Randy Johnson Batting

Nothing's happening in current baseball, so let's take a trip back and examine Randy Johnson's career as a batter against major league pitching.

It's slow. A lot of front offices are closed for the holidays, and those that are still open can do only so much, since big-time players won't move unless everyone's paying attention.

Because it's a slow time of year, and a predictably slow time of year, this is when a lot of people publish their years in review. They either look back on the year that was, or they re-run the year's best material. I don't think we're going to do that. I don't think we should do that. But we can still look back. And looking back is what I'm going to do here, upon Randy Johnson's career as a batter.

Why am I writing a post about Randy Johnson batting? Three reasons:

(1) There's not really much of anything else going on
(2) I was thinking about Randy Johnson the other day
(3) I seem to recall that Randy Johnson was a godawful batter

It's as simple as that. I'm a Mariners fan. I've always been a Mariners fan. I remember watching Randy bat during interleague play. That's significant, because I don't remember watching Ken Cloude or Bill Swift bat during interleague play. Randy stuck out. You wouldn't think that a guy who looked like Randy Johnson would be able to hit, and Randy exceeded said negative expectations. He did eventually get better, I think, but he didn't get much better, and all in all I think his batting career is worthy of reflection.

And so we reflect. If you want to read about Randy Johnson's career as a pitcher, you've come to the wrong place. Here, the topic is Randy Johnson's really terrible career as a batter. We'll do this in bite-size pieces, because I know how the Internet works.

Randy Johnson had a really terrible career as a batter
Really, really terrible. Like 78-for-625 terrible. Plus 2-for-24 in the playoffs. It wasn't just Randy's batting average that was terrible, either; he posted a .153 OBP, and a .305 OPS. Are you familiar with OPS+? Because Randy Johnson's career OPS+ was -22. That is a negative sign in front of the 22. Barry Bonds generated as many total bases between April 29th and June 1st in 2001 as Randy Johnson generated in his entire career.

The Mendoza Line was named after shortstop Mario Mendoza. Randy Johnson's OPS was 202 points lower. Randy Johnson's OPS+ was 63 points lower. Randy Johnson's batting average was just 30 points higher than Jim Abbott's batting average, and Jim Abbott had one hand.

Randy Johnson looked really terrible as a batter
It's not like Randy Johnson had good form and bad results. Randy Johnson had this form and bad results.


That's from the 2009 season, by the way. Johnson's last. That's Johnson at his most experienced as a batter. Earlier in his career, he was much much worse.

Randy Johnson was not the most terrible batter ever
This is a post for another day, but while Randy's -22 OPS+ seems to contradict the very name of the statistic, there have been worse marks. I will bring to your attention one Ben Sheets. Sheets posted an OPS+ of -46. Doug Davis has posted an OPS+ of -49. Aaron Harang has posted an OPS+ of -44, with three walks and 218 strikeouts. And there have been worse still. There have been many worse batters than Randy Johnson.

Randy Johnson did not always look so terrible
Don't get me wrong, Randy Johnson usually looked terrible. He almost always looked terrible. But every so often, he'd come up with one of these:


That is Randy Johnson drilling a double, and looking okay doing it. I would not want to be a pitcher against whom Randy Johnson steps in and looks comfortable. I would feel sad.

Randy Johnson hit a home run once
Only once, on September 19th, 2003, at the age of 39. Facing the Brewers, Johnson got ahead of Doug Davis 2-0 and then knocked a fastball over the left-field fence for a solo homer. Johnson and the Diamondbacks beat the Brewers by a run. Baseball-Reference says that the wind was blowing 12 m.p.h. out to center.

Said Davis later:

"He puts the ball in play, but I didn't know he had pop," Davis told reporters after the game. "And I guarantee he didn't know it, either."

Doug Davis allowed a home run to Randy Johnson. In more than ten plate appearances, Doug Davis never allowed a home run to Jeff Bagwell. He never allowed a home run to Jeromy Burnitz. He never allowed a home run to Miguel Cabrera, or Carlos Delgado, or Brian Giles, or Matt Holliday, or Torii Hunter, or Paul Konerko, or Edgar Martinez, or Alex Rodriguez, or Sammy Sosa, or Frank Thomas, or Jim Thome, or Dan Uggla, or Chase Utley, or Ryan Zimmerman. Randy Johnson.

Randy Johnson has more career home runs than Ben Revere or Reggie Willits.

Randy Johnson drew his first walk at 36
On July 25th, 2000, Randy Johnson faced Garrett Stephenson in the top of the third inning of a scoreless game. Johnson watched four pitches, strangely swung at and fouled off a 3-1 delivery, and then took a ball for a walk. It was his first walk, after nearly 37 years on the planet, and in his 225th trip to the plate. Randy Johnson would go on to finish with a higher career walk rate than Kim Batiste, Robert Perez, Tony Peña Jr., Andres Thomas, and, so far, Eliezer Alfonzo.

Randy Johnson threw lefty and batted righty

Randy Johnson had a higher career BABIP than Eric Munson
Randy actually finished with a higher career BABIP than a number of position players, including Bill Plummer, Luis Gomez and Luis Pujols, but I note Munson specifically because he was drafted third overall in 1999. First was Josh Hamilton. Second was Josh Beckett. Third was a catcher who finished his major-league career with a lower BABIP than Randy Johnson. Randy Johnson swung like this:


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