Is 2022 Shohei Ohtani better than 2021 Shohei Ohtani?

When shōhei ohtani came to the Major Leagues for the first time after signing with the Angels, he did so with a quite ambitious nickname, extreme even for Los Angeles: the Japanese Babe Ruth.

It was an agile and evocative nickname, effective in what it intended to convey. Ohtani didn’t just pitch and hit, he did both at elite levels. At the same time. We hadn’t seen anything like it since Ruth, so everyone accepted the nickname.

The thing is, it wasn’t just a nickname. Ohtani hasn’t just lived up to the odds, he’s exceeded them — like an old movie poster someone forgot to take down. Because it no longer makes sense to compare Ohtani to Ruth: No one has shown such excellence as a hitter and pitcher at the same time in the majors, not even Ruth. Someone could point to Negro League stars like Martin Dihigo, Bullet Rogan, and Double Duty Radcliffe, but no one in the National or American leagues.

Understand that this is not to claim that Ohtani is as good as Ruth, whose contributions to the game as a hitter are almost mythical. It’s just to acknowledge that while Ruth was the only other player in the National or American leagues to hit and throw at the All-Star level for an extended period of time in his career, not even the Babe did it simultaneously.

Ruth split significant time between playing a position and pitching in only two seasons, 1918 and 1919. The closest Ruth came to what Ohtani has done was in 1918, when he finished seventh in AL position player bWAR, 17th in pitching bWAR and fourth overall. Last season, 103 years later and in a much bigger American League, Ohtani ranked 11th in position player bWAR, seventh in pitching bWAR and easily led the AL overall.

In other words, Ruth’s comparison was great for building anticipation for what Ohtani had to offer, but it doesn’t work anymore. Ohtani has no comparison.

Or if? Or is it him? There is one player it might still make sense to compare Ohtani to: himself.

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Is 2022 Shohei Ohtani better than 2021 Shohei Ohtani?