Now that most leagues have decided what to do with Shohei Ohtani, I have a question: Should he even be eligible as a pitcher to begin the 2018 season?
Stop rolling your eyes and stay with me. The rule almost everyone uses for players not appearing in MLB, or a minor league affiliate is assigning eligibility as the position played most in their league. In 2017, Ohtani appeared more at designated hitter than pitcher – WAY more. According to his page on Baseball-Reference, Ohtani appeared in 65 as a designated hitter, compared to only five as a pitcher. By the letter of the law, doesn’t this make Ohtani utility-only to start the upcoming season?
I’m not sure the answer is unequivocally “NO!”
The decision to make him pitcher-eligible is driven by the likelihood he’s a bigger difference maker from the mound than the batter’s box. What if the background were reversed and he profiled as a potential Triple Crown winner with less promising pitching skills? Would we be considering Ohtani as both, considering the 65 to five game disparity? I’m not convinced the answer is no-brainer, “YES!”
The thought emanated from a discussion with Ron Shandler and Brian Walton concerning how we’re going to handle Ohtani in the XFL, a keeper league where Ohtani has been owned as a farm player by a prescient participant for multiple years. Ron suggested we first need to define whether the player pool needs to be divided into a hitting and pitching class, then decide eligibility within each class. The final piece would be whether an individual player can have eligibility in both classes?
Even this isn’t cut and dried, since the designations need to cover all players, so someone couldn’t have Madison Bumgarner, as the obvious example, getting hitting stats.
Another major consideration is germane to keeper leagues. The mechanism in place to determine initial eligibility should also cover keeper eligibility. Precedence and consistency are two principles integral to a league’s constitution.
Finally, it can be argued we all caught a break with Ohtani signing in the American League as that mostly masks the issue whether Ohtani receives hitting stats the days he starts on the hill in an interleague affair played in an National League park. Especially in dynasty formats, there’s a strong possibility Ohtani plays for a club in the Senior Circuit sometime in his career.
I don’t mean to open Pandora’s Box, but the more I think about it, the more I can see Cousin Vinny making the case Ohtani should begin 2018 with just utility eligibility, then picking up pitcher eligibility after five games, or whatever threshold your league employs.
Now, can you tell us by what you see in this posting, if the defense's case holds water?
Or is the defense wrong?
Please feel free to chime in below in the comments or on the site’s revamped forums.