Sho-Time in L.A.

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With the 2018 season on the cusp of starting, I lamented The Big Seven and how Major League Baseball may be turning into the National Basketball Association.

My kids are fond of watching “Kids Baking Championship” on Food Network and are now familiar with this concept – each episode there are a couple of contestants who you know are clearly on top and may win the challenge, others are clearly on the chopping block and the rest are just “meh”.

“Mommy likes the Cardinals and they’re… probably not going to win, but they’re also going to be the worst, then. Right? Like… they’re just sort of… safe?”

That’s about right, kid.

One thing I was hoping for from the 2018 season was just some sort of surprise.

You certainly don’t want everything to turn out predictably.

There’s not much fun in that.

One of the things I was looking forward to in watching this week’s three-game series between the Cleveland Indians (2-4) and Los Angeles Angels (5-2) was, of course, the latter team’s prized acquisition – Shohei Otani.

It was a bit of an odd series, pitting one of those “big seven” against one of the “meh” teams who could very well be in contention for an AL Wild Card spot.

Cleveland carved up Los Angeles pretty well in the opening game of their series, taking them down 6-0 in a fairly ugly game.

The Tribe went deep three times on Angels’ starting pitcher J.C. Ramirez, but the real story of the game was watching Jacob deGrom Steve Clevinger at work.

Cleveland’s starter went 5.1 shutout innings, striking out 5 while allowing 4 hits and walking 2.

With runners on base, Angels batters went 1-for-8 against Clevinger and then “built” upon that with another 0-for-5 against Cleveland relievers.

Game two was the exact opposite, with Los Angeles winning 13-2 while allowing just one hit – a Jose Ramirez home run in the 1st inning.

Yes, Cleveland’s next 31 batters failed to record a hit of any sort.

The rubber game of the series, however, was entertaining as hell.

At least, if you like close, low-scoring games.

Which, y’know… guilty.

Los Angeles came out on top, 3-2, in a 13-inning contest.

The two teams combined for 13.2 innings of bullpen work with just 1 run allowed – that coming on a walk-off home run off the bat of Zack Cozart.

Here’s where we must pause and give the obligatory small sample size alert.

Are the Angels going to finish the season with a .714 winning percentage?

Are the Indians going to play at a .333 clip?

Well… no, probably not.

.550 and .600, respectively, may be more in line.

Also, Fantasy Baseball owners of Corey Kluber will likely get more than 0 Wins from him this season.

A 2.40 ERA through 2 GS, 15 IP probably deserves a W or two already…

This is all an incredibly long-winded way of working back towards Ohtani, of whom I’m already seeing headlines like “The hype is real“.

I tend to exercise caution when it comes to this sort of thing, though I was certainly impressed by what he did in the two games of the series in which he appeared.

5-for-9 with 2 HR and 2 SO, good for a 1.778 OPS.

Not to mention that he picked up the win as a starting pitcher the day before this series began, going 6 innings and allowing 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk, striking out 6.

He’s hit 99.6 on the radar gun, he’s hit a 400-foot home run and had a hit with an exit velocity of 112.8.

For reference, last season just 0.24 % of all batted balls had an exit velocit of 113 or higher.

(It’s rare.)

It’s just a few games and I’d have every reason to expect that, as the season progresses, pitchers will find holes in Ohtani’s swing and he won’t continue to rake at this kind of level.

However, for the first week of the 2018 season, Ohtani and the Angels have given me something to bite into.

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