Last year my second published piece on D-Rays Bay was about Elliot Johnson; would he become the second baseman of the future and therefore set off a domino effect to the rest of the infield. Well I'm back to Elliot Johnson, he's in Durham this time however, not Montgomery, and he's struggling mightily. His batting average from last year with the Biscuits, .281, has regressed to .204, his OPS is down .150 points, the question is; what the hell is wrong with Elliot Johnson?
Upon noticing the sizable degrade in the key offensive categories I began looking for the answers to why Johnson is struggling, and amazingly the reasons were easily diagnosed.
Let's begin with Johnson's strikeout rates, last year they were around 23%, this year 24%, doesn't seem significant until you realize that he's on pace to eclipse last season by eight strikeouts or about 130 on the season, obviously this wasn't too big of a deal, sure it would lower his numbers, but not significantly enough that he'd land just ahead of the Mendoza line. Similarly I looked at his walk rates, and again he's projected to finish with slightly more than last season, about 43, five more than last season, making the strikeout numbers a moot point.
The next logical step was looking at Johnson's BABIP (batting average on balls in play), only .254, which is absurdly low. Consider Johnson's career low in BABIP, .310 in A ball resulted in a batting average of .260. Looking at his ground ball numbers they showed very little increase, from 46% to 49% this season, and then it was clear, Johnson's struggles are due to his low line drive rates.
Last year he had a LD% of 20%, to estimate BABIP you take the percent, .200 in this case, and add it to .120, meaning he probably should've had a BABIP of around .320, he overachieved and got lucky with a BABIP .027 points higher than projected. This season his LD% is at 12%, again very low, his BABIP would be around .240, so technically he's been lucky thus far to add .014 points to his BABIP. The remedy for Johnson's troubles? Hit more line drives, hopefully hitting coach Gary Gaetti notices the same thing and is all ready working with Johnson to do just that, otherwise it could become a very long second half of the season for Elliot Johnson.