Yesterday, against the ChiSox, Nick Johnson finally drove in a few runs (although that’s not really his job, per se, as he is mainly in the two-hole to get on base). Though he was only 1-for-4 and ended the day with a triple slash line of .141/.368/.234, one thing that was noticeable was that he seemed to hit the ball fairly hard (to the opposite field). With that in mind, as I outlined recently with reliever Dave Robertson, sometimes there are some subtle signs of bad luck factoring into a player’s performance, which subsequently hurt their level of production and effectiveness.
Such seems to be the case for Johnson, who currently owns a .183 BABIP. His career BABIP is actually .309, so there should be some upward movement there as the season continues. One can look to Johnson’s line drive rate for evidence of this. His current rate, at 23.7%, is higher, albeit slightly higher, than his career mark of 22.4%. Generally, when you hit a healthy amount of line drives, hits seemingly fall. For Johnson, however, although he his generating contact – solid contact – inline with his career norms, hits just aren’t falling. This, when viewed in tandem with his low batting average on balls in play, is probably a sign of some bad luck for the always patient Johnson.
Basically, when things are really good, they tend to level out. They won’t be good forever. The same can be said for when things are going pretty poorly. Johnson is, as Joe Girardi noted yesterday, a “proven hitter,” and, at some point this year, probably sooner rather than later, he’s going to “balance himself out” and string together some hits.