Conventional wisdom can be really boring, especially when it's fragile. For Shohei Ohtani, it consistently holds that he would be better off playing for a American League team since the National League does not use the designated hitter (DH) rule. That assumes that Ohtani is a good enough hitter to be a DH. I doubt that he is. Therefore, he might very well get more plate appearances being a pitcher on a National League (NL) team.
Note: The Times reports that Ohtani has narrowed his preferred teams to seven, four of which are NL: Giants, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs. Conventional wisdom is confused.
Let's say that Ohtani is the starting pitcher in 24 games, which is the most that he has started in Japan in one season. Let's say that 20 starts are in a NL park. Ohtani would then bat as the pitcher. For the games that his NL team plays in an AL park, the DH rule would apply. NL teams tend to not have a DH specialist, which is one reason that they consistently lose to AL teams.
Is Ohtani a good enough hitter to be used as the DH even in these few games? If his NL team has a DH type batter, would the team displace an outfielder to have Ohtani play the outfield and bat?
If his team chose to forego having a DH in games when Ohtani is the starting pitcher in an AL park and lets Ohtani bat, the team would lose the DH for the game and any relief pitchers it used would also have to bat or be replaced with a pinch hitter.
If conventional wisdom is correct and Ohtani can hit, then consider one more thing. Has anyone here in the USA ever seen video of Ohtani batting against a lefty pitcher? Ohtani is a lefty batter and it could be that his low number of PA is because Ohtani is platooned and bats almost exclusively against righties. An AL team might be better off with Kyle Schwarber at DH; Schwarber could also be an emergency catcher. If your DH bats in only about 70% of games, what the heck. After a horrendous start, Schwarber returned to the Cubs from the minors and finished with 30 home runs in 422 at bats, 27 against righty pitchers. Could Ohtani do that?
Shohei Ohtani: Babe Ruth or not even Zelous Wheeler/Kei Igawa? Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Cool or Kool-Aid? I'm not buying either. Pretty much everybody thinks that Shohei Ohtani is sure to succeed in the U.S. Major League. My guess is that as a hitter, Ohtani is a very long shot. As a pitcher, maybe...
There's a reason there's only one Babe Ruth. He's the only pitcher who could hit and he stopped pitching to concentrate on hitting. In 100 years no one has come close. With increased specialization, the idea that a guy from Japan will be another Babe Ruth, even if only in skill sets, seems absurd...
It's not clear to me why Ohtani has so few plate appearances and at bats. Why doesn't he simply be the designated hitter (DH) in the games that he does start as a pitcher? And if he can't in Japan where he pitches only once a week, how will he get 600 PA in the USA? ...
If Shohei Ohtani continues to divide his energy and concentration, he may fail at both. Hitting is by far the most difficult skill and Ohtani is not likely to be an impact Major League hitter. Ohtani is more likely to be a Major League pitcher.
Shohei Ohtani rejects Yankees and Red Sox. Now they can stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Monday, December 4, 2017
In Japan, Ohtani Is a Special Player but Definitely Not Babe Ruth By SETH BERKMANDEC. 1, 2017 nytimes.com