As a Twins fan Francisco Liriano has made me well aware that coming
back as strong as ever from Tommy John elbow surgery is far from
guaranteed, but Josh Johnson of the Marlins is proving to be one of the
operation’s biggest success stories.
Johnson tossed a complete-game Sunday against the Blue Jays and is
tied for the NL lead with a dozen Quality Starts in 14 tries. He’s now
13-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts since returning from Tommy John
surgery in the middle of last season and has basically improved his
performance across the board since going under the knife:
IP SO/9 BB/9 GB/FB MPH
Pre-Surgery 169 7.6 4.1 1.35 91.8
Post-Surgery 185 7.8 2.4 1.65 94.2
Johnson was a really good pitcher before the surgery, nearly winning
the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006, but since coming back
his strikeouts are up slightly, his walks are down 40 percent, he’s
inducing 20 percent more ground balls, and his fastball has picked up
another 2-3 miles per hour. Meanwhile, take a look at the same pre- and
post-surgery comparison for Liriano:
IP SO/9 BB/9 GB/FB MPH
Pre-Surgery 145 11.0 2.4 2.24 94.8
Post-Surgery 147 7.9 4.1 1.01 91.2
Liriano also nearly won the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie and
was basically as good as a starting pitcher can be, going 11-3 with a
2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings while inducing over two
ground balls for every fly ball. However, since the surgery his
strikeouts are down 30 percent, his walks are up 70 percent, he’s
inducing as many fly balls as ground balls, and his fastball velocity
has dropped 3-4 mph.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.