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Johnson has lost some zip in his arm this year.
The Marlins will know Johnson’s arm better than anyone in the world, so they will have spotted the decline in his performance, which indicates he is no longer worthy of his contract.
Writing for FishStripes.com, Michael Jong picked up on an interesting point that has significant implications for Johnson’s future. Jong reported that Johnson’s fastball has lost 1.7 mph of velocity, dropping to an average of 92.8 mph.
Jong also cites Mike Fast at Hardball Times.com when the latter wrote that every mile per hour a pitcher loses on his fastball is equivalent to a quarter of a run in production. This sort of drop-off isn’t a good omen, as it indicates Johnson will never return to the standard he set himself in 2009-10.
Johnson is set to make $13.75 million next year—as he did this year—which isn’t really justified by his results.
Pitchers—along with most other athletes—are judged on wins. Johnson’s win-loss percentage this year is .421, which is his worst ever in the major leagues when he has played more than four games in a season.
He has also conceded 12 home runs—five of them in August alone—which is his worst total since 2009. With around a month still to go, it could turn out to be his worst season ever in that respect.
It’s arguable that his numbers are a little skewed by his appalling start to the season and that he has shown a good deal of improvement since the All-Star Game.
These points remain valid, but they don’t make Johnson any less of a gamble for another year.
A further decline in 2013 would be intolerable.
Next season marks the final year of Johnson’s contract, and he could yet put up good numbers. However, the trades for Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi showed that the Marlins are now looking to build depth and young talent. Both Turner and Eovaldi are not yet complete pitchers, but they are getting experience and have shown good potential for the future of the Marlins rotation.
The draft, too, has demonstrated that the Fish are picking out young pitchers to contribute on long-term bases.
The spending spree of the last offseason—especially the money given to Heath Bell—was a mistake, one from which the Marlins need quickly to learn.
It’s youth from here on out, and it’s difficult to see how Johnson fits into this.
If anything, now that the bigger picture is in view, his place and salary are actually of detriment to the team.