Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman Opposes Brian Johnson in Series Finisher

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 28: Brian Johnson #61 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the second inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park on June 28, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 28: Brian Johnson #61 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the second inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park on June 28, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

On Sunday, July 15, the Blue Jays will look for a series sweep in the final game of a four game set against the Boston Red Sox. Brian Johnson will be activated off the disabled list before the game in order to take on Marcus Stroman.

Brian Johnson was placed on the disabled list on July 8th, retroactive to July 5th. The left-hander injured his hip while running the bases in a game against the Washington Nationals. In a cruel twist of fate for the Red Sox, Johnson was already an injury replacement for Steven Wright.

While starting on Sunday, the southpaw will have to undergo two conditions that he has not enjoyed this year: playing at home, and playing during the day. Curiously, the lefty has posted a 5.33 ERA (25.1 IP) at home, but a 2.79 ERA (19.1 IP) on the road. As well, while pitching during the day he has allowed a terrible 13.50 ERA (6.0 IP), but during the night, he has managed a much better 2.79 ERA (38.2 IP).

Furthermore, he has hated pitching against righties this year—and the Blue Jays are extremely right-handed. Lefties against Johnson have posted a poor .235/.304/.314 slash line. However, righties have hit for a great .313/.353/.466 line. Interestingly, the left-hander has allowed five home runs to right-handed hitters, but none to left-handed hitters.

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The Blue Jays should look to hit early, or get ahead against the left-handed hurler. In clean counts, hitters have managed a .364/.364/.545 slash against the starter. As well, in 1-0 counts, those numbers jump to a .412/.412/.824 line. Finally, in 2-0 counts, hitters have really hurt the Red Sox hurler, maintaining a .600/.600/.2000 slash line.

Overall, the southpaw has been mediocre for Boston. Through 24 appearances, and three starts, he has posted a 4.23 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 1.478 WHIP, and 104 ERA+. In total, he has been worth 0.3 fWAR.

Johnson has made most of his appearances out of the bullpen this year. As a result, it is not surprising that he does not feature a wide mix of pitches. This season he has mixed between a four seam fastball, curveball, slider, sinker, and change.

The hurler has used his four seam fastball 52% of the time this season. The four seamer is quite slow, maintaining an average velocity of 89.15 mph. Also, it has not fared well, posting a .287 BAA and .471 SLGA.

The Red Sox starter has broken off hooks 26.5% of the time this season. The breaking ball is decently slow, posting an average velocity of 75.83 mph—but it creates good sweeping break. Despite this great movement, the pitch has resulted in just 13 punch outs this year. However, it has controlled power well, allowing a tiny .098 ISOA.

Johnson has thrown his slider 18.2% of the time this season. The pitch is also decently slow, maintaining an average velocity of 79.34 mph. However, much like the curve, the slider holds good movement, dropping hard before it reaches the plate. Despite this movement, batters have loved the breaking ball, hitting for a .387 BAA.

The lefty completes his pitch offerings with occasional sinkers and change-ups. The sinker has seen action just 2.4% of the time. The starter has thrown his change just 0.8% of the time this season. In very limited usage, neither pitch has coughed up a hit this year.

He has not struck out many batters this year. Although he has appeared out of the bullpen, for the most part, he has struggled to a 19% K-rate and 7.46 K/9. Even more concerning, it’s not that he avoids deep counts and pitches to contact—he just doesn’t have swing-and-miss stuff. Evidence of the deep counts he endures are his poor walk numbers. Through 24 appearances he has posted a 6.7% BB-rate and 2.62 BB/9.

In very limited experience, the Blue Jays have loved hitting against the lefty. In 35 at-bats, as a collective, the team has posted an astronomic .448/.525/.829 slash line against the Florida native. Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales account for a large portion of this favourable line. Smoak has three hits, including two doubles, in five at-bats. As well, Morales has gone three-for-six with two RBIs.

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The Blue Jays will finish the opening half of their season against a favourable match-up. After a heartbreaking loss in game three, Toronto will look to bounce back with a big victory on Sunday afternoon. Marcus Stroman will also look to build off his last strong start heading into the break.