Until a couple of months ago, Orioles farmhand Steve Johnson was best known for being the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson. If he was known at all. It’s not like the baseball world was waiting with bated breath for the offspring of Dave Johnson to come and save the game. Dave Johnson’s claim to fame was that he led the AL in homers allowed in his one full season in the rotation (he ended his career in 1993 with a 22-25 record and a 5.11 ERA).
Now, back to Steve. Ignoring two emergency starts Johnson made in Double-A at the tender age of 18 in 2006, here’s how Steve has done in his intro to every level of baseball.
2005 Rookie ball: 0-2, 9.53 ERA in 11 1/3 IP
2006 Rookie adv: 5-5, 3.89 ERA in 78 2/3 IP
2007 Low-A ball: 3-6, 4.85 ERA in 81 2/3 IP
2008 High-A ball: 3-6, 7.10 ERA in 52 IP
2009 Double-A: 3-2, 2.84 ERA in 38 IP
2011 Triple-A: 2-7, 5.56 ERA in 87 1/3 IP
2012 Majors: 4-0, 1.62 ERA in 33 1/3 IP
Now, how exactly does one explain that? Johnson got the call for Baltimore in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader and shut out the Jays for five innings to pick up a victory. He’s won all three of his starts, striking out 22 in 16 innings in the process. Including his eight relief appearances, he’s fanned 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings.
Which is pretty awesome. Particularly from a guy who was a .500 pitcher and had a 4.17 career ERA in eight minor league seasons.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.