Randy Johnson: Yes, Please
If you haven’t heard, Randy Johnson is not only available, but is apparently looking to move back to the west coast, closer to his family, and presumably would prefer a team that spends spring training in his home state.
An above average left-handed starter? Check.
Short term commitment? Check.
Geographic nature of area appealilng? Check.
Big name acquisition to potentially excite fan base? Check.
Hall of Fame pitcher with a chance to end a great career where it began to flourish? Check.
Randy Johnson isn’t the same guy who we remember being the most dominating pitcher of the mid-90s, the guaranteed win who made you want to go to the Kingdome on an 80 degree day and cheer for a dude with a mullet. But he’s still one of the better pitchers in the American League. Really.
Among AL pitchers in 2006, Randy Johnson ranked 11th in strikeout rate and 18th in Fielding Independant ERA. His 4.32 FIP put him in the same category as guys like Ervin Santana and Vicente Padilla and ahead of Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, and Justin Verlander. His ERA of 5.00 wasn’t nearly as impressive, but if you look at his line, there’s one number that stands out:
205 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 1.2 HR/9, 61.8% LOB%
Nobody in the American League stranded less baserunners than Randy Johnson. His LOB% of 61.8% is off the charts. Joel Pineiro, for all his horribleness, stranded 63.8% of baserunners. You can generally calculate a player’s LOB% fairly well by using his BB, K, and HR rates, which you could call expected left on base rate. Randy Johnson’s xLOB% was 72%, and the difference between his expected strand rate and his actual strand rate was higher than any pitcher in baseball.
You can think this proves some kind of lack of skill if you want, but it’s not – it’s mostly random variation, and I’d gladly put $100 on a bet that Randy Johnson won’t post the lowest LOB% in the American League in 2007.
The same effect that artificially deflated Jarrod Washburn’s ERA in 2005 pushed Randy Johnson’s ERA higher in 2006. Johnson isn’t an an all-star anymore, but he’s still a very effective starting pitcher, better than any of these clowns who are getting long term, big money deals as free agents this winter.
If the Mariners are serious about adding another starting pitcher to their rotation, Randy Johnson is the obvious choice.