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Liriano and Johnson: A tale of two surgeries

Jun 15, 2009, 12:53 PM EDT

As a Twins fan Francisco Liriano has made me well aware that coming
back as strong as ever from Tommy John elbow surgery is far from
guaranteed, but Josh Johnson of the Marlins is proving to be one of the
operation’s biggest success stories.

Johnson tossed a complete-game Sunday against the Blue Jays and is
tied for the NL lead with a dozen Quality Starts in 14 tries. He’s now
13-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts since returning from Tommy John
surgery in the middle of last season and has basically improved his
performance across the board since going under the knife:

                  IP    SO/9     BB/9     GB/FB      MPH
Pre-Surgery 169 7.6 4.1 1.35 91.8
Post-Surgery 185 7.8 2.4 1.65 94.2

Johnson was a really good pitcher before the surgery, nearly winning
the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006, but since coming back
his strikeouts are up slightly, his walks are down 40 percent, he’s
inducing 20 percent more ground balls, and his fastball has picked up
another 2-3 miles per hour. Meanwhile, take a look at the same pre- and
post-surgery comparison for Liriano:

                  IP    SO/9     BB/9     GB/FB      MPH
Pre-Surgery 145 11.0 2.4 2.24 94.8
Post-Surgery 147 7.9 4.1 1.01 91.2

Liriano also nearly won the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie and
was basically as good as a starting pitcher can be, going 11-3 with a
2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings while inducing over two
ground balls for every fly ball. However, since the surgery his
strikeouts are down 30 percent, his walks are up 70 percent, he’s
inducing as many fly balls as ground balls, and his fastball velocity
has dropped 3-4 mph.

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