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How Tall is Shohei Ohtani?: Our Readers Ask

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Shohei Ohtani is among the best players in Major League Baseball, and we get many questions about this unique “2-way” player transplanted from Japan. Among the most-asked questions are about Ohtani’s size, including his height and weight.

Shohei Ohtani is 6-feet, 4-inches tall, weighing 209 lbs., as of the 2022 season.

How might that compare with other MLB players, especially at his positions? It appears Ohtani is above average in size ~ but not by a lot.

The average size of MLB players is 6-feet, 3-inches tall and 215 lbs. in weight. Pitchers are an inch taller, averaging 6-feet, 2.5-inches, and weighing in at 207 lbs.

So Shohei Ohtani is taller than most MLB players by an inch, and he is about the average weight depending on the season.

Does his size help in his considerable success on the field?

Who is Shohei Ohtani?

Shohei Ohtani is popular for his stellar pitching and powerful hitting in Major League Baseball, the top-of-the-top-level league of the sport with players from many nations.

Ohtani was very good early in his career while playing in Japan’s major leagues, and he switched to the American ballparks in 2018. By 2021 he was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the American League.

His statistics that season, 2021, put his name among a list of elite ballplayers in MLB’s 146-year history, and the prime reason is he played full-time on offense and defense.

Not since Babe Ruth during the second decade of the 20th century had an MLB player dominated both on the mound and in the batter’s box. Ruth was an anomaly, a larger-than-life character who started as one of the league’s best pitchers, who then was taken off the mound to almost exclusively play outfield. The idea was to have him focus on hitting.

And that he did, including a whole lot of home runs, which ignited a new era of baseball. When his career ended, Ruth held significant records, like most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the World Series, and most home runs hit in a lifetime.

Ohtani not only is that rare MLB player who plays “both ways” ~ he is exceptionally good at both pitching and hitting ~ he does both very well.

Does Shohei Ohtani’s Size Help Pitching?

It doesn’t hurt, put it that way. In general, pitchers need to be fit, strong, and in very good shape because the act of pitching is extremely strenuous. Tired pitchers tend to get hit hard. As you can see by the comparisons above, Shohei is tall for a MLB player, a little tall for a pitcher.

Baseball insiders like tall pitchers for a variety of reasons, among them a higher release point, sharper angle of throws from the mound to home plate, and a shortened distance from the pitcher’s rubber to the plate.

Pitchers release the baseball about 52 feet from home plate ~ depending on their height and length of their arms. It might seem like no big deal that a batter might have a fraction of a second less time to hit a pitch because the pitcher is tall, but it is.

Add to that the angle coming down to the batter. Baseball pitchers start from a point taller than the batter, on a raised mound of dirt. He also throws the ball (usually) from a point above his head, to a batter with a strike zone around his belt buckle.

That means the ball travels significantly downward on its flight to home plate. This angle is expected to make it harder for hitters to strike the ball well, and the taller the pitcher, the steeper that angle will be. Many pitchers gain an advantage when the ball seems to arrive at home plate differently than most pitchers.

There is some debate about this, of course. Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson was 6-feet, 10-inches tall, and his height definitely intimidated batters along with his sidearm delivery. However, later on Chris Young at the same height found only low- to moderate success on the mound. And even later, Jon Rouch set the pitching record at 6-feet, 11-inches tall, and he only had moderate success in a short career.

Other famous pitchers, notably Pedro Martinez at 5-feet, 11-inches tall, were not even close to the league average height yet found a way to dominate hitters.

So the jury is still out on whether Ohtani’s height helps him to be better at pitching. However, as we stated, it doesn’t hurt.

Shohei is a Little Tall for a Hitter

Photo by Moto “Club4AG” Miwa

The opposite is generally true for hitting: Ohtani’s above-average height is considered a disadvantage in the batter’s box, because it elongates the strike zone vertically.

Taller players typically have longer arms, too, which can make his swing take longer to develop and make him vulnerable to fast inside pitches. So very tall hitters have a larger strike zone to protect (a taller zone right above home plate), plus a potential hole in his swing on the inside part of the plate.

However, note that the average size of all major leaguers is 6-feet, 3-inches tall. Shohei is tall even for a pitcher. As a hitter he’s about right in the middle, average-wise.

How Else Might Size Help Playing Baseball

Something often overlooked with Shohei Ohtani is that he is very fast as a runner. Yes, aside from throwing baseballs in the high-90s in miles per hour, and hitting balls 400 feet or farther, Ohtani can steal bases too. And play the outfield if needed.

Some people say long legs or long strides helps people run faster, and foot speed is important in a lot of areas of baseball, namely in base running, and in the outfield.

In short, Ohtani is a heck of a weapon for any manager or team. However, let us outline a disadvantage of being so good at so many things in baseball.

Ohtani is a starting pitcher. That means he is expected to throw the first pitch of the games he is penciled in as a pitcher, and to last several innings, hopefully, 6 or more.

To do this, one must have quite the stamina, because over those innings a pitcher will throw a baseball as hard as he can over 100 times. Think about how hard that would be, to fully exert your body doing some physical act, repeatedly, maybe 120 times over a few hours.

It’s draining, and that’s critical for pitchers, who depend much on their leg strength for pushing off the rubber, striding toward home plate, and landing well to square off to quickly defend against comebacker line-drives. A lot of pitching power comes from the legs.

Pitchers with tired legs tend to lose edginess in pitches, in a variety of ways. Pitch velocities can  decline, and in the major leagues, a drop from 91 mph to 89 mph is a very big deal. Pitchers dealing with 94 mph fastballs and faster in early innings who see the velocity drop to 92 usually find trouble.

Off-speed pitches like curveballs and sliders could lose their “cut,” that is, the way they break, and when the movement begins. Breaking balls that curve slowly over a long arc can get hit really hard and far.

Better are pitches that stay straight for the longest time possible, before suddenly (and sometimes rather violently) changing directions right before home plate. However, throwing these pitches consistently is hard on the body physically, and the curves of tired pitchers tend to “flatten out” ~ and get flattened by sluggers.

So when Ohtani pitches, his manager hopes he does not have to run the bases very much, because it would help maintain his stamina to stay in games longer. Hitting also stresses the body somewhat, so after like 3 at bats you could notice a drop-off in strength.

Each turn at the plate sucks more energy from the player. And if he hits, add 90-foot sprints to the equation. Running from home plate to first base, and the act of stealing bases in particular, are very hard on the legs.

Luckily, Ohtani hits a lot of home runs, which means he can leisurely trot around the bases around 40 times a season. At least that’s some relief for his manager!

Related Questions

Question: How does Ohtani’s height compare with other Americans, even those who don’t play ball?

Answer: He is quite a bit taller than the 5-feet, 9-inches average height for an American male.

Q.: Who are the tallest players by position?

A.: It’s a tie between pitchers, first-basemen, and right fielders, at 6-feet, 2.5-inches tall. Pitchers tend to be among the tallest player78 in baseball.

See Also:
Does Shohei Speak English? Read This First!
How Many Countries Play Baseball?
Can MLB Teams Trade Draft Picks?
Do MLB Draft Picks Get Paid?