Shohei Ohtani's season as a pitcher is over.
Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday that he spoke with Ohtani recently and the two decided he would not make his next scheduled start in Sunday's season finale against the Seattle Mariners, who are only a half-game back of the second wild-card spot in the American League.
Ohtani, competing with Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the AL MVP Award, will continue to hit this week. But his season on the mound will end with a 9-2 record, a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts and 44 walks in 130⅓ innings.
"There's really nothing left to prove on the mound," Maddon said from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, before the Angels' 7-2 win over the Rangers. "He's exceeded expectations on the mound this year. Anyone who thought he would've gone 130 innings and put up those kind of numbers -- strikeouts to walks, ERA, everything that he's done -- I think that's sufficient. I really do."
Ohtani was leading the majors in FanGraphs wins above replacement heading into the final five days of the regular season, and has coupled an impressive pitching line with dominant offensive numbers, including a .960 OPS, 45 home runs and 26 stolen bases.
Ohtani, 27, proved himself a capable major league hitter in 2018 and 2019. But heading into 2021, there were serious questions about whether he could also contribute as a pitcher, considering he had recently undergone Tommy John surgery and had compiled fewer than 80 professional innings over the previous four seasons. But Maddon and first-year general manager Perry Minasian agreed to a more liberal plan for Ohtani at the onset of this season, eliminating prior restrictions that kept him from pitching and hitting on the same day and included off days before and after his starts.
As the season progressed, the Angels watched Ohtani continually improve his command as a pitcher. In 11 starts following a nightmare first inning from Yankee Stadium at the end of June, Ohtani contributed a 2.82 ERA with 73 strikeouts and nine walks in 70⅓ innings. Over his last two outings, against the Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, he allowed three runs in 15 innings and struck out 20 batters.
"I think his confidence came up," Maddon said. "I think he figured out his delivery to the point where he knows where his fastball is going; you saw the splitter. Everything that he did this year I think is just going to permit him to have even more confidence next year, so I wouldn't ask him to do anything else. If there's anything he wants to do workout-wise -- I'm not certain anything differently because it worked out so well. I would just like to see him replicate it and add some more innings next year. That's about it."