Hi! Welcome to the inaugural Tout Table of the 2020 season. Each week, the participants of the six Tout Wars leagues will be asked a question, with the commentary posted on the Tout Wars site. Here’s the question:
Should Shohei Ohtani be eligible to pitch on opening day?
Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): Of course. I see a lot of people out there making arguments that because he didn’t get 20 games at pitcher last year he should lose the eligibility, but that makes no sense. Pitcher has never been a position players have had to qualify for based on past seasons, because it doesn’t make sense for them to. Either they’re a pitcher or they aren’t. The point of the positional qualification rules is to prevent someone from playing Nelson Cruz at shortstop. Removing Ohtani’s pitcher eligibility goes entirely against the spirit of the rule. He missed a year of pitching due to injury and is such an insane freak that he was able to hit through it. Ohtani is actually a *better* pitcher than he is a hitter, making it all the more absurd to remove the qualification of his primary position due to injury and his own insane athleticism. You’d never remove the pitcher designation from someone like Garrett Richards or Lance McCullers who miss a year due to injury, so it’s dumb to do it to Ohtani just because he doesn’t suck at a hitting.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): I wrote about this two years ago. Bottom line, yes. The common eligibility rule is intended for position players. There isn’t a rule for pitchers, because it was never needed. Forcing a rule not intended for pitchers onto pitchers doesn’t make sense to me. Use common sense. Pitcher eligibility is because the guy is a pitcher, not a minumum number of games. In 2017, Ohtani played DH in Japan far more than he pitched so if the non-intended rule were applied, he would have been UT-only in our game in 2018. At that time, I recommended adding pitcher-eligibility to your rules.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): A unique situation for a unique player. I am on the side of allowing Ohtani eligibility as a pitcher and as a hitter, counting him as one player, and counting the stats he accumulates in both roles in a given week. I don’t understand the rigid thinking contrary to this approach. I have supported this view in the leagues where I get some say in the rules and have never been successful in my view of the rules. (I own zero shares, fwiw).
Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): I’ll answer a question with a question: Should Lance McCullers Jr. be eligible to pitch on opening day? The answer is unquestionably yes. And that’s the simplest reason why Ohtani should as well, as if we’re going to require a decision to lock him into your roster as only a pitcher in a given day/week, why are we applying traditional hitting rules to his usage on that side?
Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): People saying Ohtani shouldn’t have pitcher eligibility remind me of people who look out over the horizon and say, “The earth is flat.” There’s no reason Ohtani shouldn’t be eligible at pitcher because, are you ready? Can you handle this? You might want to sit down. Okay, are you sitting? Comfortable? Good. Ohtani’s eligible at pitcher because he’s a pitcher. If McCullers had entered a game late in September as a pinch-runner, replacing Gurriel, would you be arguing McCullers only has 1st base eligibility? C’mon. It’s pedantic, otherwise.
Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): Difference is McCullers was out with IL Ohtahni played but didnt Pitch…Not eligible to P this draft season
Steve Gardner (USAToday Fantasy Sports, @SteveAGardner): In most leagues, there’s no difference in any of the pitching slots. Some may distinguish between SP and RP, but they’re all pitchers. If you want to put a position player there, go for it (if the system will let you). The reason there’s a distinction among hitters is that there are nine different positions they can play. That’s why we make them qualify. Pitchers only pitch.
Perry Van Hook (Mastersball, @): I agree with Lenny. WHY are people trying to treat Ohtani differently from other players? If Manny Machado had X games at 3B and less than 20 at SS he would only be eligible at 3B. Ohtani didn’t pitch last year and should start the year eligible only at UT
Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): There’s never a games played requirement for a pitcher, so of course he should be. And if not, how many games would he need to pitch before being eligible? There’s no requirement anywhere in any league for that.
Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): He played other positions and NOT pitcher …That’s the difference McCullers was out and did not play other positions…Pitchers may not need 20 games but they should be a pitcher the previous season
Lenny Melnick (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @LennyMelnick): Can we make Sam Hilliard a Pitcher? That is what he was?
Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): Why the heck not? Just because he batted last year shouldn’t change the fact that he was a pitcher in 2018 before he was hurt.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): It comes down to how you interpret the original position eligibility rule. It was written when there were no pitchers who played in the field. It may not even be written to explicitly apply to position players, but again, there was no need. My contention is instead of making pitchers follow a rule not intended for pitchers, come up with a rule intended for pitchers. McCullers doesn’t matter, Hilliard doesn’t matter. Machado doesn’t matter. It’s an apples to oranges comparison. Hypothetical question – if the founding fathers got together in 2020 and invented fantasy baseball, would there be a separate rule for pitching eligibility? I believe there would.
Fred Zinkie (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @FredZinkieMLB): He should definitely be eligible as a pitcher on Opening Day. It’s common sense. Even Rob Manfred couldn’t screw this one up.
Justin Mason (Friends with Fantasy Benefits, Fangraphs, Fantasy Alarm, @JustinMasonFWFB): Traditional rules states that eligibility is based on the previous season unless the player DID NOT play. Ohtani played last year and should only be UT eligible. That being said, if your league disagrees, they should have a league vote and change it. Just know how you platform is doing it because not all platforms are the same in this regard
Vlad Sedler (Fantasy Guru Elite, @rotogut): To put it succinctly, since Ohtani is both hitter and pitcher in real baseball, he should be eligible at both positions in fantasy.
Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): I side with those who believe he should be eligible as a Pitcher – position eligibility requirements obviously weren’t designed with a player like Ohtani in mind, so modify the rules when presented with a new situation that wasn’t contemplated when the original rules were designed. On a (somewhat) related note, if we ever see an updated version of Herb Washington (i.e. – designated pinch runner), I wonder how that would be handled (i.e. – should he be eligible at Utility even though he wouldn’t have any plate appearances or games played in the field?)
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I don’t see why not, but I know some leagues’ commish services cannot (or cannot easily) provide for Ohtani as both a batter and a pitcher. But the best solution, assuming the commish can do what is asked, is for each league to get together and decide what they want to do, then do that.
Frank Stampfl (Fantasy Pros, @Roto_Frank): Definitely agree with Doug Dennis, a unique situation for a unique player and should be treated as such. The MLB is basically catering to Ohtani and other two-way players in the new rules they’re implementing. Hell, they’re basically advocating more teams use a two-way player, as should we. Ohtani is a starting pitcher and designated hitter and should be treated as such in fantasy.
Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): Of course Ohtani should be eligible to pitch. Taken to its logical conclusion, no pitcher who had TJS or any other injury and missed a year would be eligible. Should all of the returning TJS pitchers be ineligible to be drafted on draft day? Of course not. All that does is create a FAAB mess. Moreover, while we are on the Ohtani subject, I think it is great that Tout Wars is out in front trying out new ideas, I think the time has come to make Ohtani one player who can be used as P or UT rather than splitting him in half like good Kirk and bad Kirk in what was frankly a bad Star Trek episode.
Scott Wilderman (OnRoto, @): Eligibility rules for hitters never applied to pitchers, so if your league treats Ohtani as a single player who swings, he has P eligibility right from the start, and doesn’t have to wait until he’s pitched in 5 games or whatever your league rule is.
Michael Beller (The Athletic, @MBeller): Of course he should be eligible at SP right away, and any insistence to the contrary is the height of pedantry.
Ralph Lifshitz (Razzball, @ProspectJesus): There’s a clear precedent for pitchers coming off of TJS. Here’s why it applies. Hitter and Pitcher are designations not positions. Position eligibility rules are written to police eligibility at positions within the subcategory below designations. It’s clear that being utility versus second base eligible simply dictates where a player can earn for your team. Nowhere within that position eligibility rule does it clearly state it prohibits multiple designations. So when considering this it supersedes any positional eligibility because it does not apply to designations but positions within.
Rudy Gamble (Razzball, @RudyGamble): I agree with most here. Ohtani should be pitcher-eligible starting Opening Day. Any player an MLB team considers to be a pitcher on their roster should be pitcher-eligible. And, vice versa, any player considered to be a position player or DH should be a hitter. The only 5-10 game qualifier is for a specific position.
Adam Ronis (Fantasy Alarm, @AdamRonis): I think the eligibility requirement is more for positions. We all know that Ohtani is a pitcher and he will pitch. I am all for going by the rules, but there should be common sense here. No need to complicate things.
Jake Ciely (The Athletic, @allinkid): I remember when David Gonos told me years ago, “More rules equal less fun.” While this could be argued as a pretty typical rule, common sense (and fun) should factor in with Ohtani. He’s a pitcher, we know he’s a pitcher, and he should qualify as such on all sites. For the more “serious” debate of it… we don’t strip eligibility from players hurt the previous season, so why should we do it with Ohtani just because he was only able to hit?
Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): Pitchers who miss entire seasons for TJ surgery aren’t suddenly required to amass 20 games (or whatever) to be eligible to pitch again. Why should Ohtani be restricted? He was an eligible SP when he was hurt, so the rules should allow him to pitch when he returns. It doesn’t matter that he also hits.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): A Gonos reference! My work here is done.
Derek VanRiper (The Athletic, @DerekVanRiper): This is a classic ‘spirit of the law’ vs. ‘letter of the law’ argument. Use common sense. Ohtani should still be eligible as a pitcher. If he had torn his ACL instead of his UCL, and missed 2019 entirely, would the “he shouldn’t be eligible to pitch” crowd want him to play in five games as a hitter before letting him qualify as a UT-only player again?
Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): There are two situations here. Those who see Ohtani as a pitcher and also a hitter. They probably play in leagues with two Ohtanis, or you get one Ohtani but he can only hit or pitch in any given week, not both. They think he should pitch because he’s obviously a pitcher. But there are those who see Ohtani as a player, one who was a hitter last year so didn’t earn his pitching qualification. I don’t know what type of leagues they play in, maybe one like the one Doug Dennis (and I) dream of, but that’s neither here nor there. While every league can adopt the rules they choose to, for all the obvious reasons stated many times above I don’t think it makes sense not to let Ohtani pitch when he’s ready to pitch. The “difference” that he played as a hitter doesn’t make sense, because there isn’t really a position eligibility for pitcher. It’s a category. So, if you own Ohtani the pitcher, or if you want to play Ohtani the pitcher rather than Ohtani the hitter, you should be able to.
Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): Careful, you’ll be setting a president ! McKay is coming, and Lorenzen. What you do for Ohtani, you’ll need to do for them. I think the best rule is to make him two players, one as a pitcher, one as a hitter. He’s already limited as a hitter only qualifying as a DH. But only one owner, and the owner gets to choose each week how he wants to use him, as a hitter or pitcher, but not both. Using that rule makes him more valuable to the owner, without, he might not be useful as either a pitcher or hitter. And yes, he should qualify as a pitcher for week one (even though he won’t pitch).
Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): I didn’t have Justin pegged as such a strict constructionist. Hmm. Ohtani is an incredibly fun chess piece who should be allowed to remain fun. Stripping his pitching eligibility seems like a needlessly aggressive interpretation of rules that were never designed for a player with his versatility. (Also, Scott asks a good question about how we’d handle a modern-day Herb Washington. I really don’t know, but I can’t imagine we’d want to exclude any potential source of stolen bases.)
Clay Link (Rotowire, @claywlink): Yes, because I think common sense should rule the day. That being said, the rules should be amended to cover these instances.
Andrea LaMont (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @RotoLady): Common sense? He didn’t pitch at all last year, why would he qualify as pitcher when no other player would qualify at a position he didn’t play last year. It runs into a little snag when you consider other pitchers coming back after missing a full season, but the last position they played was pitcher.
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): Yes, of course! Most constitutions don’t include a minimum innings or games appeared in requirement during the previous season to qualify as a pitcher. So rather than overanalyzing a rule that likely isn’t clarified, do the logical thing.
Greg Ambrosius (NFBC, @GregAmbrosius): Yes, common sense rules in fantasy baseball. In the NFBC we realize that he missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery and with any other pitcher who missed a full season he retains his eligibility for the upcoming season. Just because he can also hit well and DH’d last year shouldn’t eliminate him qualifying as a pitcher this year. Common sense dictates that.