Scouting Report: Randy Johnson
Johnson made his season debut yesterday vs. the Padres, and his statistics did not look good. He is still clearly recovering from back injury, and did not have his arm strength back entirely. Still, it's worth taking a look at what he threw.
April 24: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks
Fastball (89-96): The velocity on his fastball is similar to his last year with the Yankees. It doesn't have much zip anymore (with the exception of one time in the later innings when he just let it rip and hit 96), but the increased control he learned later in his career is definitely still be there. He also features two different fastballs; the quicker one is a four-seamer, the slower one has more dipping movement at 90 mph and is a two-seamer. In the early innings, his control on this pitch looks outstanding. I'm very impressed with his ability to pitch inside, he's definitely altering his tactics.
The main problem is that he can no longer elevate this pitch. His vulnerability was demonstrated by Adrian Gonzalez, who took a fastball middle-away into the stands. That's pretty surprising given Gonzalez is a leftie--that just wouldn't have happened three or four years ago. In the last two season, apparently only 2 lefthanders have homers from him in the last 2 years, and only 24 home runs in his career were given up to lefties.
Slider (83-87): He struck Marcus Giles out on this pitch in the first inning. The velocity is clearly gone from his old days--he no longer throws in the 87-89 range with this pitch anymore. Its movement is still pretty good, and it really looks like a fastball until it gets close to the plate. He should actually keep the velocity down--when it goes 87 it has much less action. His control with this pitch is great; he seems to put it consistently into the corner where he wants it--down and in to righthanders, and away from lefties. He threw this on three straight pitches to Kouzmanoff, then struck him out with 93 mph heat inside.
This is still his best pitch. He uses it in any count and the movement remains nasty. It does not get hit; hitters either lay off of it, which is smart, or swing and miss. I think the plane it travels in is just too low to get good wood on it.
Splitter (84-86): Johnson uses this pitch as a changeup, and it doesn't have outstanding movement for a splitter. He uses it as a tertiary pitch, and doesn't throw it too often.
Johnson clearly isn't anything close to the pitcher he once was. He is much more hittable now that he no longer regularly throws in the mid to high 90's. Still, he has superb control and I have to believe that a guy who can dial it up to 94 has a good enough fastball to get hitters out consistently, particularly with his control.