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The Season That Was: Josh Johnson

A look at John Johnson's 2013 season.

If you believe the story from the team, Josh Johnson is a player the Jays have been after for years now. Now, I have no reason not to believe them, but, from years of conditioning, I've come to believe that many things the team tells me is a a story, and as my father-in-law used to say, 'never let the facts get in the way of a good story'.

Josh was the player the Jays were after when the big trade came together, and he (or Jose Reyes) was the player we were most excited about getting. What's that line about there only being two tragedies in life, not getting what you want and getting it.

Josh had won the NL ERA crown in 2010, and he struck ou more than a batter an inning when he was healthy. Trouble was, he spent a lot of the time not being healthy. Still we were pretty excited to get him.  And he seemed happy to be coming here, he said all the right things. We thought we were going to love him.

In our prediction thread I thought he'd have a

3.60 ERA, 30 starts, 190 innings, 170 K and 14-7.

It didn't quite go like that:

2013 - Josh Johnson 2-8 16 16 0 0 0 0 81.1 105 64 56 15 30 83 6.20 1.66

Fangraphs has him at a 0.5 WAR, giving him a value of $2.7 million to the Jays.

Honestly, I think their  WAR value is too high. Baseball Reference has his WAR at -1.6, which seems more in line with what actually happened.

On Fangraphs side, Josh's FIP (4.62) and xFIP (3.58) were a lot better than his ERA, which is a hopeful sign for the future. As was his .356 BABIP, much higher than his .302 from 2012, which is also his career number. So, we can hope, that there was an element of bad luck to his incredibly bad season. How much of it was bad luck is something we can argue. Blake pointed out Johnson's troubles when throwing from the stretch.

Compared to 2012, Johnson walked more batters (3.32/9, up from 3.06) and struck out more batters (21.6%, up from 20.7).

He gave up more line drives than last year (24.2%, up from 23.6), but not a lot more. Slightly fewer ground balls (45.1%, down from 46.2). And about the same number of fly balls (30.7% up from 30.2). The big difference was many more of his fly balls left the park (18.5%, up from 8.4). That's the big difference between the past and this year for Johnson. Some of it is moving from a huge park in Florida to a small park in Toronto. Some is moving from the NL East to the AL East. But that doesn't come close to explaining that jump in numbers. I want to believe it is a one year blip.

Josh averaged 5.1 innings per start.

A right-hander, Josh had far more troubles with RHB (.348/.411/.617) than LHP (.276/.329/.399). That's not normal for Josh, for career he has pretty normal splits for a right-hander. I don't know why he'd have such a large reverse split, maybe he was tipping pitches?

He was better at home (1-3, 5.29, batters hit .284/.351/.495 with 11 home runs), than on the road (1-5, 7.59 ERA, batters his.338/.380/.478 with 4 home runs).

Johnson by month:

April: 0-1, 6.86 ERA in 4 starts. Batters hit .329/.396/.482.

May: Injured

June: 1-1, 4.08 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .267/.320/.440.

July: 0-5, 7.71 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .282/.342/.527.

August: 1-1, 7.36 ERA in 2 starts. Batters hit .455/.487/.545.

September: Injured.

You all know that Josh went on the DL twice, early in the season for forearm tightness (or crappy pitching disease) and in August for what turned out to be bone chips (Dr. Andrews operated on him at the end of September).

His best Game Score was a 76, on June 17th, against the Rockies, a 2-0 win. Josh went 7.1, allowing 5 hits, 2 walks with 10 strikeouts. He didn't get the win, we didn't score until the bottom of the 8th.

His lowest Game Score was a 10, on August 1st, his second last start of the season. He gave up 10 hits, 7 runs, 6 earned, 2 walks with 1 strikeout in our 8-1 loss to the Angels. I was lucky enough to be there.

The $14 million question is will the Jays give him a qualifying offer. I don't know the answer to that. I'm not sure that the Jays know the answer to that. I'd think he has to be better next year, I'm almost sure he would be. But I'm not sure I'd bet $14 million on it. I wonder how much better Johnson (and all our starters) would have looked if we had provided them with decent defense?

I think the Jays have the choice of trying again with Morrow, Buehrle, Dickey, Johnson and someone, as the rotation, and hope things go better next year. This year the Red Sox went, pretty much, with the same starters they had last year and that worked out. Johnson was a very good pitcher, it is likely that he could be one again.