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Shohei Ohtani Stealing Bases Like No Pitcher Has Since the 1800's

By Stephen Douglas
Shohei Ohtani stole another base.
Shohei Ohtani stole another base. / Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Shohei Ohtani is having one of the most incredible seasons in professional sports history. That's not really up for debate. All you have to do is talk about anything he's doing at the plate and then point out that he's also a pitcher. Or point out anything he's doing on the mound and mention he's also in the lineup hitting every day. It's incredible and you're just cheating yourself if you want to argue.

In addition to hitting and pitching, he stole his 20th base of the season last night becoming the first player in Angels history to hit 40 homers and steal 20 bases in a season.

This is a 60 year old franchise that has employed one of the best players ever for the last decade. Mike Trout, who has stolen as many as 49 bases in a season, has only reached 40 home runs twice in his career. In both those seasons he only stole 11 bases.

Ohtani's 20 stolen bases is tied for 8th in MLB this season. Again, that's pretty good, but when you consider he's struck out 129 batters this season it no longer makes any sense.

MLB put together a list of the most stolen bases by position last year and listed Ohtani as the active leader in stolen bases by a designated hitter with 22. He's now up to 49 which is quite a bit higher than the 13 Bob Gibson stole in his career which MLB dot com says is the record for a pitcher.

Tony Mulane appears to have the all-time record for most stolen bases by a pitcher in a single season. Mulane stole 24 bags in 1889 for the American Association's Cincinnati Red Stockings. Mulane threw 220 innings that year with a 2.99 ERA. He was a righty, but accoridng to his Baseball-Reference page he, "threw left-handed a handful of times."

It appears we have finally met Ohtani's true match: a pitcher born in Ireland in 185 who was nicknamed "Count" and "The Apollo of the Box," who sometimes threw the ball with his off hand and stole 112 bases in his career.

How can you not love something like that? Mulane played for the Detroit Wolverines, Louisville Eclipse, St. Louis Browns, Toledo Blue Stockings, Cincinnati, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Spiders. It's fascinating. And I think that's what could be the most fascinating thing about Ohtani.

100 years from now, if the world still exists, people are going to look back at Ohtani's career numbers and wonder how in the hell we went more than a century between the era where guys hit and pitched regularly and Shohei Ohtani showing up.

It is clear right now just how historic Ohtani is because every time he steps on the field it seems like a new statistic emerges telling us he is. But once you put a little distance and perspective between the here and now it's really going to stick out. Like a modern day Tony Mulane.

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