On Johjima’s power outage
I haven’t written much about Johjima, while taking time out of my day to take potshots at Vidro, McLaren, Ibanez’s defense, Sexson, and pretty much everyone except Ichiro.
So here’s the short version: Johjima’s performance at the plate so far has been just abysmal. But some this is that I’ve felt a lot like I do about Beltre: Beltre’s been smashing the ball around, hitting line drives, and they’ve been caught. His batting average looks bad, but he’s doing fine, I’ve got no complaints.
Similarly, if you look at Johjima, you see much the same thing: he’s still not taking walks, he’s striking out about as often, and the huge difference in terms of average/on-base percentage is that the balls he’s putting in play aren’t getting hits (this year his batting average on balls in play is .236, after being at .292 and .291 the previous two seasons). Normally, I’d just shrug that off.
What worries me is the missing power. What power he had hasn’t shown at all:
– He’s not hitting line drives nearly as often, and his ground ball and fly ball rates are both up
– When he’s hitting line drives, they’re not going anywhere: only 3% turn into home runs. That’s awful. Vidro gets twice that (this year, last year he was at 4%)
The only real difference between this season and the last two is that Johjima seems to be swinging at and making contact with a lot more pitches out of the zone. If you look at Fangraphs’ data, you see the one thing that really spikes this year is his “O-Contact” which is the number of pitches outside the zone they make contact with when swinging.
More baffling, though, he’s not swinging at those more often — he’s just hitting them a lot more often, not making good contact, and they’re going for outs. We’ve all seen this (and ended up screaming at him, or the TV, to please knock that off).
Is it a quirk of the season to date? When everything else seems stable except for one weird stat, my instinct is often to shrug and chalk it up to chance. Johjima’s stance isn’t changed from last year, and I haven’t been able to find anything about him switching to a longer bat, for instance, and if there’s a change at work it doesn’t seem to be affecting much else about his game. And yet between these two things:
– he’s making a lot more crappy contact on crappy pitches, and
– overall, his power numbers are way, way down, more than I’d even expect from the contact issue
I am worried. But I don’t have anything to offer that might help. I think I keep hoping that it’s just a random fluke, because the worst case is that the M’s just signed a catcher to a lucrative extension as his hitting game started to fall apart. We have enough bad news to dwell on already.