Players like Omar Vizquel, Cesar Izturis, and Adam Everett have always intrigued me. They're the players that manage to be given starting roles and maintain those starting roles while putting up wOBAs under .300. Excellent hitters are fun to watch, but I find that it's these terrible hitters that are the most fun to analyze. That brings me to the subject of this here FanPost: Rob Johnson. I understand people are annoyed by Rob Johnson and all the love he gets for calling a great game, but for some reason I enjoy watching him. Excellent hitters are boring; there's no hope associated with them. Cardinals fans don't start the season hoping Albert Pujols puts up a wOBA above .400. That's pretty much a guarantee. We are fortunate enough to have Rob Johnson around, a player we get to hope posts a wOBA above .300 this coming season. I understand that FanPosts don't hide information the way front page posts do, but I've always liked the idea of the jump so... an analysis of Rob Johnson's hitting coming up after the jump!
Glad you followed me all the way down here. Fangraphs recently put up splits for each player, something that's truly a great thing to explore if you want to waste a couple hours. How about we check out Rob Johnson's splits from 2009?
One thing I remember Dave Cameron mentioning during the season was Rob's improved walk rate after the season started. Check out his BB% by month:
I didn't realize the shift was that drastic. He started the season walking about as much as a paraplegic and suddenly shifted to an average/above average walk rate. I'm not saying we should discard that 2.2%, but it looks like a massive outlier. Perhaps it was first month jitters? Maybe a coach talked to him about walking? Nothing can be said for certain, but going forward I feel moderately comfortable projecting him with a 9.0% or greater walk rate (9.0% was his walk rate this past year).
Another split that was very intriguing to me was his ability to hit left handed and right handed pitchers. Vs. Lefties, Rob had a 10.9% walk rate, a 19.5% K rate, a 24.2% LD rate, and a 14.3% IF fly ball rate. That infield fly ball rate is troubling, but otherwise those are pretty solid peripheral stats. (He also had a 0.0% HR/FB rate, which is...not good.) In comparison, against righties Rob had a 8.1% BB rate, a 25% K rate, a 19.8% LD rate, and a 24.3%(!!) IF fly ball rate (5.4% HR/FB against righties). So, he's got the HR/FB rate going for him against righties, but overall he seems to have the platoon splits we'd expect from any player. Now here's the weird part: Rob's wOBA vs. lefties was .232. Rob's wOBA vs. righties: .296. Uh... okay.
Rob's BABIP vs. lefties was .212 and his BABIP vs. righties was .300. Rob Johnson doesn't seem to have Griffey legs. I wouldn't call him fast, but I also wouldn't describe him as extremely slow. So the good news is, we should expect that BABIP vs. lefties to increase by quite a bit next season. Unfortunately, we should also expect his BABIP vs. righties to decrease because it's kind of hard to get on base when you pop the ball up so much--overall, Rob's IFFB% was 20%, and his BABIP on fly balls was .095. We can hope for his IFFB% to to decrease with more experience, but after watching Yuni I'm not as confident about that. Still, I think we can expect Rob's overall BABIP to increase next season, and with that we should probably expect a BA of .230 or greater (.250 may be pushing it but I will choose to remain hopelessly hopeful).
Rob's home run potential is another thing that makes me curious. He's never hit too many home runs and he only had two last year. But the standard distance of those two were 370 feet and 430 feet. Clearly we should conclude that Rob Johnson possesses some sort of Herculean strength and will hit 15 home runs this year. Okay, maybe not. But still, that's indicative that he at least has a little power. It's interesting that those two came off of right handed pitchers. Rob's GB% against lefties and righties was 33.3% and 51.3% respectively. His FB% against lefties and righties was 42.4% and 28.2% respectively. Against lefties he hit the ball in the air a bunch more, while against right handed pitchers it seems as though he was just pummeling the ball into the ground. Yet, he had a much higher IFFB% against righties than lefties and he hit those two home runs of sizeable distance. Perhaps this is just too small of a sample to draw conclusions from, but it sure seems like he should be hitting home runs against lefties.
Okay, so what was the point of all of this? I see I've written quite a bit more than I thought I would. But I guess that's why I like Rob Johnson. He's just so darn interesting. I dunno if there was much of a point. If there was a point I suppose it'd be this:
Rob Johnson was worth .4 WAR in 80 games last season. He managed to do this last season by having a wOBA of .274. I think we should expect a bit better of him next season. Using Fangraphs, I decided to do a projection of Rob. I gave him 105ish games played, a .230ish BA, 25ish 2B/3B, 7ish HR, a 17%ish K% (he struck out 22.0% of the time in AAA in 2006 and bumped it down to 14%ish for 2007-2008, I'm hoping for a similar adjustment to the league), a 10%ish BB%, and a handful of stolen bases. To be completely honest, I do not think this is unreasonable at all (perhaps the 7ish home runs but I think he's got it in 'im). Fangraphs tells me that this is worth a .299 wOBA (still under the .300 threshold of interest!) and that, from a catcher, that is worth 1.2 wins. And this is only over 105ish games! Fill in the rest of the season with Bard or Moore and I think you've got yourself at least 1.5 WAR from the catcher next season.
Of course, much of the information I used was from a limited sample size, so a lot of this could mean nothing. But I can hope it means Rob Johnson is approaching the ability of an average catcher, which is great news for the Mariners. If you're still reading this, congratulations! You've managed to read 1000 words about Rob Johnson.