the order on an Opening Day? That would be two:

1967 Orioles — Frank Robinson (MVP winner) hitting in the three-slot, Brooks Robinson (finished second) cleanup, Boog Powell (finished third) No. 5.

1960 White Sox — Early Wynn (finished third) batting ninth, Luis Aparicio (finished second) batting leadoff, Nellie Fox (your winner) hitting second.*

*Yep, they didn’t appear in order on the lineup card. But they did in the batter’s box, so let’s just go with it, OK?

So does that mean we’ve never seen a top-of-the-order like this in history? We can look at it another way via …

The magic number — 3

Or how about we use this fun vehicle to take in the historic significance of the Ohtani-Mookie-Freeman troika? That’s also three former MVPs batting 1-2-3 for the same team.

Would you imagine we haven’t seen that much? You would, right? Most likely because … we haven’t seen that much.

According to our friends from STATS Perform, only three other teams in history have stacked up former MVPs in the first three spots of their order in any game:

1983 Phillies – Pete Rose/Joe Morgan/Mike Schmidt: 10 games in the regular season, plus eight games in the postseason. (The Phillies actually went with Morgan/Rose/Schmidt in every postseason game they played that year, except Game 3 of the ’83 World Series, when Rose was shockingly benched and Sixto Lezcano hit second behind Morgan.

1978 Reds – Pete Rose/Joe Morgan/George Foster: one game in the regular season (May 13, 1978).

1976 Reds – Pete Rose/Joe Morgan/Johnny Bench: one game in the regular season (May 5, 1976).

For what it’s worth, the ’76 Reds won the World Series. The ’83 Phillies got to the World Series and lost. And the ’78 Reds forgot to petition the league for the invention of the wild card, so they missed the postseason despite having the second-best record in the NL (92-69).

The magic number — 58

This one is so simple.

Postseason games played by Ohtani’s Angels since 2018 — 0

Postseason games played by the Dodgers since 2018 — 58

The magic number — 80

This one is equally simple.

Most games won in a season by any of Ohtani’s Angels teams — 80

Times since 2000 the Dodgers have failed to win 80 in a full season — 1*

(*went 71-91 in 2005)

The magic number — 114

Just when you think the Shohei Ohtani can’t get any more ridiculous … (Benny Sieu / USA Today)

Finally, here’s a game I never get tired of playing. You should try it. It’s so fun to play. We can begin simply by asking:

How much better is Shohei the hitter than all the poor dudes who have to swing their bats against Shohei the pitcher?

There are so many ways to play, but here’s one of my favorites. First, this little bulletin:

Slugging percentage of Shohei the hitter: .556

Slugging percentage against Shohei the pitcher: .332

Then we ask: What would it take for Shohei the pitcher to let those unfortunate sluggers of Planet Earth catch up to Shohei the hitter in slugging? All it takes is a handy dandy Slugging Percentage Calculator and your imagination.

You can play the game at home yourself, or you can let me play so you don’t have to. I’ve done the math. So if you’re not ducking out to use that calculator, here’s the answer:

In order for all those overmatched hitters who have to bat against Shohei the pitcher to make up enough ground so that they’d have a better slugging percentage than Shohei the hitter, all that would have to happen is …

He would have to allow a home run to the next 114 batters he faces in a row.

Which seems unlikely. But so does the outcome of our next game …

The magic number — 180

Same game. Different verse. We start with this:

Batting average of Shohei the hitter: .274

Batting average against Shohei the pitcher: .200

Want to figure out that one yourself? Just use the Batting Average Calculator. Need our help? You’re welcome.

What would it take for Hitters Not Named Shohei to hike their average high enough to overtake That One Hitter Who Is Named Shohei? All that would take is …

He’d have to allow a hit to the next 180 batters he pitches to in a row.

I’m thinking that would be a record. But then again, so is $700 million. Does that seem like a related development? It seems like it could be. Just more proof that while the numbers of baseball don’t tell every story, they sure as heck tell this story.

Shohei Ohtani. Still only one person. Just like the rest of us … only slightly richer!


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How Shohei Ohtani’s signing impacts 9 teams that missed out on him


Bowden: Where will the top remaining free agents sign? Predicting their new teams, contracts

(Top photo: Brandon Sloter / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)