Editor’s Note: The following is the first in what becomes hopefully a series of posts by guest writers. If you have an idea for a post, let me know or just write it and send it to me. The guest posts will be posted through me after I have read and formatted them, and comments will be moderated by me. However, I will not censor the conversation, and I hope the guest-posters will be treated just like I am – with slight disgust and general disregard. The first post is by my brother, Bryan; call it nepotism, call it “being a homer,” just don’t call it good baseball writing. Without further ado…
So, if you’ve been watching baseball lately, you’ve noticed that a certain second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks has been going off. I know I have, as this hot streak of 6 homers in 7 games has revived my lifeless fantasy team. As of April 30th, Kelly Johnson is hitting 0.320 with 9 homers and 18 RBI; 17 of his 24 hits have gone for extra bases. The current NL home run leader is drawing more walks now than he ever has, as his walk rate is at a 14.6%. His April has been terrific, already out-producing what the Diamondbacks could have expected of him (and what they are paying him for); what is important now is to see if he’s going to continue performing at this level or fall off à la Chris “The Hammer” Shelton in 2006.
Johnson has played basically 3.5 seasons in the majors, and his 162 game averages are:
Pretty good. His best seasons came in 2007 and 2008 and are pretty much carbon copies of each other. Batting averages around 0.280, mid teens for home runs, about 70 RBI and 90 runs scored. Given the lack of quality second basemen, you wonder if Bobby Cox got too frustrated with his slow starts.
Taking the Dan Hennessey route, I figured we could look at some fancy stats to determine if Kelly Johnson is going to challenge Pujols for the Triple Crown, fall off to his typical production, or land somewhere in the middle (Editor’s Note: Part of this is discussed here, where I consider the effect of a hot start on a season’s stats). Johnson’s ISO (isolated power = ((2B + 3B*2+HR*3)/AB)) right now is at 0.466 (Editor’s Note: it’s basically slugging percentage minus one base per hit; therefore it measures only the bases accumulated on extra base hits). As I said before, 17 of his 24 hits have gone for extra bases, and more than half of those have left the yard. Last year was his worst, and I think the beautiful BABIP shows part of the reason why (NOTE: BABIP is my favorite stat and I try and throw it into any discussion/argument/what-have-you. Oh, you think Kobe’s better than LeBron? Well, let’s check the BABIPs, guy – it’s that bad.).
Anyway, last year Johnson’s BABIP was a paltry 0.247, and he hit 0.224 in 106 games. He fell out of favor pretty quickly and became the odd man out as Bobby Cox went with Martin Prado and Omar Infante (NICE!). This year, his BABIP has increased to 0.288 through 21 games, and the ball appears to be finding holes or the pool in right center field rather than a glove. Even a BABIP of 0.288 seems like it’s even too low for him to stay at for the entire season and it could increase to his career average of 0.310. Another important factor is his strikeout-to-walk ratio. This year, he’s walked 13 times in 89 plate appearances and struck out 15 times. For his career, he almost strikes out twice as much as he walks (216 BB to 374 K).
I think that he’s going to start coming back down to Earth a little and probably start striking out more. His power numbers will dip and singles will probably be more of a regular occurrence than homers. He won’t fall off as hard as Chris Shelton and end up in the minors in June, and I feel safe saying that he won’t be in the discussion for MVP. I say he outperforms the averages and finishes somewhere like 0.290, 25 HR, 90 RBI and becomes the waiver wire pickup of the year, propelling my fantasy squad “Belmonte Up With It” to a title.
Editor’s Note: Another thing to notice is that Johnson is seeing fewer fastballs than ever but crushing the ones he does see. In April he was hitting near the bottom of the Arizona lineup, but lately he has been given the opportunity to leadoff; it will be interesting to see if the types of pitches he see changes given his hot start and position in the lineup.