Streaming Weekend Starters: Johnson and Straily

Looking at what’s available this weekend, perhaps it should be titled “steaming” weekend starters because there’s slim pick’ens to be had.  Still, there are some interesting options for you should you be in panic mode for wins and strikeouts, a mode in which the author of this post resides in at least two leagues. So let’s get to it.

Steve Johnson

Yes, Steve Johnson. Johnson, who slogged through the minors for the past eight years, seemed to finally put it together in AAA in 2012 with a 2.86 ERA and a 8.5 K/9. He gave up just 66 hits over 91 innings pitched at AAA, striking out 86 batters. He was called up to Baltimore mostly to serve as a reliever where he’s been quite effective — throwing 16 innings, giving up just 7 hits and striking out 21 batters. But he’s also been used as a spot starter, making three starts and he’s been equally good. In those starts, he’s thrown 17 innings, given up 12 hits (10 singles), and struck out 22. His main bugaboo (oh, Mom I blame you for that word) is the free pass as he’s walked 15 batters over his 33.1 innings pitched and he’s had a history of control issues throughout the minors.

Johnson’s not a hard thrower by any means, but he has limited the amount of contact batters have made using a repertoire of four pitches, and has generated a 12% swinging strike rate to date in the bigs. His results have been pretty fantastic and that actually leaves me quite suspicious because, frankly, something’s gotta give here. His 94% strand rate isn’t going to last and if he continues to live as a 50% fly ball pitcher with a 4 BB/9 rate, he’s probably going to get punished one of these days.

So why do I recommend him on Saturday? He’s facing a club that has produced an average 2.7 runs over their last month of baseball. Yes, the Red Sox have a 60 wRC+ as a team over the last 30 days — the next club is the Houston Astros and they’re at 75. The Boston lineup has produced an ISO of .098 during this time span and has — by far — been the most anemic offensive club out there. Steve Johnson gets that match-up, and if you’re fishing for a win and some K’s out of a guy who is free for the taking, you probably can’t do much better.

Dan Straily

There’s been plenty written about Straily who arrived in the majors to a good degree of fanfare given his robust strikeout figures in the minors. He’s had six starts in the big leagues and while the results have been somewhat mixed, he’s certainly flashed the strikeout stuff on a couple of occasions. Overall, he sits at a 3.60 ERA but FIP smells a rat at 5.99. The reason for that ugly latter figure is almost entirely due to the nine home runs he’s given up in just 35 innings pitched.

But in his six starts, Straily has really only been lit up once – giving up four home runs to the Angels back in early August. He’s coming off a unenviable start against Texas (in Arlington) where he went 6.2 IP, giving up five hits, one earned run, striking out eight — and would have won the game if not for a rare stinker from Pat Neshek.

I like Straily’s start on Saturday because he’s at home against the Seattle Mariners who have team slash line of .236/.293/.372 over the last 30 days which is hardly an improvement over their season .233/.295/.367 line. Seattle has been the worst offense against right handed pitchers on the season, hitting just .228/.294/.359, not to mention they’ve been in “talent assessment” mode for quite some time now — putting players like Luis Jimenez, Carlos Triunfel, and Alex Liddi into the lineup fairly routinely. When the biggest problem you’ve got is dealing with John Jaso, you’re in pretty good shape.

Oh, and it turns out Oakland is really good. Who knew?

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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Thanks for pointing out how bad the Red Sox offense really has been lately. Nothing like a terrible season ending on a whole new level of awful. Can’t wait to listen to the media for the next 6 months….