There was so much talk today on YES about Johnson’s stuff, and all the hits that he’s given up off the slider, because of its lack of bite, etc., that it brought cause for me to look up some stuff.
The good folks at Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) keep track of everything. And, according to their stats, last year, Randy Johnson’s average fastball was 93.6 MPH. This mark was good for 2nd in the NL – just behind Roy Oswalt at 94.0.
Now, many times on YES, you hear things like “We’re still waiting to see that consistent 98 MPH heater from Johnson.” But, the staff at BIS also track number of pitches thrown at 95+ MPH. And, even though Johnson was 2nd in the NL for “average fastball speed,” he failed to crack the Top Ten in the NL last year for “Most Pitches Thrown at a Speed of 95+.” (In fact, current Yankee Felix Rodriguez threw 469 pitches at 95+ last year in the NL – good for 8th in the league.)
This all tells me that last year, when he was a great pitcher, Unit was basically a 94 MPH thrower – and not someone who consistently hit 97 or 98 on the gun. So, should we be shocked that he’s not hitting the high-90′s this season?
The team at BIS also tracks the Top Ten for “Highest % of Pitches Thrown” – like fastballs, curves, etc. And, last year, Randy Johnson led the NL in “Highest % of Sliders Thrown” with a mark of 41.1%. No one else was close to this mark and most others in the Top Ten were at around 20%. (In the AL, the highest mark for the league last year was 29.8% held by Jon Lieber – and most of the other AL pitchers in the Top Ten were around 20%.)
Based on this, I want to suggest that Unit called on the slider too many times last year and now it’s burnt – just like the year that Pettitte threw too many cutters and then the pitch lost its sharpness the following season.
Therefore, in the end, what we see now is what we’re going to get this year from Johnson – a heater in the low 90′s and a slider that is beat up. And, the dreams of Yankees fans, those that included Randy Johnson going 25-4 in 2005 and leading the team to a ring, are going to be just as busted as the Big Unit’s slider.
Lastly, regarding the 1st and 3rd move today where the runner on 3rd scored after the pitcher threw to first with a pick-off attempt, well, expect to see that play put on every time now when Giambi is playing first. Can you just imagine how much fun Johnny Damon is going to have with that when he’s on 3rd (with a runner on 1st)? I’m already getting sick just thinking about it.