Saturday, March 09, 2013

Morrow and Johnson quite the one-two punch

Josh Johnson faced a split squad Braves team in Florida yesterday. But he still had to face the two Upton brothers and Heyward. The results were about as impressive as you could ask for. He pitched three and two-thirds innings and yielded no hits and no walks and struck out five. He has yet to walk a batter this spring and his strikeout to walk ratio is eight to zero. Yes, it is spring and it doesn't count. But, dang, that is impressive. Brandon Morrow has a five to one strikeout to walk ratio this spring. If these two stay healthy, the Toronto Blue Jays could have one of the best one-two punches in baseball.

The knock on Josh Johnson for all these years is that he could not stay healthy. And indeed, four of his eight seasons have included him missing significant time. But, boy, when he has been healthy, he has been impressive. Well...that is until 2012. Suddenly, he looked quite ordinary despite staying healthy all of 2012. But his season was not quite as bad as the 8-14 record and the 3.81 ERA indicated. His FIP was lower at 3.40 and his WHIP was fairly respectable at 1.280.

Johnson's struggles could have been trying to rebound from only making nine appearances from the year before. Now removed a year from his injury troubles of 2011, Johnson could be poised to start reeling off the kind of numbers that made everyone drool for a few seasons.

I have been a champion of Brandon Morrow for years now. And he has also had some injury issues. He missed twelve more starts in 2012. But in the 21 starts he did make, he started to show that he was really putting it together. I've always thought his stuff was better than his results. He throws six different pitches and five of them are above average. His fastball hums along with an average over 93 MPH.

And like I said, the results started to show last year. His WHIP was 1.115, an excellent number. He only gave up 7.1 hits per nine innings. His ERA was probably a little deceiving at 2.96 as his FIP was seventy-five points higher due mostly to a very low BABIP and a bit of a dip in his strikeout rate.

But I believe in this guy and I always have. So, as I am looking at the pair of Morrow and Johnson, I see a dynamic duo waiting to happen. As always, the health of the pair will be a key. But if both stay healthy? Look out.

And if that happens with R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle behind them, this Blue Jays team suddenly looks quite dangerous. The Blue Jays have to forget the money they have invested in Rickey Romero and scrap him from the rotation. Romero's spring numbers look as bad as his numbers from last season. He just has nothing in his bag of tricks that can get people out right now. J.A. Happ can probably hold the fifth position down better than Romero at this point. It wouldn't take much.

But again, how can Toronto fans not be excited? If Dickey is anywhere close to where he was last year and Morrow and Johnson can blow through lineups, this team is silly in how good it can be. Most people look at the Marlins last year and point to how a good team on paper can fall flat in the season. But the same can be said the other way around. The Nationals were good on paper and were even more terrific in the season. Sometimes the talent pans out to what it looks like it should.

The Blue Jays look like that kind of team. And it all starts with Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson. The two are ridiculously talented. They just need to put it together for one full season of healthy pitching. Both are good enough to win a Cy Young Award. If one of them does, remember that I'll be saying, "Told you so."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here in Blue Jay land we are very excited about this staff. I can't quite write off Romero yet since some of his troubles last year seem to have been related to an elbow problem that has now been taken care of. But yes, Happ may be in the mix soon.