The Cubs and Johnson agreed to a one-year deal for the 2012 season, reports Ken Rosenthal. A mild smattering of indifference ripped through the baseball world.
Reed Johnson bounced back in 2011 after a very poor 2010, posting an excellent .354 wOBA in part time work. This represents the most productive season of Johnson’s career since 2006, when he sparkled for the Jays en route to a 4 Win season. Wait, what?
You read that correctly. In 2006, Reed Johnson ranked among the top 10 most valuable outfielders in baseball. As a part of the (nearly ideal) Freed Johnsonallanto platoon, Johnson posted big defensive numbers while hitting 12 home runs with a slightly below average walk rate and sky-high hit by pitch rates. The new (old) inefficiency!
Johnson never reached that level again as it clearly outpaced his true talent. Not unlike the 2011 season that netted him this one-year deal. In 2011, in his 34 year-old season, Johnson posted the highest BABIP of his career. His .394 BABIP was highest in baseball among hitters with 250 or more plate appearances, actually. It represents the fifth highest season by anyone above that plate appearance threshold since 2001.
Johnson drew a scant FIVE walks in 266 PAs in 2011, good for a 1.9% walk rate. That ranks him last among hitters with 250 PAs to their name. He swung at more pitches outside the zone while taking more pitches thrown inside the zone. He struck out at a higher rate in 2011 than ever before. That, in my mind, is not exactly a sustainable approach.
So high was Johnson’s in-play average and so low was his walk rate that his BABIP was nearly 50 points higher than his on base percentage. My mind boggles as I try to make sense of that even a little bit. The three players since 2001 to post great BABIP/OBP differentials saw their weighted-on base average to fall by an average of 25 points the season after their miraculous success.
There are no bad one year deals and the Cubs are transitioning into a new Front Office and, hopefully, new era. Having Johnson around for a pittance isn’t hurting anyone as Johnson won’t block a worthy prospect from getting a single minute of playing time. Cubs fans need to adjust their expectations for Johnson, however. They aren’t going to fall in for the likeable outfielder in 2012 like they did in 2011.