Shohei Ohtani has been among the most heralded rookies in MLB history ever, since he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels in December. Ohtani, touted as "Japan's Babe Ruth," excelled as both a hitter and pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball, one of Japan's most talented baseball leagues, and has lived up to the hype during his early showings in the MLB.
Michael Klein is a redshirt senior at Ohio. He's also a two-way player that has lived up to the hype, if you ask coach Rob Smith, but it'd be a stretch to say that millions of people tune in when the right-hander toes the rubber or digs into the batter's box.
Regardless of how uneven the ratio of Ohtani's following is to Klein's, it's hard not to recognize the similarities between the two players. They represent only a handful of players at the collegiate and professional levels capable of simultaneously handling pitching and batting duties.
Obviously, it’d be foolish to try to compare Klein’s college-level talents to the once-in-a-generation player that Ohtani is. What would be fun, however, is taking a look at some other similarities and differences between them.
The pair both throw right-handed and are the same age, 23. Ohtani is just 21 days older than Klein.
Unaware that he was much closer with Ohtani in age than he thought, Klein laughed upon learning yet another similarity he shared with Ohtani.
"When I first heard about (him), I was really interested," Klein said. "He's doing it in the big boy division, so that's pretty impressive to see."
A player hasn't found consistent two-way success in the MLB since Ruth, who had a 2.97 ERA in in 1919 while boasting a league-leading 29 home runs according to Baseball Reference.
In 30 at-bats in the MLB, Ohtani has accrued a .367 batting average with 11 RBIs and three home runs, which came in three consecutive games. On the mound, Ohtani has made three starts, two against the Athletics, and has given up six earned runs on eight hits and four walks with 19 strikeouts.
In 333 at-bats with Ohio, Klein has a .267 batting average with 12 home runs and 63 RBIs. Klein has also pitched 154 2/3 innings and has a 4.31 ERA with 113 strikeouts.
When the two's schedules are compared, however, Ohtani's workload is likely much different. Klein only has to worry about pitching one day per week, and Ohtani will typically pitch on just five days of rest.
But for Ohtani, "rest" doesn't feel like the best term. His off days have been spent as a designated hitter whenever Angels manager Mike Scioscia decides to insert him into the lineup.
For Klein, "rest" is perhaps a more appropriate term. Ohio typically plays four-to-five games per week, and Klein's lone pitching appearance as a starter usually falls on one of the three weekend games. Unlike Ohtani, Klein often still plays as a designated hitter even when he is on the mound.
From Smith's perspective, the scheduling puzzle that comes with the luxury of a two-way player appears to be a bit easier than Scioscia's. But Smith, a sixth-year coach, can relate to Scioscia, an 18-year manager, when it comes to finding the correct unique formula for a two-way player's workload, which Smith found with Klein's arrival to the field in 2016.
But before Smith, who is a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, jumped into the process of finding that balance, he had some words to say about Ohtani and his team selection.
"First off, Ohtani can kick rocks because he didn't sign with the Dodgers, and he signed with the Angels," Smith said. "So that's what I got on him."
Biases aside, Smith and Klein both seemed to share an opinion that would upset any fan of Ohtani — his success as a two-way player won't last long.
Klein said that Ohtani's success will go as far as his body lets him. Sure, working out and eating right will play a huge role in how Ohtani adapts to a 162-game schedule. From Klein's personal experience, however, an excess of lifting weights and participating in team sprints will take a toll when midseason rolls around.
But Klein isn't quite ready to buy into Ohtani and his four-week sample size. Klein, who said he never thought that anyone could excel as a two-way player in the MLB, doesn't believe that Ohtani will continue his tear as an ace on the mound and a slugger at the plate.
"He's going to start feeling it later when his body starts reacting to more pitching," Klein said. "He's gotten off to a hot start right now, which is amazing to me and everyone watching. That's why everyone's so impressed. But I guarantee, as the season goes on, his body is going to be sore. He's going to be going longer innings while he's pitching. Say he goes nine complete (innings), there's going to be a couple days off where he's going to be sore, and maybe he doesn't want to feel like swinging."