In his first seven years, with the Cincinnati Reds, Cozart played with Joey Votto, perhaps the best pure hitter in the game. Now he plays with Mike Trout, the best overall player. Ohtani belongs in their class.
“Everybody knows when there’s a difference between what 99 percent of the guys do, or the way Trout hits the ball or Shohei hits the ball,” Cozart said.
Ohtani is hitting .291 with six home runs, a .376 on-base percentage and a .553 slugging percentage. On the mound, he is 4-1 with a 3.35 earned run average in seven starts, with 52 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings.
“It’s obviously tough just to do one thing, and he’s doing both exceptionally well,” Trout said. “It’s pretty remarkable, the workload he’s been doing so far.”
Part of that work was a mechanical adjustment to his swing late in spring training, when Ohtani scrapped a high leg kick so he would have more time to adjust to unfamiliar pitchers. His skill in doing so is a testament to his athleticism.
“He’s unbelievably gifted on the mound, but that adjustment he made as a hitter impressed me the most, going from the leg kick to, almost overnight, just putting his foot down and being really successful with it,” Cozart said. “People don’t realize how hard that is to do.”
To make it all work, the Angels have carefully spaced out Ohtani’s starts, trying to simulate his schedule in Japan — when he pitched once a week and teams play a 144-game schedule — and mindful of his light workload last season, when an ankle problem limited him to five starts. Their once-fragile rotation has responded well, with a 3.63 E.R.A. before Sunday that ranked third in the A.L., behind only Houston and Cleveland.