The So What? - Ohtani's Impact (2/7/2018)

By Ryan Fowler

With all the hype surrounding Shohei Ohtani's hot stove signing and highly-anticipated MLB debut, questions remain regarding how much of an impact one player – even SP/DH unicorns – can make.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finished 80-82 last season, five games back of a wild card berth and 21 games behind West Division and World Series Champions, Houston. While the A offense boasts perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout, he, too, is only one weapon. So, for all of Trout's contributions, .306/.442/.629 with 33 homers, 22 stolen bases and 6.9 WAR, as a team the Angels ranked 22nd in runs per game, 28th in batting averaging (.243), 23rd in OBP (.315) and 27th in OPS (.712).

On the bump, injuries riddled L.A.'s starting rotation to the point where Ricky Nolasco was the de facto No. 1 pitcher, in the sense he could take the ball every fifth day. Unfortunately, his mere attendance wasn't enough and he finished 6-15 with a 4.92 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. The teams previous No. 2 starter, pre-Ohtani, Matt Shoemaker missed the last three and half months as he was shut down and then underwent surgery to repair a nerve in his right forearm. JC Ramirez missed the final six weeks of last season due to a damaged UCL, which has since been treated via stem cell therapy. Tyler Skaggs, a one-time prospect, has made only 26 starts the past three seasons after Tommy John surgery, rehab and an oblique injury last year. Their true ace, Garrett Richards, missed most of the 2017 season due to nerve irritation in his bicep which shut him down for four months. Richards returned to make five September starts where he boasted a 2.74 ERA and strikeout-per-inning in 23 innings pitched.

Over the past three seasons, Richards has suffered a knee, elbow and bicep injury. So, it's no surprise that when reports surfaced that Ohtani was dealing with some UCL issues in his pitching elbow, Angels' nation held it collective breath. The front office and manager Mike Scioscia were quick to nip those reports in the bud and note that their new two-way player will be ready for spring training.

He may be ready, but is he ready-ready? Can a 23-year Japanese phenom who dominated the Nippon Professional Baseball league and hit .286/.358/.500 with a 2.69 ERA in 543 innings over five years give the Angels the boost they need to earn a playoff berth?

The So What?

After 50,000 season simulations, here is what Prediction Machine's projects for the 2018 Los Angeles Angels.

Assuming Ohtani breaks camp as the team's No. 2 starter and that he earns ~200 plate appearances, the Angles are projected to win 83.6 games with a 27% shot at the playoffs and 0.3% World Series title.

Although it's unlikely, with the alternative being 38-year-old Albert Pujols (.241/.286/.386 in '17), the Angels could have Ohtani's rookie campaign focus completely on pitching and, perhaps, the occasional pinch-hit. In that instance, the MLB engine projects 83.8 wins, 29% playoff chances and 0.4% World Series title probability.

Say Ohtani's UCL injury gets worse and, in a worst-case scenario, he's placed on the shelf for the entire season (or, say the Angels never signed him). The Angels projected win total in that scenario dips to 81.2 and their playoff and World Series chances plunge to 14% / 0.1% without the 23-year-old active.

If he ONLY hits/DH's for the Angels and mitigated any UCL concerns by removing him from rotation consideration, PM's MLB engine projects 81.1 wins and 13% playoff / 0.1% World Series chances.

Note: in these scenarios, Parker Bridwell replaces Ohtani in the rotation. Bridwell went 10-3 in 20 starts (21 appearances) last season with a 3.64 ERA. However, his 5.07 xFIP does indicate some regression would be expected in 2018.

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