Obscure Spotlight: Jason Johnson

Jason JohnsonNow, I understand, Jason Johnson is a great guy. He won the Tony Conigliaro award for spirit and determination in 2001, and by all accounts he’s a class act, both on and off the field. But for two months in 2006, I hated Jason Johnson more than any man in baseball. Johnson was a member of the Red Sox after they bought his contract from Cleveland, and his stint was a perfect, unmitigated disaster. I felt a great weight lifted from my narrow, 16-year old shoulders when Boston released him on August 28. So the point is, I’m biased against Jason Johnson.

As the stat geeks tell us,  pitching wins isn’t an important stat–they tell us that wins for a pitcher, is usually a function of factors out of the pitcher’s hands. That being said, at SOME point, Jason Johnson’s dismal 56-100 career record as a Major League hurler has to mean something. Johnson won just 35.9 percent of his decisions in the Majors, posting a winning record just once in his 11 MLB seasons.

Apart from his win-loss record though, Johnson was consistently one of the  worst starting pitchers in the league throughout his career. From his 4.99 career ERA, to his astounding 1.488 WHIP and 10.1 hits allowed per nine innings, it’s a true wonder that Johnson stuck around as long as he did.

Johnson signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1992, and made his Major League debut five years later for Pittsburgh. During the 1997 offseason, the Devil Rays picked Johnson in the expansion draft, but a year later he moved on to Baltimore, where he spent a plurality of his career, five seasons.

2001 was Johnson’s best season in the Majors, as he posted a 10-12 record with a 4.09 ERA in 32 starts for the O’s. It was the only season in which Johnson allowed fewer than 9 hits per 9 innings (8.9) and was one of only two seasons he pitched to a sub-4.5 ERA.

All told, Johnson pitched for eight Major League teams in his 11 seasons, not including his 2007 season, which he spent as a member of the Seibu Lions of the Nippon League. His last season in the Majors was a brief stint with the Dodgers in 2008. The 40-year old was last seen pitching for the Amarillo Sox of the American Association of Independent Pro Baseball. And I betcha he’s finally got that K-BB ratio up to par.



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