On today’s list of the #26-#50 players in baseball according to the ESPN 500, Marlins ace Josh Johnson came in at #30, one spot behind fellow sometimes-injured starter Chris Carpenter. It’s easy to see why Johnson (and Carpenter, for that matter) ranked so highly, as they are dominating starters when they take the mound. Johnson’s career ERA- is 70, meaning that he’s prevented runs at a rate 30 percent better than an average pitcher over that time. To put that in perspective, Roy Halladay‘s career ERA- is 71. On a per-inning basis, Johnson stacks up favorably against any pitcher in the game.
However, while Johnson’s quality level is extremely high, his quantity of innings pitched is relatively low. He’s managed just 725 innings across parts of seven seasons, and has managed to make more than 14 starts in a season just three times in his career. Persistent health problems have been an issue that Johnson just hasn’t been able to shake, and given his lingering shoulder problems that limited him to just 60 innings pitched last year, the Marlins need to have muted expectations for how often he’ll be able to take the hill in 2012.
That realization is a large part of the reason that the team aggressively pursued Mark Buehrle as a free agent. Buehrle might be the furthest thing from Johnson currently pitching in the game today – a soft-tossing left-hander who rarely gets a strikeout but who is a mortal lock to take the hill every fifth day, and pitch deep into the ballgame at that. Buehrle has reached the 200 inning mark in an astounding 11 consecutive seasons, and has never once been on the disabled list. In fact, he’s never missed a start for any reason since being called up to the big leagues in 2000. And yet, the ironman among current starting pitchers was rated only 134th by the voters in the ESPN 500, sliding in between Aramis Ramirez and John Danks.
So, we know that the voters prefer quality over quantity in their starting pitchers, but now that the Marlins have both, which one is likely to provide more value for Miami in 2012?
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