Is Shohei Ohtani too good of a hitter to pitch, like Babe Ruth?

What would it take for Shohei Ohtani to be more valuable just as a hitter? And are we seeing it? Here is what the numbers say. Suzanna Mitchell/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 20.

Hall of Fame outfielder Harry Hooper liked to take credit for Babe Ruth's conversion to full-time hitting; other accounts give it solely to Boston Red Sox manager Ed Barrow.

It was going to happen one way or another, though: Ruth wanted to play every day and had even taken to refusing to pitch for long stretches. Once it did happen, and Ruth became the biggest sensation baseball had ever seen, he dismissed the notion that he could pull double duty, at least not for long. In other words, he didn't want to be Shohei Ohtani.

"I don't think a man can pitch in his regular turn, and play every other game at some other position, and keep that pace year after year," Ruth said in an oft-quoted remark from 1918, during his Red Sox days. "I can do it this season all right, and not feel it, for I am young and strong and don't mind the work. But I wouldn't guarantee to do it for many seasons."

As often as Ruth and Ohtani have been linked, there always has been more that distinguishes them from each other than binds them together. Ruth really had only one season (1919) in which he pulled full-time double duty and he was largely a league-average pitcher during that campaign. He never approached the simultaneous two-way success Ohtani has enjoyed during several seasons of his career.

So far, debates about whether Ohtani should specialize his unrivaled skill set to one side of the ball have largely been moot -- because Ohtani has wanted to pitch.

However, those formulations might be changing, and they might be changing for a reason that creates another link between Ruth and Othani: Like Ruth in the late 1910s, Othani might be getting so good with the bat it no longer makes sense to deal with the complications of a two-way act.

Would Ohtani be open to giving up pitching at some point if the Dodgers ask? It's the 21st-century version of the Babe Ruth Problem that confronted the Red Sox long ago. But if the team ever does make that request, it will be because a franchise that employs a small army of analysts has untangled some very complicated math around the decision.

Let's examine that math ourselves -- and look at what it tells us about Ohtani's potential future.