For our #7 season of the Marlins’ decade, we go to our most recent team season and check out one outstanding pitching performance by one of the better pitchers we have had this decade. Today we’ll discuss the 2009 effort provided by current Marlins fireballing righty Josh Johnson.
Josh Johnson (2009)
The 2009 season for Josh Johnson served as proof that the promise he showed in his rookie campaign and his 87 innings in 2008 were no fluke. Whether he can continue to repeat his excellent numbers from 2009 remains to be seen, but there was no doubt that Johnson had made his comeback from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out of most of 2007 and half of 2008.
Coming off the heels of a strong showing at the tail end of 2008, Johnson’s sustained strong performance was a big question mark going into 2009. The question was well answered, as Johnson stormed out of the gate early. Through 20 starts, Johnson still sported a nifty 2.80 ERA, and his defense-independent numbers were not at all poor. Through those 20 starts (135 innings and 549 batters faced), Johnson had struck out 20.6% of his batters faced while walking only 6.4%. He had also only given up seven home runs.
For the season, those rates did not drop. Johnson ended the season striking out a career high 22.3% of batters faced on the year, while walking only 6.7% of those hitters. A large part of Johnson’s success came with preventing home runs, and that was in part due to to his newfound ability to keep the ball on the ground. Despite Johnson’s repertoire of heavy fastballs and a nasty strikeout slider, he was able to keep the ball on the ground around 50% of the time, which helped in preventing the home run.
There were still concerns regarding JJ’s season. At the tail end of the year, he had his innings cut down, especially in September, despite the Marlins being in contention. This was in part because the team was concerned about Johnson’s health. However, Johnson’s play did indeed slip as the season wore down, evidenced by Johnson’s increased walk rate (though his strikeout rate also increased).
However, the overall season was not dented by his late-season performance, which only looked poor compared to how well his season started. Johnson finished the year with excellent numbers in 209 innings of work, a career high. There is concern about the large jump in innings, and Johnson’s performance next season will go a long way towards determining how well he handles the additional workload. But Marlins fans are quite excited.
The biggest question Johnson and the Marlins face this offseason is about his possible extension. As a lot of us fans know, the extension situation is on hold because the Johnson camp wants a four-year deal, while the Marlins are not interested in going past three years and an extension. We will see how that plays out over the rest of the offseason, but I hope a deal works out and keeps Johnson and his bright future in a Marlins uniform for some time. If not, well, we’ll always his 2009 5.3 WAR season to remember as fans.