Duncan: Shohei Ohtani, the Bambino, and Bullet Joe

From Mike Duncan at The Hardball Times on April 11, 2018, with mention of SABR member Jay Jaffe:

The arrival of Shohei Ohtani has triggered justifiable excitement. His combination of power and pitching is unprecedented in contemporary baseball, and his feats of two-way strength have put one name on the tip of everyone’s tongue: Babe Ruth. No article about Ohtani is complete without a mention of Ruth’s accomplishments as both ace pitcher and cleanup hitter.

This is understandable. The idea that Ohtani is doing things not done since BABE RUTH is an electrifying idea. It has already spawned a new genre of twitter factoid. After Ohtani’s home run on April 3, ELIAS was quick to point out that Ohtani was the first player since since Babe Ruth in 1921 to earn a win in one game, then homer as a non-pitcher in his next. After a magnificent first week that saw Ohtani slash .389/.421/.889 with homers homers, post an 18-2 K/BB ratio, and take a perfect game into the seventh inning on Sunday afternoon, the comparisons of Ohtani to Ruth only look to multiply.

But the singular focus on Ruth obscures a richer history. On Friday at FanGraphs, Jay Jaffe wrote a great piece, resurrecting the names of some forgotten two-way players. But his investigation produced a roundup of footnotes, gimmicks and emergency back-up plans. One might still walk away believing that Ruth was the last great two-way player. But this is not true. Long after Ruth committed full time to hitting, there remained a wealth of phenomenal two-way players accomplishing phenomenal two-way feats.

Read the full article here: https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/shohei-ohtani-the-babe-and-the-bullet/

Originally published: April 11, 2018. Last Updated: April 11, 2018.