Two Johnsons leading the Marlins


Now I’m not saying we should run out and get Dan Johnson or Kelly Johnson (actually, I think Kelly Johnson’s not bad and he’s gotten a bit unlucky, but that’s not the point of this post), but certainly the Marlins have been fans of the name “Johnson” for some time now, and maybe more of them would not be unwelcome.

Let’s first begin with our original Johnson, one staff ace Josh Johnson. Dave Allen over at FanGraphs did an awesome job charting JJ’s pitches for interesting and easy visualization. Particularly interesting is Allen’s commentary on how JJ can keep a 50%+ GB% without having some sinking two-seamer and having good “rise” on his fastball.

The difference [in the graph] appears subtle, but over the course of the a season has a huge effect. This placement makes Johnson’s four-seam fastball a ground ball pitch, unlike most four-seam fastballs. He is able to locate his ‘rising’ fastball low in the zone.

You should really click the link and check out Allen’s graph. He’s one of the best at Pitch f/x manipulations, and he’s awesome at creating cool graphs to help visualize a pitcher’s work.

It seems JJ’s control of the fastball is what is getting him over 50% GB%. Generally, this matches the eye test, as JJ’s slider really is his punchout pitch. I was surprised to see that JJ’s changeup was a good groundball pitch. According to the Pitch f/x data on FanGraphs, JJ’s thrown the changeup only 5.1% of the time, accounting for around 120 pitches this season. Allen says the pitch has induced about two-thirds ground balls per ball in play, but that could be a really small sample size, given that the measurement takes into account only balls in play. If you say half of those changeups were put in play, then you get something like 40 groundballs out of 60, which is a pretty small sample size to determine the pitch’s groundball efficacy. That being said, the results are results, and I’m happy that JJ is not only dominating with his pitches, but getting some recognition for his dominance.

On the other side of the Johnson coin we have the newest of Marlins, first baseman Nick Johnson. Everybody involved with the Marlins is gushing about the guy, and rightfully so, as he’s performed very well since arriving in Florida. Johnson has played 10 games for the Marlins, encompassing 47 PA. In those PA’s, Johnson has gathered up 11 hits, three of them of the extra base variety, and perhaps more importantly, drawn 12 unintentional walks. No one on the team can even approach drawing that many walks in that many games. Of course, that won’t last long, and Johnson should go back down to walking 15-17% of the time like usual (career 15.8% BB%), which for Marlins’ standards is pretty good.

There has been a little too much attributed to Johnson’s presence I believe. Particularly, left fielder and leadoff man Chris Coghlan began his red-hot tear right around when Johnson arrived, and most covering the Marlins are claiming this is no coincidence. I think hot streaks are always a coincidence, and this one is no exception. But it can’t be denied that Johnson’s ability to get on base has been critical to the team’s recent streak, currently at five games. I know Hanley Ramirez has certainly enjoyed seeing one or two guys on base when he steps up to the plate.

There is something to be said about Johnson’s performance so far this season. His current BABIP sits at .353, which seems extremely high for a plodding first baseman. In his only two seasons with over 100 games played, Johnson’s BABIP’s were .330 and .323, so we can expect some regression in that respect. Also, as many people have mentioned before, we did not receive the same Nick Johnson of a few years ago, the one that hammered 23 homers and slugged .520 with a .230 ISO. This season Johnson’s ISO stands at .112, though in his small sample size time here he is sitting at .160. A wrist injury last year seems to ahve stripped much of Johnson’s power, and while he still has a .372 wOBA on the season (far higher than any Marlin not named Ramirez), some of the value that he held before the injuries of the last two seasons is gone and likely isn’t coming back.

Keep this in mind as we go forward in the division and Wild Card races. We’ve got Johnsons on our side. There isn’t anything that could top that. Well, there’s nothing that can top OUR Johnsons, at least.

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Tags: Chris Coghlan Hanley Ramirez Josh Johnson Miami Marlins Nick Johnson

  • Fishcrazy

    You’re right about the exaggeration of NJ’s effect on the rest of the hitters. It’s one of those lazy generalizations sportswriters and talking heads love to make: X changed once Y was added, therefore Y must’ve been responsible for it in some vague sports-cliche way. You know, this type of thing: “Johnson’s plate discipline is rubbing off on the other hitters” or some such.

    How does that work, exactly? Coghlan watched Johnson bat a week ago and realized, “Hey! If you take four pitches out of the zone, you get to go to first base!” Thank goodness Johnson explained the concept of walks to everyone, like a caveman bringing fire to his more primitive kinsmen.

    Speaking of wrist injuries, is anyone ever going to point out that Cantu’s has robbed him of his power? He hit 8 homers in April, hurt his wrist, and has hit 4 homers in May-August. Yet no one talks about it, probably because Cantu still hits for a good average and collects his share of RBI (usually on singles).

    On the radio, Jim Presley said Cantu’s struggles are because he was on medication that made him dizzy the past couple weeks. Uh…what? The last two weeks aren’t the issue, Jim.

  • michaeljong

    Fishcrazy,

    I totally agree. Cantu’s value has dropped significantly because of his lack of power, and his average is being built up entirely on singles. His BABIP has dropped down to what we saw last season, and it’s no surprise that his “slump” has coincided with that. Cantu isn’t a .300 hitter, he’s not going to draw walks, so in order to be above average at the plate, he needs to hit for power. We know he isn’t a Gold Glover either, especially at third.