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What Babe Ruth pitching and hitting milestone did Shohei Ohtani equal?

Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani draw comparisons every day and now there is yet another way in which these two MLB stars are uniquely alike

Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani draw comparisons every day and now there is yet another way in which these two MLB stars are uniquely alike
Thearon W. HendersonAFP

“Not since Babe Ruth” has become something of a mantra in baseball. When something is astounding, you will hear people say, “not since Babe Ruth” has whatever you just witnessed happened. Despite being dethroned as the all-time home run king, and having most of his pitching records fall long ago, the Babe is still the benchmark for baseball excellence.

It is difficult to not feel excited when you see Shohei Ohtani play baseball. Oh sure, there have been pitchers who were handy with the bat, just like there have been hitters with strong throwing arms, but to have one player who is simultaneously one of the best pitchers in the league AND one of the best hitters? Well, not since Babe Ruth.

Ohtani is used to the comparison by now, as the only serious two-way threat that major league baseball has seen in decades, but those comparisons just grew a little bit closer to the bone.

Already owning the fastest pitch record for Japan at 102.5 MPH, the 28-year-old from Iwate Prefecture has been a revelation for the Los Angeles Angels, and Major League Baseball in general, over the past five seasons. He has become one of the biggest stars in the world along the way and his comparisons with one of the greatest all-time sporting legends, across any sport anywhere in the world, is well deserved.

After pitching six scoreless inning in Oakland on Tuesday, the Angels finished off the A’s 5-1 and he was awarded the win. In the top of the seventh, Ohtani hit a solo blast to right field and with that set not one, not two, but three milestones on the night.

The home run was Shohei’s 118th career shot, pushing him over Ichiro Suzuki as the second-most home runs hit by a Japanese player in MLB history. Only Hideki Matsui has more at 175. The much-adored Ichiro was never a power hitter, with only 20% of his 3089 career hits going for extra bases, but Shohei was still humbled by the comparison, saying, “Obviously we’re very different types of hitters, but if I get to pass Ichiro I’m really honored.’’

But the biggest milestone that he set was that with the win he now has ten on the season, making him the first player, ahem, since Babe Ruth (there is that comparison again) to have both ten wins and ten home runs in a single season.

Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani.

Babe Ruth last accomplished the feat just over a century ago, back in 1918, when he went 13-7 on the mound and blasting 11 deep balls for the Red Sox.

To be fair, there are two pitchers in the Negro Leagues who reached this milestone, with Ed Rile going 11-6 with 11 homers for the Detroit Stars in 1927 and Bullet Rogan posting a 14-8 record with 15 shots for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1922.

The Oakland A’s skipper tipped his hat to Ohtani as well, saying, “It’s exceptional. It shows his athleticism, shows his talent. At this point, you can say it’s one of a kind in the game, because it is. He’s the only player doing it right now, and doing it well.”

Shohei, for his part, is not fixated on numbers, telling reporters, “I’m just focused on being able to play as many games as possible. Taking one game at a time and just trying to stay healthy.”

This won’t be the last record that will fall for the five-time NPB All-Star and reigning AL MVP. With his speed and power, he will set his own benchmark for future MLB generations to aspire to, and maybe one day, you will say to your grandchildren, “Not since Shohei Ohtani…”


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