O’s spring training: The 25 who will make it (#9)

March 01, 2010 | Drew Forrester

The guys in the bullpen matter too.

They’ve felt ignored, I suppose, because players 1-thru-8 on my “25 who will make it” series have been either field players or starting pitchers.

With that, I’d like to introduce everyone to the team’s most reliable bullpen arm:  His name is Jim Johnson.

I’ve always liked Johnson.  He attacks hitters with a good fastball/sinker combination and has never been prone to the long ball until last season when he was touched for 8 dingers.  Part of the problem for him has been the team’s overload with right handed pitchers (relief) and the fact that occasionally he has to face a right handed hitter that, with 2 or more LHP’s in the bullpen, he wouldn’t have to go after.

Odds he’ll be on the roster at the start of the season:  100%

Odds he’ll be on the roster at the end of the season:  100%

Odds he’ll be an effective contributor in 2010:  85%

Odds his name will be mentioned at the trade deadline in late July:  10%

Summary:  Johnson had a superb 2008 (1.194 WHIP, 0 HR allowed, 2.23 ERA) but saw those numbers rise in 2009, with a 4.11 ERA, a 1.371 WHIP and 8 HR allowed.  On the surface, a club would be concerned about those numbers – especially noting he only pitched 2 more innings in ’09 than ’08 – but the Birds are going to move Johnson back into his more suitable, comfortable role as the 8th inning set-up man and his numbers should stabilize and improve in 2010.  Operating almost exclusively as the 8th inning guy in ’08, he was a rock star.  Last year, with the August trade of Sherrill and the uncertainty at closer late in the season, Johnson threw in the 8th and/or 9th inning depending on need and the game situation and his numbers ballooned – and not for the good.  Teams hit .395 off of him in September and October, his strike-out to walk ratio was poor (6 K’s, 5 BB’s) and, in general, he finished the campaign on a down note.  Left alone in 2010 and asked to commandeer the team through the 8th inning, I think Johnson will do just fine.

Quirky stats from 2009:

> The Right Way — RH hitters didn’t bother JJ…he struck out 25 and walked just 6…but 5 of 8 HR’s came from RH’ers

> Didn’t need home cooking — JJ’s numbers were eerily similar at home or away…OBP against was .336 at home and .329 away

> Beasts in the East — Gave up 8 HR in ’09, 2 each to NY, Boston and Tampa Bay…needs to improve there

Drew’s projections for Johnson in 2010:

* 67 innings

* 48 K’s, 19 BB

* 3.27 ERA

* 1.220 WHIP