Opening Day was pretty disappointing. By the seventh inning I even popped over to Baseball America to see if I could figure out any early odds for the top pick in the 2010 draft.
OK, OK. So I hit the panic button. Time to remember that baseball is all about the marathon, not the sprint. Whether you lose by one run or 20, it's one loss just the same. And momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher (damn! why'd you have to bring him up!?! you were starting to bring me around!).
Check out my preview of the series here for breakdowns on the Marlins' hitters and bullpen. Here's my look at game 2's starting pitching match-up.
Josh Johnson: Johnson is a 6'7", 230 lb. 25-year-old with the stuff and the body to be the next great dominating, innings eating ace. He got off to a great start in 2006, going 157 inning with a fielding independent ERA of 3.99 (and an actual ERA way down at 3.10, though the FIP was a fairer indication of his ability). But then Joe Girardi sent him out to start a game after a long rain delay, an obvious injury risk that would have been a bad idea with a veteran off the slag heap and was totally idiotic with a 22-year-old phenom. One Tommy John surgery later, Johnson is back and finally, hopefully, 100%.
Johnson throws both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball to go along with a hard slider and a change. His velocity is actually up a few ticks since the TJ, which is not uncommon, and his fastball now sits comfortably in the 94-mph range. The two-seamer (aka sinker) allows him to generate 50% groundball rates while striking out 20% of batters faced. Those are Cy Young rates, and though he's struggled with command in the past, last year in 87 innings he sliced his walk rate from a slightly problematic 10.3% in 2006 to an excellent 7.4%. If he can maintain that while keeping the groundball and strikeout rates where they are now (and stay healthy), he's going to have a Hall of Fame career.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Today he needs to beat the Nationals, and if our past performance against sinkerballers (see: Hudson, Tim or Lowe, Derek) is any indication, he should do well, although the range-limited trio of Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla, and Hanley Ramirez doesn't do Johnson any favors. In order to beat him, we're going to have to lay off the balls down in the zone and wait for him to elevate, and then when he does punish him. Given the platoon split and plate command, Dunn and Johnson will have the best shot at doing serious damage, and Guzman should be able to pick up a few hits slapping the ball through the infield. Milledge and Flores could really struggle.
Season record: 1-0
Johnson rolls, and Scott Olsen, who is terrible, gets pounded by his old mates. Marlins 10-1.