Nick Johnson and the Power of Disciplined Batting

Landis MarksSenior Analyst IMay 20, 2008

Nick Johnson is the most valuable .220 hitter in baseball. Even when his shots have problems finding holes in the defense he manages to be an asset to the Nationals offense by working pitchers for walks. Johnson has an outstanding on-base-percentage of .415. He  is tied for the team lead in slugging percentage with a respectable .431. That mark has only been equaled by the resurgent Cristian Guzman.Johnson proves the power of plate discipline and what it means to the offense of a major league team.

“Obviously, he’s a guy that doesn’t give many outs away. Regardless of what he is hitting. He still has a .400 on-base percentage,” manager Manny Acta said. “But I think it’s about time now that we start swinging the bat better, and we’ll get compensated for that. Plus, we’re going to put Dmitri Young in there, which we know he’s going to hit. So one thing will cover for the other one.”

The two players aren’t interchangeable parts, however. Young is a better pure hitter, one who knows how to find gaps and deposit line drives into them repeatedly. But his career strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.22) is nearly twice that of Johnson’s (1.13), and his career on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) is 26 points lower (.826 to .852).

Young is a dangerous player when he’s hitting, which he probably will do after he sees a few pitches. But Johnson’s ability to contribute isn’t as tied to pure hitting, and on a team with an average of .235, that consistency is a valuable commodity.

As readers of this column know we are big believers in plate discipline.