Jim Johnson: To start or not to start? That is the question

Here are the two best reasons I can think of for keeping Jim Johnson as a reliever next season:

* He’s an excellent relief pitcher.
* He’s easily the best option for closer among the current roster.

But here is the reason I still think he should be used in the rotation next year:

* The Orioles’ starting rotation ERA this year was 5.39.

That is bad, real, real bad. But there is some hope it can get much better in a hurry. What if Zach Britton improves even a little on his rookie year, Brian Matusz looks more like the 2010 Matusz and Johnson moves to the starting five.

Things could get better in a hurry.

But that creates holes in the bullpen, doesn’t it? It does, but my response continues to be this to that - you have to fix innings one through six before you worry about seven, eight and nine.

When the Orioles were 30-31 on June 10, the ERA of the starters was 4.07 and they had recorded 31 quality starts. The rest of the year, as the team went 39-62, it was 6.27. Ouch. That is just awful.

The Orioles recorded just 29 quality starts over the last 101 games. Last year, when they finished 34-23 under Buck Showalter, they recorded 36 quality starts and a 3.16 starters’ ERA.

So let’s review:
3.16 ERA the last 57 games of 2010 with 34-23 record.
4.07 ERA the first 61 games of 2011 with 30-31 record.
6.27 ERA the last 101 games of 2011 with 39-62 record.

Funny how the record gets better as the starting pitching gets better.

Johnson was a starter in the minors and he has multiple plus pitches to include that great changeup, excellent heater and power sinker.

Plus, as he indicated in a late-season interview, he wants the chance to start again.

I have heard some say he will lose some velocity as a starter. Maybe, but he will still have more than enough to get the job done.

The quickest way to improving the Orioles’ won-loss record is improving the starting pitching. The Orioles would love to add a top of rotation starter this winter and, in Johnson, they may have one that is already here.

Now the Orioles could make some trades and/or acquisitions that make it more reasonable to keep Johnson in the bullpen or as closer. But, in my opinion, looking toward next year, he is needed more in the rotation right now.

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