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Entries in Josh Johnson (5)


Jays' Johnson, Morrow Feature Wipeout Sliders

The Toronto Blue Jays' starting rotation in 2012 was both pained (Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison underwent Tommy John surgery) and painful to watch (they ranked 10th in the American League in ERA). GM Alex Anthopoulos hopes he solved those rotation woes by taking on salary in the Marlins' latest roster purge, acquiring Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle as part of a 12-player deal.

Johnson will team with the Jays' other brittle-but-brilliant ace, Brandon Morrow, to give the club arguably the game's best pair of sliders among starting pitchers. Johnson and Morrow unleash upper-80s breakers that they bury at hitters' knees, producing precious little hard contact. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has his Picassos, but Anthopoulos and the Jays are fine slider connoisseurs.

Both right-handers feature power sliders, with Johnson averaging 86.9 MPH (10th-highest among qualified starters) and Morrow sitting at 87.2 MPH (sixth-highest). But these guys do more than merely throw hard -- they command their sliders exceptionally well. Take a look at Johnson and Morrow's pitch location with their sliders this past season:

Johnson's slider location in 2012


Morrow's slider location in 2012


Johnson threw his slider to the bottom third of the strike zone about 78% of the time, trailing only Zack Greinke among starters. Morrow also stayed low, locating the pitch down about 66% of the time. For comparison's sake, the MLB average for starters is about 54%.

Why does that matter? Pitchers thrive when they keep their sliders down. MLB starters surrendered just a .266 opponent slugging percentage on low sliders this past year, far lower than their .472 mark on middle-zone sliders and .367 slugging percentage on high sliders. By routinely cutting off batters at the knees with sliders, Johnson and Morrow limited extra-base knocks. Morrow had the lowest opponent slugging percentage on his slider among all starters, and Johnson also cracked the top 15:

Lowest opponent slugging percentage among qualified starting pitchers, 2012

PitcherSlugging Pct.
Brandon Morrow .197
Nathan Eovaldi .209
Matt Moore .227
Matt Cain .229
James McDonald .232
Yu Darvish .236
Colby Lewis .238
CC Sabathia .244
Felix Hernandez .250
Jarrod Parker .253
Mat Latos .254
Homer Bailey .259
Jason Hammel .265
Kyle Lohse .267
Josh Johnson .271



Josh Johnson Most Important Marlin in 2012

Much ink has been spilt over the nouveau riche Miami Marlins' free agent additions. From franchise shortstop Jose Reyes to ultra-durable Mark Buehrle to closer Heath Bell, the Fish handed out a total of $191 million to bolster Ozzie Guillen's lineup and fill their new $634 million retractable roof stadium. But the difference between the Marlins contending with the Phillies and Braves and once again being relegated to also-ran status may well be injury-prone ace Josh Johnson.

During Florida's bleak 72-90 season in 2011, Johnson was limited to just 60.1 innings pitched by right shoulder inflammation. He threw his last pitch on May 16, with the Marlins eight games over .500 and just one game back of the Phillies. While Anibal Sanchez turned in a quality year, Javier Vazquez was unhittable in the second half and the staff got little help from a plodding defense (17th in the majors in Defensive Efficiency), the Florida rotation was mediocre as a whole. They ranked eighth in the National League in Fielding Independent Pitching (3.88) and 12th in innings pitched, taxing the bullpen often. Without Johnson, the Marlins tried to convert Clay Hensley (5.53 FIP as a starter) mid-season and called on not-ready prospect Brad Hand (5.73 FIP).

Buehrle will provide innings, but Vazquez seems headed for retirement. That leaves Johnson as Miami's best bet at having a top-tier starter to combat the Halladays and Lees of the NL East. When he's healthy, Johnson qualifies. Check out where he ranks in some key categories among starters since 2009:

Batting Average Against: .227, 82nd percent among starters (better than 82 percent of starters). Places between Mat Latos and C.J. Wilson.

On-Base Percentage Against: .284, 92nd percentile. Ranks between Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw.

Slugging Percentage Against: .320, 94th percentile and sandwiched between Kershaw and Felix Hernandez.

Strikeout Percentage: 23.6%, 86th percentile. Between Zack Greinke and Latos.

Walk Percentage: 6.9%, 81st percentile. Between Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia.

The key for Johnson is a devastating mid-to-high-90s fastball. When hitters do manage to make contact (which isn't often -- his 20% miss rate with the pitch is ninth among starters since '09), it's weak contact. Look at opponents' in-play slugging percentage by location vs. Johnson's heater, compared to the league average. When Johnson keeps the ball low, they've got no chance:

Opponents' in-play slugging percentage vs. Johnson's fastball, 2009-2011

Average opponent in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs, 2009-2011

Johnson has held hitters to a .338 slugging percentage with his fastball since 2009, trailing only Felix Hernandez among starters.

With a wicked fastball, Johnson ranked ninth among starters with 12 Wins Above Replacement from 2009-2010. Verlander, Greinke, Halladay, Lee, King Felix, Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jon Lester were the only guys with higher WAR totals, and Johnson placed high on the WAR leader board in 2011 before his shoulder shut him down. To keep pace with Philly, Atlanta and an upstart Nationals team, the Marlins need a healthy, Cy Young-level season out of Johnson.


ESPN Covers Josh Johnson

ESPN examines Josh Johnson and his breaking ball:

Watch Baseball Tonight any time Johnson pitches and you'll hear our announcers marvel at that pitch location. Those pitches are almost impossible and the numbers bear it out. 

Righties and lefties have made 68 outs in at-bats that ended with a Johnson breaking pitch, and gotten just four base hits. 

Hitters are missing on 40 percent of their swings against that pitch, a rate that puts Johnson among the best major league starters. They're also chasing pitches at a similar rate. 

Read More... (source: ESPN, Mark Simon)