A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kelly Johnson

There are 30 teams in baseball. Arizona is 23rd in batting (.240) and 23rd in on base percentage (.312), but that doesn't stop them from being free swingers (and this is in a year that Mark Reynolds is sucking it up in Baltimore instead of in the desert). Armando Galarraga getting sent to the cleaners for future reassignment not withstanding (something about a 5.91 ERA and just not getting the job done), let's be honest... the Diamondbacks have a lot of problems other than just their pitching staff and wondering about the future of the guy who should have had a perfect game, but was robbed of it.
That said, their pitching also is in the bottom dozen of baseball, but they're not out of it YET (for that matter, only 3 teams - Houston, Minnesota, and the White Sox are out of it - hell, even Seattle's still in it with a record of 17-24 as is San Diego who is 18-24).
But for Arizona, the key word is yet. They're actually 4.5 games back in a division where nobody stepped up to lead just yet, and they're not improving, so... it's not like we're going to be partying like it's November of 2001 just yet.
One of the reasons is that Arizona is 7th in strikeouts - they're 13 down from league leader San Diego (on the other hand, Texas has 236, which is partially due to Nelson Cruz's injury) - in no small part due to league leader Kelly Johnson whose 52 whiffs in 152 at bats (the true mark of futility being more than 1 every 3 at bats) has him headed into Reynolds territory. Granted, Chris Young also has 39 strikeouts, and we don't tend to expect much from our number 9 hitter in the NL (or number 8 if you're Tony Larussa), but still...
On the good side, they are 5th in home runs with 45, which is 18 behind the Yankees, who are pretty much being kept alive by pitching and aura + mystique. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, there is no aura and mystique.
There are other usual culprits as well in this problematic world of Chase Field. They are 13th in RBIs, which is pretty much a sign of being 23rd in batting average. They may get the home runs, but they're solo shots, and those don't win ball games. Considering that the Reds lead the league with 213 runs, there is definitely more cause for optimism in the Queen City than in Arizona, but so it goes.
Justin Upton also has a fair bit of whiffs 36 for his 8 home runs and .259 average, but Johnson only has 4 - and he's batting .184. Chris Young has 8 homers for his 39 whiffs, which isn't much better since he's batting .225.
With Kelly Johnson's futility added, in the top 40 strikeout victims, there are now 6 hitters under .200. If we take this to .225, we have 5 more guys. David Wright sits at .226, and with his injury, he won't be going anywhere anytime soon. For this free swinging, only 7 guys have 8 or more home runs. Most are better at batting average save Young.
Rickie Weeks, Howie Kendrick, and Matt Kemp are at least over .300 for their free swinging with Kemp leading the pack .321.
But this is the story of Kelly Johnson, a man who struck out 148 times while batting .284 as soon as he hit the place where he was free to swing away. He took his career highs of strikeouts from 16 to 26 and his former career high of whiffs (117) was also dwarfed.
This year, the sky or should we say the wind is the limit.
For Kelly Johnson, he's just following orders... into the cellar.

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