MLB Talk: Johnson, Owings, Litsch, Giambi, and Maddux

KP WeeSenior Writer IJuly 30, 2008

I've been proven wrong. Again.

Nothing new, but I do acknowledge it when I get it wrong.

Ever since I bashed Arizona's Randy Johnson, he has gone undefeated. In fact, since his July 1st defeat against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Big Unit has gone a perfect 4-0 in his four starts.

His stats during the streak: 1.71 ERA, 19 strikeouts in 26.1 innings pitched.

Not a high number of K's, but Johnson does have a 10-strikeout game mixed in there. And he hasn't allowed a run in back-to-back starts.

I will say it's mind-boggling though; at the time I criticized Johnson, he was 4-7 with a 5.46 ERA and had just lost his sixth straight start. I argued he should have been taken out of the rotation because he was costing the Diamondbacks victories as the Los Angeles Dodgers were making a huge dent into Arizona's once-insurmountable lead in the NL West.

Meanwhile, Micah Owings has lost his job in the D-Backs' rotation. In fact, he'd been relegated to the bullpen since losing his fifth straight decision in late June.

At that time, Owings was 6-7 with a 5.18 ERA. Keep in mind he'd started the year 4-0. Thus, Owings' 2-7 mark in a dozen starts since then (with a 6.27 ERA) was a huge cause for concern.

My question is: at that time, why wouldn't you put Johnson in the pen and keep Owings in the rotation?

After all, Johnson is a lefty, and I'd think opposing batters would still fear the Big Unit. Imagine Johnson coming out of the pen for an inning or two and intimidating the other hitters. It would have given the D-Backs another option with an extra lefty in the pen, as Owings is right-handed.

Also, Owings is only 25 and in his sophomore year. Johnson is 44. Wouldn't you want to keep sending a youngster out there every fifth day so he could build on his confidence? What good would sending out a forty-plus year-old pitcher every time out when (at the time) it looked like he was done?

Owings is also a good hitter. He smacked four dingers and batted .333 in his rookie year in 2007. This season Owings has already homered once and has 15 hits in 52 at-bats (.288 average). The righty can certainly help his own cause at the plate, meaning the D-Backs wouldn't have an automatic out in the ninth spot of the lineup.

Anyway, the D-Backs sure look brilliant now; Johnson is thriving again and Arizona is still in first place.

I guess the difference was Johnson's multiple Cy Young Awards and proven track record. Having a future Hall-of-Famer starting was surely a safer bet.

Speaking of Cy Young, I sure look dumb now when I suggested the Blue Jays' Jesse Litsch, Toronto's fifth starter at the time, was a sure All-Star and a potential Cy Young candidate when he started out 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA.

I also applauded Litsch for being a team guy by offering to pitch in relief in a blowout game in Philadelphia in May.

Since then, the wheels have fallen off. Litsch went 1-6 with a 6.12 ERA before earning a trip to the minors.


And I bashed Jason Giambi when he started out hitting .109.

In the 50 games since my criticisms, Giambi went on a tear, bashing out 15 homers in 161 at-bats and hitting .317. Wow. (If you do the math, that works out to be 47 home runs in 500 at-bats.)

Some in the media were writing that Giambi deserved a shot in the All-Star Game (which I totally disagreed with).

Well, from Jun. 24 up to today, the Giambino has slumped again, hitting .215 in the last 26 games. But oh, more importantly, his New York Yankees (59-48) are back in the race, just four out in the AL East and 1.5 games back in the Wild Card race.

Oh yeah, New York has added I-Rod too, to play with A-Rod. The Yankees, who have lost catcher Jorge Posada for the rest of the season, picked up Ivan Rodriguez from the Detroit Tigers earlier today.

And back to Johnson and the D-Backs before I wrap up: Steve Henson from Yahoo! Sports has written that Arizona probably isn't going to acquire 351-game winner Greg Maddux. The Mad Dog reportedly has included the D-Backs and the L.A. teams as among the clubs he'd be willing to be traded to.

Arizona, however, apparently isn't interested in Maddux, which would be a shame. If Maddux does head to the desert, the D-Backs could have two 300-game winners--Johnson is eight wins away from the 300 club—in the same rotation.