First, Rondell White signs with the Twins and now Jason Johnson signs with the Indians. I’m always leery of former players sticking in the division because that’s when they come back to haunt the Tigers. We’ll probably see Jason Johnson three or four times in 2006.
Jason Johnson is a solid pickup for the Indians. It doesn’t look like they’re going to re-up for Kevin Millwood so they needed someone to fill a spot in the rotation and that’s exactly what Johnson can do for a team. When I talked about Kenny Rogers improving the team, a lot of readers came to Johnson’s defense and said he was just as good as Rogers was last season. And while financial terms weren’t available, Johnson will come for a much cheaper price.
Johnson had an odd year last year. His first and second halves look almost identical. WHIP’s are close (1.31 first half vs. 1.39 second half) and his batting average against is pretty close as well (.281 vs. .291). So while both were down, they weren’t down that much to account for such a spike in his ERA (3.87 vs. 5.34). His season peeked on June 18 when he threw eight solid innings to improve to 5-5 with a 3.07 ERA. After that, he went 3-8 and his ERA ballooned to 4.54.
He’s never struck out a ton of guys, but he’s shown that the “lack of durability” tag he’s had is long gone. He also didn’t walk many batters last year. He’s thrown three straight seasons with at least 32 starts, and his innings pitched have gone up every year with 2005 being a career high 210. Jason Johnson is diabetic and last year he was allowed to wear an insulin pump during starts so this probably has a lot to do with the increase in his innings. It’s also a testament to a man with an apparant disability overcoming the odds to become an effective major league pitcher.
So I’ll be rooting for Jason Johnson unless he’s throwing against the Tigers. He was left for dead after a very rough spring in 2005, but he opened up a ton of eyes after he accepted the loss of the opening day start and got off to a nice first half. Now he’ll get a chance to play for one of the solid up and coming teams in the league.