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