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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Looking at Johnson and Kim

Watching Saturday's game on TiVo tonight. Not much to say about it right now...the field must have been soaking wet whenever the Reds were playing defense, as we had three guys fumble or throw the ball away on ground balls over the first three innings. But at least I've got a cold Fat Tire in my hand. And I did get to see Brandon Phillips rock the house with a three-run homer.

Anyway, while I'm focusing on Reds baseball, I wanted to take a belated look at Jason Johnson and Sun-Woo Kim.

Jason Johnson

We'll start with Johnson, who was signed to a minor league contract on August 30th. It's been a rough season for Johnson, who started the season in the Cleveland rotation after signing a $3.5 million contract. He was eventually was released due to poor performance, and signed with the Red Sox mid-season, where he continued to implode. With the Reds, he's been used entirely out of the bullpen, though I would not be surprised to see him in the rotation at some point this season. Recent Stats:
Team IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP PERA VORP GB%
2003/BAL 189.7 5.6 3.8 1.05 0.301 4.18 4.73 4.85 25.9 48%
2004/DET 196.7 5.7 2.8 1.01 0.301 5.13 4.30 4.35 13.9 51%
2005/DET 210.0 4.0 2.1 0.99 0.281 4.54 4.44 4.63 16.7 54%
2006/BOS-A+ 7.0 1.3 0.0 0.00 0.333 5.14 2.91 --- --- ---
2006/CIN-AAA 5.0 3.6 1.8 1.80 0.278 9.00 5.60 --- --- ---
2006/BOS-AAA 19.0 5.7 2.8 0.47 0.237 3.32 3.57 --- --- ---
2006/BOS 29.3 5.5 4.0 0.92 0.352 7.36 4.63 --- --- ---
2006/CLE 77.0 3.7 2.6 1.17 0.330 5.96 4.91 --- --- ---
2006/CIN 7.0 3.9 0.0 1.29 0.250 2.57 4.20 --- --- ---
Coming into this season, there was a lot to like about the 32-year old right-hander. Playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, he had strung together two consecutive mid-4's FIP & PERA seasons (his ERA in 2004 was substantially higher than his peripherals indicate it should have been, indicating some bad luck), with good control and above-average HR-allowed rates. Sure, he didn't strike a lot of guys out, but he was a very serviceable #4 guy.

So what happened? The biggest factor seems to be his lowered strikeout rate, which could indicate a drop in velocity...which is not unusual for a 32-year old. His K-rate increased a bit in Boston, although there he completely lost his control. In both cases, his BABIP was a bit higher than normal, though this can happen without any substantial "unluckiness" when pitchers get hit hard -- especially when their K-rates are down. Even so, his ERA's probably were a bit higher than he deserved.

Nevertheless, when he arrived in Cincinnati, I was enthusiastic about the signing. It didn't cost the Reds any more of those Players to be Named Later that they've been distributing around the leagues, and we got a guy with a track record of recent, legitimate success. He's not a Bronson Arroyo or even a Kyle Lohse; he doesn't have their stuff, and, in contrast to those players, Johnson is probably at the tale end of his career at 32. But it was the sort of move that the Reds should be making at that point in the season, as he had a chance to be a solid guy in the rotation over the last month. Of course, the Reds have yet to give him a shot in the role. Best case scenario, I could see Johnson giving us a win or two more in September than we otherwise will have by month's end. Probably wouldn't have made the difference, but I think it would have been a smart move to give him a larger role.

Sun-Woo Kim

The 28-year old Kim was acquired from the Colorado Rockies for "future considerations" on September 5th, which can sometimes mean a minor league player and other times means cash. He has been popping up and down between the majors and the minors since his debut with the Boston Red Sox in 2001. Some recent stats:
Team IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP PERA VORP GB%
2003/MTL-AAA 132.3 5.6 3.6 1.22 0.291 5.03 4.92 6.38 -11.1 --
2003/MTL 14.0 3.2 5.1 3.86 0.327 8.36 9.77 9.82 -3.1 44%
2004/MTL 135.7 5.8 3.6 1.13 0.286 4.58 4.76 5.05 4.4 52%
2005/WAS-AAA 49.0 7.0 2.8 0.73 0.278 2.76 3.63 4.75 3.5 50%
2005/COL 53.3 6.4 2.2 1.18 0.287 4.22 4.21 4.33 8.2 40%
2005/WAS 29.3 5.2 2.5 0.92 0.349 6.14 4.19 4.45 -2.4 53%
2006/COL-AAA 124.7 5.1 2.6 1.01 0.308 5.05 4.39 --- --- ---
2006/CIN 6.7 5.4 0.0 4.03 0.199 5.40 7.83 --- --- ---
2006/COL 7.0 5.1 10.3 2.57 0.469 19.29 9.20 --- --- ---
Kim has the adventage of being younger than Johnson. But that doesn't mean he's any good, of course. Kim's best year thus far in his career is undoubtedly his 2004 season with Montreal, where he threw 135.7 innings across 43 appearances, 17 of which were starts. That year, the right-hander showed an average strikeout rate, an average to above-average walk rate, and an average home run rate to produce a thoroughly average season. In other stints across other seasons, he's shown that this is a pretty good read on his abilities, though his walk rate in 2005 was better, showing that he may be capable of slightly better numbers than in 2004...though he'll always be someone who walks a fine line between modest success and catastrophic failure.

Depending on what we end up sending to Colorado for Kim, I'm either indifferent to the deal, or I don't like it. I don't see him as much of an improvement on our rotation (even in its current black-hole state), though I can see him having some modest success as a long reliever.

(as I've written this, the Reds have made two more errors [Phillips and Olmedo], allowed a towering home run to Carlos Zambrano AGAIN, and walked in a run. Glad I've had something else to focus on. But I need another beer. Oops, there goes another error -- Oh EDE, you'd been doing so well...)