How JJ makes more of less
Even among power pitchers, Marlins ace Josh Johnson ranks up there with the best of him.
The 6-foot-7, 250-pound right-hander repeatedly brings the heat when he’s on the mound. His fastball, according to www.fangraphs.com, is the fourth highest on average of any starter in the big leagues. The average of all JJ’s fastballs this season is 94.6 mph.
Pure heat, however, isn’t necessarily the formula for success. Yes, being overpowering enables a pitcher to get away with more mistakes. But to be truly the best of the best, Johnson is aware that he must be better at subtraction with his off-speed pitches.
A good sign for Johnson is when his slider is in the neighborhood of 85-86 mph. The thing with Johnson is, because he throws so hard, even his slider can be 90-91 mph.
Why the benefit of the 10 mph drop in speed off his fastball? Because it is harder to hitters to time.
A case in point came in Johnson’s last start, when he beat the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 10. In the first inning, JJ faced runners on second and third with two outs. On a 2-2 pitch, he struck out Jayson Werth with an 85 mph slider, after he threw a 96 mph fastball for a ball.
The more Johnson learns about subtracting on his slider, the better he will be. At 26, JJ is still learning the finer points of the game.
Hitters have shown they can foul off his 91 mph slider, running up JJ’s pitch count. When he gets them to wave at 85 mph, he becomes virtually unhittable.
A big reason why Nationals sensation Stephen Strasburg is so effective is he throws an 86 mph curveball to complement a 99 mph fastball.
JJ is very skilled at adjusting during games. He is working on spinning the baseball more to reduce velocity. A good indicator on if it is working is if you see the velocity on his slider in the 85 mph range.
– Joe Frisaro