The following is a guest post by our very own Jordan S, whom you all know as JGS:
Ubaldo Jimenez’s great start has gotten a lot of attention this year, and deservedly so. He threw a no-hitter in his third start, had a 0.79 ERA at the end of April, and a 0.78 ERA at the end of May. Since then however, he has been somewhat less than stellar, putting up a 5.35 ERA and 1.448 WHIP in his last six starts. In that time, he has lost his title as the best pitcher in baseball in 2010 to Florida’s Josh Johnson and his 1.82 ERA and sub-1 WHIP. Johnson has made 17 starts and given up 3 earned runs or more in only three of them, and two of those were his first two. Even more impressively, he has given up more than one run in only one of his last ten starts. The Rockies and Marlins have pretty similar offenses (Colorado has scored six more runs in one more game), but while the Rockies are a robust 15-2 in Jimenez’s starts, the Marlins are only 10-7 in Johnson’s. How the heck can a guy that good have his team lose more than 40% of the time he is on the hill? Well, here is how.
Start #1—April 5th: Johnson’s worst start of 2010 came on Opening Day at Citi Field. He had given up two runs through five innings when he gave up a leadoff triple to Jason Bay and then walked Gary Matthews, Jr. (seriously?) and was lifted. Both runs came around to score, and Johan Santana is a pretty good pitcher himself. Final score: Mets 7, Marlins 1
Start #4—April 25th: Johnson didn’t bring his best stuff to Houston this time. He walked three and struck out only two. The offense scored four runs in the fifth (helped in part by Johnson’s RBI squeeze play), but he gave one of them right back on a home run to Humberto Quintero and Houston added another unearned run in the sixth. Johnson was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh with the Marlins leading 4-3. Five batters after the 7th inning stretch, the Astros were winning. Final score: Astros 5, Marlins 4
Start #7—May 8th: Another good but not great outing, the game was scoreless until the fourth when a single, triple, and home run made it 3-0 Washington. Johnson ultimately went six innings and gave up just those three runs, striking out five while not walking anyone, but he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh with the Nationals leading 3-2. The Marlins took the lead when Gaby Sanchez took Tyler Clippard deep, but Josh Willingham tied the game to lead off the bottom of the seventh and Renyel Pinto hit Adam Dunn with the bases loaded in the eighth for the eventual game winner. Final score: Nationals 5, Marlins 4
Those three Marlins losses were mostly not Johnson’s fault, but he wasn’t exactly pitching like the best pitcher in baseball in them. Now is when things start getting ridiculous—that May 8th outing is the last time this year that Josh Johnson allowed three runs in a game.
Start #11—May 29th: Johnson went seven strong innings against the Phillies, walked one, and struck out six. In the third, Chase Utley hit a ball off Cameron Maybin’s glove in center that rolled to the wall. Shane Victorino scored the unearned run and Utley ended up on third base with one out, but Johnson bore down and struck out Werth and Ibanez to end the threat. Johnson allowed just three singles after that, one of which was erased on a double play. The bullpen didn’t blow this one, but such is life when the other guy throws a perfect game. Final score: Phillies 1, Marlins 0
Start #14—June 15th: This outing was very similar to the one against the Phillies. Johnson went 7 strong innings, allowed one run, walked one, and struck out seven Rangers. The one run came on back to back to back singles in the first inning and a two run home run from Hanley Ramirez in the sixth put Florida back on top. Johnson was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh, and Brian Sanches pitched around leadoff walk in the eighth to hand the ball to Leo Nunez. With runners on first and second and two outs, Matt Treanor tripled, and Neftali Feliz did the rest. Final score: Rangers 3, Marlins 2
Start #16—June 26th: Facing Jon Garland and the Padres, Florida took an early lead in the second inning, when Mike Stanton hit a sac fly to score Dan Uggla. In the top of the fourth, the Padres tied the game on a David Eckstein single and an Adrian Gonzalez RBI double. In the fifth, Nick Hundley tripled with one out and Jon Garland hit a sac fly to give San Diego the lead. Garland handed the ball to the Padres’ ridiculously good bullpen in the seventh, and Johnson ultimately went eight innings, gave up two runs, walked one, and struck out nine, with the winning run being driven in by the opposing pitcher. Final score: Padres 2, Marlins 1
Start #17—July 2nd: Johnson was effective but inefficient, going six innings and giving up one run while striking out eight and not walking anyone. He needed 108 pitches to get through six, and was subsequently taken out of a 1-1 game. In the bottom of the seventh, the Braves took the lead when Martin Prado drove in Gregor Blanco for the second time, and Billy Wagner took the ball in the ninth with the Braves up 2-1. Gaby Sanchez promptly tied the game on the second pitch he saw, and it remained 2-2 until the eleventh, when the Marlins loaded the bases with one out against Jonny Venters. Brian Barden pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot, and attempted to lay down a squeeze, but missed. Wes Helms was completely hung up, but Venters dropped a relay throw in the rundown and the Marlins took the lead. Venters then proceeded to strike out Barden and Dan Uggla to end the inning. In the bottom of the eleventh, Leo Nunez, in his fifth blown save of the year, couldn’t even record an out. Walk, double, single, game over. Final score: Braves 4, Marlins 3
In the seven Florida losses in Johnson’s starts, he has a 2.60 ERA, which drops to 1.29 over the last four. You can’t predict baseball.