San-Man on Kelly Johnson

Visitor axed about Kelly Johnson as a possible 90% Orlando Hudson for 30% the cost.  Fortunately for Visitor, we've got a crack sabr-surgeon on hand who roots Braves.  :- )

Enter San-Man.  He sez,

Kelly Johnson came in, hit up a storm, and I was thinking, (at the time), OH BOY!  A good hitting, young middle infielder ... he could be the next Chipper ... a decades long All-Star, but at an even juicier position than 3B.  But, like many players who start off big, the league adjusted, and he's struggled a bit, since.

KJ's Runs Created per 27 outs in 2007 was 6.1 and 5.4, right where Orlando Hudson's were at their peak, and in the same way -- solid lefty AVG, good BB, good gap power, not much in the way of SB.


I think long term, he's a .780ish bat with 10-HR power who will draw 50-60 walks.  The problem is that his hitting profile has been so unstable, it's hard to get a clear read on what he "really" is.  His age 25 season, ('07), he had 100 points of patience, and an ISO of .180.  The next year, he had 62 points of patience, and an ISO of .159.  This season, in sporadic play, 79 patience, and an ISO of 165, (and as noted, a BABIP that completely tanked). 

The picture just doesn't make much sense.  His EYE ratio has gone 1.48 -- 2.17 -- 1.69 the past three seasons. 

No, it doesn't make much sense ... if we get some time we'll ask Eye-Gor to check it out...


Defensively, he's meh.  Knowing how sketchy defensive stats are, my eyes on combined with my stat watching says pretty much the same thing ... he's decent, but never going to be spectacular.  He was one of only 10 2Bs in baseball to reach 700 chances in 2008, (a full season) ... and only Kinsler did it in fewer innings.  His fielding percentage is poor, but not killer bad.  About half of all full-time 2Bs have similar error totals -- so he's bottom half in that regard.

Interesting that Matty thinks his defense rules him out for playing 2B.  Maybe he'll elaborate.

KJ has average-solid, 103-ish Baseball Prospectus RATE stats as I recall ... average RF's ... had two bad years in 2007-08 per UZR and was fine last year ... Pinto's PMR tends to have Johnson about a 4.0, 4.5 on a scouting scale IIRC, not bad towards 1B, not so hot up-the-middle...

If the new regime is treating defense as an absolute (witness Hannahan and Chavez last year) then KJ is probably not an option...  If it's taking all-around value, I'd guess KJ's defense is passable...

It could well be, that KJ's iffy defense is plenty right there to cause the M's to drive by without much of a glance at the car on the side of the road.  I hope not, but judging by the Jack Hannahan etc. chapters, am guessing that's the case.


As to why the Braves are wanting to move him?  Two words - Prado and Infante.  Prado is younger, looks just a bit better in the field, and appears to be as good, perhaps a hair better at the plate, and has more remaining upside potential.  Basically, it's not that Kelly isn't worth having, it's that the Braves are currently blessed with MI depth. 

Right.  KJ is out in Atlanta, and on Dec. 12th they've got to pay him what, $3M to back up, or else non-tender him.

So, somebody could come up with a real cheap second baseman in the next month, provided that they're willing to decide that quickly.


San-Man's comment ...

Me?  I think KJ would be a lateral move compared to Lopez ... but one that would appeal to lots of Seattle fans, who would see Johnson's lefty bat and patience as improvements, even if the aggregate isn't actually more productive.

That's the moderately-optimistic take.   If Johnson gets back to .280/.370/.450, or even a notch less, then "lateral" is the minimum.  Sandy's assuming KJ won't get all the way back, I guess.

Nice that the Braves-fan sabermetrician judges KJ to be a bounceback.


The danger with Johnson is that his BABIP plunge is symptomatic of something larger.  I don't believe this to be true, but must recognize that it could be.

I've gotten gun shy on "assuming" that massive plunging BABIPs are just luck -- (thank you Richie Sexson).

Agree 1,000%.

For those who just joined us, Sexson had two excellent years in Seattle, and in year 3 he had a BABIP of .212 or somesuch, and in year 4 he was a mental wreck.

but there's no real evidence he adopted a pepper swing, as he actually had a 10 point spike in XBH%.

At last a chance to go my own way :- ) ... hate agreeing with NL fans as much as I had been.  Makes me feel doity.

POTD Kelly Johnson


Dr D


eastcoastmariner's picture

Great post guys. I was actually planning on posting something on Kelly Johnson myself in the near future but you guys just about covered everything. I'll see if I can find anything else in the meantime that makes him a worthwhile possibility for the M's at second base.

Anonymous's picture

KJ is a good rebound candidate offensively IMO.
I'd be ok with .265/.335/.420 at 2B, I just don't know if the D is there.
If you're looking for a one-year stop-gap Placido Polanco makes a lot of sense. Similar bat, way better D, no specs, low $. For whatever reason Polanco hasn't shown any signs of decline yet.

IcebreakerX's picture

Though I think Kelly Johnson is a good candidate for 'cake baked by someone else ready to be eaten', I'm also not a huge fan of really fringy NL players anymore.
IMO, 2B is one of the positions that really isn't a problem position. I can understand if we're talking about somehow stealing Ben Zobrist or Chase Utley, but I don't see any moves that would absolutely positively necessitate flushing Lopez out the door. Most of the players we've discussed are parallel-at-best moves.
Lopez is getting to the point that HE'S the best of the of ready bake bread type of player. I find the waves coming out of Edgar Martinez Drive interesting, because they don't seem to be particularly rational.

OBF's picture

and eat theirs too???
I keep seeing J-Lo OR O-Hud.
or Lopez OR Johnson.
Why not both???
I say move Lopez to third.  Get another nice 2B (O-Hud, or Kelly, or whomever).  Re-sign Branyan and we are one Jack Wilson regaining his NL self away from have a VERY nice infield!  As an extra added bonus Tui gets to ease in gently into his rookie year getting 200-300 ABs as the back up 1b, 2b, 3b.  Josh Wilson or Hannahan takes backup SS (I prefer Hanny).  Carp is lurking in AAA in case Branyan hurts his back again, or if Dunn needs to have a few days off from DHing :) :) :)

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