The Curious Case of Josh JohnsonBy
As the Miami Marlins season is coming to a end, there haven’t been many positives to take away from this inaugural season at Marlins Park. From what seemed like a promising season with a possible playoff spot in sight, quickly turned into a disaster. You could say the brand new $525 million dollar ballpark is too spacious, or injuries plagued the team, which may be true, but nothing is more obvious than the lack of production from the “key” players. Especially from Marlins ace, Josh Johnson.
After a tremendous 2010 season, Johnson seemed to have finally figured out how to stay healthy and was destined for greatness. In 2011, Josh Johnson, as you can remember, was shut down after nine starts due to right shoulder inflammation. He posted a 1.64 ERA in those starts and looked to be well on his way to another all-star game appearance with the fish. However, the injury bug hit him again and that was all 2011 wrote for the ace.
Flash forward to 2012 now. As one would assume, the Marlins came into the 2012 season with high hopes for the fully recovered Josh Johnson. It wasn’t irrational to envision the two time all-star leading the rotation and ideally the team into the playoffs after reflecting upon how dominate Johnson was in his limited time during the 2011 season.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Johnson, fully recovered from injuries and felt no pain pitching, got rocked and got rocked early on.
Through Johnson’s first five starts, he allowed 10 hits or more in three of his starts. That’s something he never has done before. After two months into the season, Johnson saw his ERA balloon to 4.83. Nowhere near his ERA from recent years.
One of the telling signs as to why Johnson hasn’t been as effective this season could be as simple as his lower strikeout rate. In 2010 Johnson had a strikeout per nine innings ratio of 9.1. In 2011 his strikeout ratio dropped to 8.4. This season Johnson’s strikeout numbers have taken another plunge and he currently sits at 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings. That’s certainly not the direction in which Johnson or the Marlins want that number going.
Johnson has been known to have a good and lively fastball that he hits in the upper 90′s with consistency but that changed this season. Johnson’s fastball velocity is noticeably lower and he seems to be throwing it in the lower 90′s with an occasional fastball in the mid 90′s.
What’s the reason behind this? For one, I don’t know. Johnson has repeatedly said that there is nothing wrong with his arm and he feels great on the mound. It’s hard to believe that when you have seen the pitcher he once was and then watch what he has been producing this year. Maybe the wear and tear of all the arm injuries Johnson has endured over the years has finally caught up to him.
Johnson has made progress in recent starts, though. He’s been going deeper into games, lowering walks, and raising his strikeouts totals. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and he is back on track to becoming the ace he was, and the ace this Marlins club needs.
The Marlins will sure have their hands full this off-season after a disastrous season. One thing the Marlins will have to do a better job of is evaluating talent. What do the Marlins really have with Josh Johnson now-a-days? The ace they need, or a star on the decline.