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June 10, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Josh Johnson Falls Off the Beanstalk

by R.J. Anderson

Twelve starts into the season, Josh Johnson is yet to bedazzle us with a no-hit bid or double-digit strikeout game. If the season were to end tomorrow, all of the “There’s only one October” advertisements would become literal, and Johnson would finish with career-worst totals in earned run average and strikeout and hits allowed rates.  Barring a historical run, Johnson is unlikely to take home the Cy Young award this season. But one thing about Johnson that remains as true now as ever is his resistance towards home runs.

With 12 home runs yielded in 315 innings since 2010, Johnson is the starting pitcher (with 200 or more innings) least likely to give up a home run. Lower the threshold to 100 innings over that span and four names beat him out (Stephen Strasburg, Wade Miley, Carlos Silva, and Dana Eveland; essentially quadruplets). Yes, yes, we all know that pitchers typically have little control over the rate of flyballs that clear the fence, but this is for fun. Part of the fun is asking two big questions about Johnson’s home run totals; questions that, for the most part, everyone asks.

The first question goes like this: how many pitchers have given up more than 12 home runs this season alone. The answer goes like this: 14. You have old pitchers, young pitchers, left-handed pitchers, right-handed pitchers, American League pitchers, National League pitchers, good pitchers, and not so good pitchers. The only thing keeping this amalgamation from melting pot status is the lack of a knuckleballer. Alas. Here are those pitchers and their gopherball totals:

Tommy Hunter, Ervin Santana (16)
Phil Hughes (15)
Colby Lewis, Mike Minor, Gavin Floyd, Hector Noesi (14)
Ivan Nova, Clay Buchholz, Mat Latos, Henderson Alvarez, Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton, Max Scherzer (13)

Now, about the second question: who hit those home runs off Johnson? These list always disappoint. Like, did you know that in 2009 Johnson allowed home runs to Fernando Tatis, Kevin Millar, Casey Kotchman, Garret Anderson, Garrett Atkins, and Miguel Cairo? (That would be a collective WARP of -1.2.) A somber reminder that sometimes dwarves defeat giants and nobody shuts up about it. Luckily, the 2010-2012 list is not as disappointing:

David Wright
Humberto Quintero
Willie Harris
Carl Crawford
Ian Stewart
Ryan Doumit
Andrew McCutchen
Jayson Werth
Ryan Howard
Chris Johnson
Michael McKenry
Melky Cabrera

Lesson learned: Johnson discriminates against home runs, but not against certain types of hitters when he does give them up. 

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Josh Johnson

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