Today in completely unsurprising news, Josh Johnson, hoping for the kind of payday he was unable to score after his disastrous 2013, is looking to pitch in a sliiiiiiiightly more favourable environment than the Rogers Centre.
But don’t take my word for it, take it from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle:
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) November 18, 2013
Again: makes total sense. And at this point, really, I think it’s only barely a Jays-related news story, but still, it will be interesting to see how much he ultimately signs for. Given that he seems to be limiting his market here– beyond, y’know, the market-limiting numbers and injuries we watched him suffer through this season– it’s probably not going to hit the upper reaches of the $10- to $15-million that Johnson’s agent, Matt Sosnick, was suggesting his client would be in line for back in September.
I mean, 38-year-old Tim Hudson just signed a two-year, $23-million deal with the Giants, and even though he’s coming off an ankle injury– which limited his value– he’s certainly been a more reliable option than Johnson over the last four years. And now, of course, one of Johnson’s first two choices has that much less of a need for him– if they even want him in the first place.
As I’ve maintained all along, I can’t see why a team wouldn’t, assuming that the price is right.
Interestingly, Jason Collette took a deep look at Johnson’s divergent numbers when pitching from the windup and from the stretch in a piece today at FanGraphs.
“When Johnson had to pitch from the stretch, he was unable to get on top of the baseball to generate the high rate of ground balls that he typically has done throughout his career and batters made frequent contact with his pitches, regardless of location,” he explained, following his citation of several pieces from our local media throughout the season that noted the same discrepancy, as well as some tables of data.
He goes on:
His fastball found the zone with less frequency from the stretch, but when it did find the zone, batters had little trouble making contact with the pitch and hitting the ball into play safely. While batters also were able square up Johnson’s breaking balls in the zone for hits at an alarming rate, most of his indicators held true except for the decreased ground ball rate.
Those types of issues tend to appear when a pitcher is struggling with the command of his pitches, as well as falling into predictable patterns of pitch selection. When Johnson worked out of the stretch in 2013 and was behind in the count, he threw fastballs 71% of the time, compared to just 46% when he was ahead in the count. The fact Johnson had to use a pitch that he couldn’t command so frequently throughout the season helped lead to the forgettable final numbers he posted.
The “predictable patterns of pitch selection” bit might sound like more of an indictment of J.P. Arencibia’s work behind the plate than it probably is– Johnson threw less than a third of his breaking pitches for strikes regardless of whether he was from the windup or the stretch, so… he didn’t have much choice but to be predictable with the fastball when he was behind, and he wasn’t doing a great job of throwing those for strikes either (50.6% from the windup, 47.7% from the stretch)– but still, there is some interesting discussion in the comments on the piece that bring Arencibia’s name into it.
I’m hesitant to try to read too try to read anything into related to game calling, planning, or confidence-inspiring from behind the plate– when asked in reference to the MVP debate during last Thursday’s chat at ESPN.com about not giving Yadier Molina credit for such unquantifiable things, Keith Law explained, rightly, that “we shouldn’t just make up a value for those things that fits our preconceived notions about Molina as a player”– but that doesn’t mean I’m not still very interested to see where Johnson lands and to follow what he does next year with a new organization and a new battery-mate.
I mean, obviously Arencibia’s supposed shortcomings didn’t impact the lights-out bullpen in the first half, or the great second halves put in by R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, or the excellent past seasons from Brandon Morrow or Ricky Romero, but why should that stop a silly narrative, amiright???
And apparently we may be getting close to finding out who Johnson will be throwing to next!
With Tim Hudson signing, executives believe the pitching market is starting to thaw. One GM believes next starter to sign is Josh Johnson.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 19, 2013
So… there’s that.