Can Josh Johnson Rebuild His Value with Padres, Petco Park?

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Can Josh Johnson Rebuild His Value with Padres, Petco Park?
Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Josh Johnson is now off the boards after he signed a one-year deal with the San Diego Padres, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick:

The deal includes additional performance bonuses based on games started, the source said. Johnson was in San Diego for a physical exam Tuesday and the contract is expected to be announced by the club Wednesday.

Once one of the top young aces in baseball, Johnson has struggled over the last two years, and things weren't looking good for him heading into free agency.

Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan relayed details of Johnson's contract:

The deal is worth a guaranteed $8 million and includes another $1.25 million if Johnson reaches 26 starts. Should he make fewer than seven starts, the Padres would hold a $4 million club option for 2015, sources said.

Now with the Padres, Johnson will have the added benefit of Petco Park and could rebuild his value for next year's free-agent market.

But the question is—can he?

 

The Last Two Seasons

In 2011, Johnson missed most of the year with right shoulder issues. Since then, he hasn't been the same. Here's how he did in the two-plus seasons before the shoulder injury.

Josh Johnson By The Numbers
Year Record QS ERA SO WHIP
2009-11 29-12 53 2.64 433 1.113
2012 8-14 22 3.81 165 1.280
2013 2-8 5 6.20 83 1.660

Baseball-Reference.com

It's obvious to see that Johnson hasn't been the same. It seems he lost a lot in the power and control departments.

Here's how his velocity and sabermetrics numbers look in that same time frame, according to BrooksBaseball.net:

Deeper Inside Josh Johnson's Numbers
Year Fastball Velocity Fastball BAA Slider Velocity Slider BAA
2009-11 95.57 .235 87.80 .192
2012 93.53 .280 87.55 .211
2013 93.41 .339 86.79 .261

BrooksBaseball.net

The fastball and slider are Johnson's two best pitches. But as we see from the chart, as his velocity dropped with those pitches, opponents' averages went up.

Whether it was due to playing in the American League for the first time in his career or the multiple injuries he dealt with, we'll never know. It should be noted that Johnson did have surgery on Oct. 1, according to CBS Sports' Matt Snyder, so that may have been the issue.

Regardless, Johnson hasn't done a lot for himself to earn ace-type money, meaning he was going to have to rebuild his value in some way.

And what better place to do that than one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball in Petco Park.

 

Advantages to Signing with San Diego

Petco Park ranks as one of the best parks for pitchers in every category for 2013, according to ESPN's Park Factor:

Category Number MLB Rank
Runs 0.831 30th
Home Runs 0.936 17th
Hits 0.901 29th
Doubles 0.773 29th

Even with how lousy the Padres have been over the last few years, their home ballpark is still one of the best for pitchers.

The park is deep in both gaps, ranging to 402 feet in right-center and left-center field.

Look at it this way, Johnson gave up 15 home runs in 16 starts last year. That was one more than he gave up the year before in 31 starts in another pitcher's park—Marlins Park.

Compare that to Rogers Centre in Toronto where the park factors were among the top in the league last year. It was fourth in runs (1.118), third in home runs (1.289), ninth in hits (1.026) and first in doubles (1.476).

 

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Can He Rebuild His Value?

Johnson will be 30 next year, which means he's almost halfway through his career. It's now or never.

If he doesn't perform well, then he'll still have a job. He will just be considered a No. 3, 4 or 5 starter the rest of his career and get paid like one. 

As long as Johnson can stay healthy, there's no question he can rebuild his value—and then some.

He was an undeniable top-of-the-rotation starter until 2011's injury. Had that injury not happened, who knows? He might have been the top free-agent pitcher on the market this year as opposed to Matt Garza.

For now, we'll see if he'll be the best (or one of the best) starters on next year's market.

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