A Random Thursday: Josh Johnson, Small Segments, and Mentally Checking Out

Random Man

Here are a few things that have been on the top of my mind on this random Thursday in July:

Mental Status

Posts have been kind of slow here the past week or two as I struggle to come to terms with this season. I started the 2013 season with the most excitement I think I have ever had, then slowly fell to the depths of despair, before rising back up.

I can’t decide if I am still hoping and/or expecting that Toronto will a make a run to the postseason, or if I have completely given up on them playing meaningful games. The team has been so maddeningly inconsistent that it has been hard to stay on an even plane. Last night’s game was a perfect microcosm of the year: a game that should have been easy turned into nail-biter; a player that was set up to be the hero nearly becoming the goat.

One thing I can say with certainty is that I was never nervous watching the game. That is a good thing because I was able to relax and enjoy the ballgame, but also a bad thing as I was no longer living and dying with every pitch. To me, that indicates that I have mentally checked out and no longer believe in this year’s version of the Jays. I know that because I have had the same feeling in each of the past ten years. I enjoy the game, I enjoy watching the players and the great plays, but since there is no pennant race pressure the wins and losses just don’t mean anything.

Johnson the Enigma

An enigma is defined as a person with a puzzling or contradictory character. In terms of his performance on the mound, Josh Johnson is definitely an enigma.

At 1-4 with a 4.62 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, his numbers are not good, especially considering that from ’08 – ’12 he put up a 3.06 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. But what makes him so frustrating is that he has pitched so well at times. How he has such poor numbers is very, very puzzling.

Take Tuesday night as an example. Johnson retired the first ten batters he faced, five of them by strikeout. He looked dominant. Then, suddenly, it was over. He walked Asdrubal Cabrera, then surrendered three straight singles. Just like that it was 2-0 Indians.

Pitchers have bad innings. That is obvious, and has been happening for a hundred years. But Johnson’s seem to come out of nowhere. They seem to make no sense.

But that’s not all that doesn’t make much sense. Take a look at his splits – they are all over the place. When he gets no run support (0-2 runs scored), he is great: 3.25 ERA, 1.30 WHIP. When he gets over 3 runs of support, he is awful: 5.79 ERA, 1.68 WHIP.

The top two batters in opposing lineups, normally the best on-base guys, are hitting .258 with a .301 OBP and .608 OPS against him. The bottom two hitters in opposing lineups, normally the weakest hiters, are hitting a massive .353 off him, with a .392 OBP and 1.022 OPS.

He has been lights out in the first inning (.472 OPS against), but terrible in the second (1.044 OPS against). His OPS against actually goes down the second time through the order, from .748 to .706. He has surrendered a whopping 15 walks with two outs.

How he can be so dominating yet so hittable is what makes Johnson so frustrating to watch. You think we’d be used to this by now, because Toronto already has a pitching enigma – we’ve had him for a few years. His name is Brandon Morrow.

Series by Series

Back on May 22, I posted an article asking if there was still hope for the 2013 Blue Jays. In it, I stated this:

The Jays still have to play three 2-game series, 26 3-game series, and eight 4-game series. If Toronto splits the 11 2-game and 4-game series, that gives them 19 additional wins. If they then win each of the 26 3-game sets, that gives them an additional 52 wins, meaning they would finish 71-45.

The whole point was that the team could not win 50 games at once. That is too big of an accomplishment, too big of a task to even think about. But breaking down the remainder of the season in manageable segments – which baseball already conveniently does for each team in 2, 3, or 4 game series – makes the job seem easier.

So how have the Jays done since I wrote that? Well, only counting the completed series, they have played three 2-game sets (Atlanta, at Atlanta, at San Francisco), seven 3-game sets (at San Diego, Texas, at Chicago, Colorado, Baltimore, at Tampa Bay, Minnesota), and four 4-game sets (Baltimore, at Texas, at Boston, Detroit). By following my formula, they should have gone 25-18 in those games.

In reality, the team has gone 24-18 (one of the

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Chicago games was rained out). They have taken a different path to get there, what with an 11-game winning streak and a few clunker series against Boston and Detroit thrown in, but they are exactly where I hoped they would be on this date.

Maybe there’s still hope after all?

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