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From Babe to Ohtani: The Evolution of Two-Way Players in Baseball

Two-way players in professional baseball are a rarity. These players are required to be versatile in both pitching and hitting, skills that are highly demanding and challenging.

With the rise of Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese player who was named the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year, the concept of two-way players is getting more attention. In this article, we explore the MLB rules regarding two-way players and the challenges they face.

Rarity of Two-Way Players

Two-way players are a phenomenon that is nearly extinct in today’s game, despite their existence in baseball’s early days. To qualify as a two-way player, an athlete must be skilled in both pitching and hitting.

This is difficult to achieve due to the different skillsets involved in each discipline. Pitchers require strength, agility, and precision, which complement accuracy and a strong, quick arm.

Hitters, on the other hand, require a keen eye, coordination, and power to make solid contact with the ball. The scarcity of two-way players in professional baseball is attributed to the distinction between positions in Little League, college, and MLB.

In Little League or college, players often play multiple positions, allowing them to develop a more extensive range of skills. However, professional baseball clubs frequently ask their players to concentrate on one position to ensure maximum expertise.

The number of opportunities to train in other positions decreases as a result of this.

MLB Rules for Two-Way Players

The MLB has standards and criteria that players must meet in order to be classified as two-way players. In 2020, the league implemented a new definition of the two-way player rule, which outlines who is qualified to be one.

A player may be used as a two-way player if they have amassed 20 innings pitched and at least 20 games where they batted as a non-pitcher in the current or previous year. The restriction is that the player must have at least 20 starts at a position or designated hitter (DH) designation.

The 20 innings pitched requirement only refers to the regular season — it does not include postseason play. The 20-game barrier must include at least three plate appearances in games where the player did not start as a pitcher.

This regulation is supposed to ensure that players are not categorised as two-way players solely based on the number of innings pitched, making the distinction between the two positions more intentional.

Number of Two-Way Players Allowed in MLB Teams

MLB rosters have 26 players in total, with no more than 13 pitchers allowed. Teams are not required to have a two-way player on their list of players, but they can possess a maximum of two on their active roster at a time.

This is because two-way players can offer the team flexibility in designating lineups. Instead of taking one pitcher out for a pinch-hitter, the team can switch a two-way player’s position to accommodate the situation.

MLB Two-Way Player Designation

Aside from Ohtani, there have been only a few successful two-way players in the history of professional baseball. The challenge in successfully converting an athlete to become a two-way player largely rests on whether a player has the skill set required.

Major League Baseball Players Association will collect data for each two-way player, documenting their every at-bat and inning.

Ohtani – Best MLB Two-Way Player

Shohei Ohtani is a two-way player who has developed a reputation as the best two-way player in Major League Baseball since he joined the league in 2018. Ohtani’s unique ability to pitch and hit at a high level, as well as his speed and athleticism, are what set him apart.

Ohtani has been making history since stepping into the majors, with records of 10 home runs in 23 games and other notable accomplishments in both pitching and hitting.

Challenges Faced by Two-Way Players

Pitching and hitting each have their set of specific and unique skills, and mastering both is a tremendous task for players seeking to become two-way players. These players require a specific set of skills that distinguishes them from other position players.

For instance, a pitcher must recognise every hitter’s weaknesses, while a hitter must decipher which pitch the pitcher will throw. Managing their physical exertion is a significant challenge for two-way players.

Since they have to train for both positions, they are expected to work out more regularly than other players on the team. There is always a risk of injury, which comes with an increased workload.


In conclusion, two-way players are a rarity in professional baseball. The speculation surrounding Shohei Ohtani has brought this concept back to public attention.

The MLB’s rules for two-way players are stringent, necessitating that these players amass a particular skillset. Becoming this type of athlete is not an easy task.

Mastering the distinct abilities essential to pitching and hitting is a significant challenge for players. However, the flexibility that two-way players offer a team is vital for strategic playcalling, making them an indispensable asset to clubs who choose to use them.

MLB Two-Way Player Rule

Major League Baseball’s two-way player rule is applicable to players who fulfil specific requirements in pitching and hitting. Since 2020, the league has explicitly defined who can qualify as a two-way player, and teams can then utilise these players according to specific guidelines.

In this article, we will discuss the MLB guidelines for two-way players, the distinction between pitcher and position player designation, and the criteria required to maintain a two-way player designation.

MLB Guidelines for Two-Way Players

With the implementation of a new two-way player rule in 2020, players must meet specific criteria to qualify for the designation. Players have to meet the minimum number of innings pitched and at least 20 games as a non-pitching batter in the Major League Baseball season or the previous season.

Additionally, players must have at least 20 games started as a position player or at the designated hitter (DH) position on their team’s active roster or as a pitcher. The league maintains that a player can only qualify for the two-way player designation if his team lists him as such before the start of the season.

If a team wishes to classify a player as a two-way player during the season, the player will need to meet the criteria set out in the two-way player rule, have their contract updated, and be approved by the Commissioner’s Office. Pitcher vs.

Position Player Designation

The MLB rules on pitcher and position player designation are significant in setting out the requirements for players who aim to be classified as two-way players. Pitchers are held to a particular standard in terms of the requirements for their position, while position players are judged based on their offensive and defensive abilities.

Being able to pitch and hit at a high level is an exceptional talent that allows players to be versatile and flexible for their team. Despite the similarity in the physical training required for hitters and pitchers, the skills required for both positions are unique and specialised.

For example, pitchers require speed, accuracy, and power to throw fastballs and record pitching rate stats like earned run average (ERA) and quality starts (QS). In contrast, hitters need good hand-eye coordination and balance to hit the ball and contribute with batting average (BA), home runs (HR) and runs batted in (RBI).

Designating a pitcher as a position player or vice versa is permitted, but a player must meet the specific criteria to qualify for the two-way player designation.

Criteria to Maintain Two-Way Player Designation

To maintain the two-way player designation, a player must meet specific criteria put forward by the MLB. The minimum requirement is to ensure that the player has reached both 20 plate appearances and 20 innings pitched by the end of the season.

If a player doesn’t meet these minimum requirements, teams will lose the right to use that player as a two-way player for the next season. Additionally, the two-way player designation has further stipulations pertaining to the player’s performance.

Players must remain consistent in all attributes, with the league keeping track of the stats of all two-way players. Any decline in performance could result in a player losing their two-way player designation.

Failure to meet the minimum requirements or inconsistent performance could lead to unrestricted designation, meaning that the player surrenders the position and will only be classified as either a pitcher or a position player.

Two-Way Players on MLB Teams

MLB teams have 26 players on their active roster; however, only a maximum of 13 players can be designated as pitchers for any given game. Thus, a team that has a two-way player on its roster has an advantage in that a player can perform both pitching and hitting duties, saving a spot on their list of pitchers.

Utilising two-way players allows teams to increase their flexibility in terms of bullpen usage, strategy and substitutions. The role of relief players is crucial in determining the success of a team.

Position players who pitch tend to do so in blowout games, but two-way players can be used in various strategic situations. For example, if a team has already used its entire bullpen, but a game goes into extra innings, a two-way player can fill the role of both pitcher and batter.

In such cases, a regular pitcher may have to be sacrificed for a pinch hitter during pivotal moments in the game. The MLB currently allows teams a maximum of two players on their active roster designated as two-way players.

Additionally, teams can also have players who could be classed as two-way players but aren’t due to not meeting specific criteria. Such players may see few opportunities, but they remain valuable assets for the team’s flexibility.

Two-Way Players Limit of 13 per Team

Overall, the two-way player rule enhances the versatility of a player to participate in multiple positions while allowing teams greater flexibility with roster construction. However, with a limit set at 13 on a team’s active roster, the number of two-way players being utilised in this way is relatively low.

Furthermore, due to the significant skill set required, and the physical and mental issues associated with being a two-way player, the number of players successfully performing both duties is relatively insignificant. Nevertheless, the presence of two-way players on a roster can be a game-changer in critical matchups, creating a strategic advantage for MLB teams in key moments.

Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani are renowned as the best two-way players in the history of baseball. Ruth was the original two-way player who paved the way for modern baseball while Ohtani has been breaking records since he broke into the Major League Baseball in 2018.

In this article, we will discuss the individual talents and careers of Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani and how they cemented their positions as two of the best two-way players in baseball history.

Babe Ruth – The Original Two-Way Player

Babe Ruth was the first prominent two-way player in MLB history. Ruth was known for his prodigious hitting, power, and ability to smash home runs.

He played as an outfielder and also pitched for several teams, including the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. For most of his career, he averaged a batting average of .342 and hit a remarkable 714 home runs, which is still one of the highest by any player in the history of professional baseball.

On the mound, Ruth recorded a 2.28 earned run average (ERA) and won 94 games with 17 shutouts in a four-season span. At one point in his career, he also registered 29.2 scoreless innings, another record that stands to this day.

Ruth’s 1918 season was undoubtedly the most memorable. He went 13-7 as a pitcher and hit 11 home runs with a batting average of .300.

Ruth’s inherent brilliance as a two-way player was that both his offensive and defensive sides complemented each other, making him a game-changer for any team he played on.

Shohei Ohtani – The New Two-Way Player Sensation

Japanese player Shohei Ohtani entered the Major League Baseball in 2018 and has since become the talk of the town when it comes to being a two-way player. Ohtani played professionally in the Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan before signing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

As a two-way player, Ohtani is known for hitting powerful and precise home runs while recording an elite-speed fastball on the mound. In his rookie year, Ohtani played in 104 games, hitting 22 home runs with a .285 batting average while producing a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts out of 51.2 innings pitched.

His exceptional performance at the plate and on the mound earned him the prestigious American League Rookie of the Year award. In April 2021, Ohtani broke Babe Ruth’s record of being the oldest player to record a pitching win and hit three home runs within ten days of one another.

He is also the first player in MLB history to record double-digit home runs and double-digit pitching wins before the All-Star break.

Ohtani Breaking Records – Best Two-Way Player in Modern Day MLB

There is no doubting that Ohtani has already cemented his legacy as one of the best two-way players in modern-day baseball. His exceptional talent level is evident in how easily he has managed to break records established by legends like Babe Ruth.

The primary reason behind his impact as a two-way player has been the ability to maintain his skills in both pitching and batting on a high level. He has a fastball that can reach 100 mph and a home run distance of more than 450 feet.

He can also produce excellent strikeouts while providing exceptional hitting averages. Ohtani has successfully demonstrated the usefulness and flexibility of having a two-way player on an MLB roster.

Since 2020, he has been a key contributor for the Angels, who have continued to praise his unique talents. His performances on both the mound and at the plate set him apart from any other player in the league today.

He is proving that modern players can maintain excellence in both batting and pitching while inspiring future generations of youth baseball players to model after him.


In summary, Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani are two of the most renowned two-way players in baseball history. Ruth’s legacy as the original two-way player cannot be denied, and he is credited with revolutionising baseball, while Ohtani is breaking records and establishing himself as the best two-way player of modern times.

As baseball continues to evolve, the idea of a player filling both roles is becoming more of a reality rather than a novelty, and that is thanks in part to these two legendary players. Their impact on baseball will always be remembered as a testament to the high level of skill and dedication it takes to be a two-way player.

In conclusion, two-way players are being recognised for their versatility and effectiveness in the modern Major League Baseball. Babe Ruth was the original superstar two-way player, while Shohei Ohtani has become the sensation of modern-day baseball.

The MLB two-way player rule is stringent, requiring players to meet specific criteria to qualify as a two-way player. The flexibility and advantages that two-way players offer to teams by being able to perform both pitching and hitting roles are significant for strategic gameplay.

Frequently Asked Questions include: What is a two-way player? What are the MLB rules for two-way players?

Who is Babe Ruth, and in what ways was he a two-way player? Who is Shohei Ohtani, and why is he considered one of the best two-way players?

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