Nick Johnson was amusingly tagged with the nickname “OBP Jesus” early in his career and has certainly earned the title in the years since then, ranking as one of just 10 active players with a .400 on-base percentage in at least 3,000 plate appearances:
OBP Albert Pujols .427 Todd Helton .427 Lance Berkman .412 Manny Ramirez .411 Chipper Jones .406 Jason Giambi .405 Bobby Abreu .404 Jim Thome .404 NICK JOHNSON .402 Brian Giles .400
Particularly noteworthy about Johnson’s place in that amazing company is that he has both the lowest batting average and the least power in the group:
ISOP AVG Albert Pujols .294 Albert Pujols .334 Jim Thome .280 Todd Helton .328 Manny Ramirez .278 Manny Ramirez .313 Lance Berkman .256 Chipper Jones .307 Jason Giambi .245 Lance Berkman .299 Todd Helton .239 Bobby Abreu .299 Chipper Jones .234 Brian Giles .291 Brian Giles .211 Jason Giambi .282 Bobby Abreu .194 Jim Thome .277 NICK JOHNSON .174 NICK JOHNSON .273
Getting on base at a .400 clip is a lot easier when you’re batting .300 and walking is a lot easier when pitchers are afraid to throw you strikes, yet Johnson has amassed a .402 OBP while hitting just .273 with a .173 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) that’s barely above the MLB average of .160. If any of the great on-base threats of this era have truly drawn their walks it’s Johnson, whose walk rate ranks fourth among all active players behind sluggers Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and Jason Giambi.
Now he’s back in New York, where as a Yankees prospect he had a .450 OBP in the minors and then got on base at a .376 clip through 248 games in the majors before being shipped to the then-Expos for Javier Vazquez. Johnson returns six years later, having posted a .412 OBP in 522 games while missing another 450 games with a never-ending list of injuries. And the man they call OBP Jesus will likely be doing his OBP’ing and walk-drawing directly in front of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Good luck, pitchers.