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Six years later, 'OBP Jesus' returns to New York

Dec 18, 2009, 12:55 PM EDT

Nick Johnson was amusingly tagged with the nickname “OBP Jesus” early in his career and has certainly earned the title in the years since then, ranking as one of just 10 active players with a .400 on-base percentage in at least 3,000 plate appearances:

                     OBP
Albert Pujols       .427
Todd Helton         .427
Lance Berkman       .412
Manny Ramirez       .411
Chipper Jones       .406
Jason Giambi        .405
Bobby Abreu         .404
Jim Thome           .404
NICK JOHNSON        .402
Brian Giles         .400



Particularly noteworthy about Johnson’s place in that amazing company is that he has both the lowest batting average and the least power in the group:

                    ISOP                             AVG
Albert Pujols       .294        Albert Pujols       .334
Jim Thome           .280        Todd Helton         .328
Manny Ramirez       .278        Manny Ramirez       .313
Lance Berkman       .256        Chipper Jones       .307
Jason Giambi        .245        Lance Berkman       .299
Todd Helton         .239        Bobby Abreu         .299
Chipper Jones       .234        Brian Giles         .291
Brian Giles         .211        Jason Giambi        .282
Bobby Abreu         .194        Jim Thome           .277
NICK JOHNSON        .174        NICK JOHNSON        .273



Getting on base at a .400 clip is a lot easier when you’re batting .300 and walking is a lot easier when pitchers are afraid to throw you strikes, yet Johnson has amassed a .402 OBP while hitting just .273 with a .173 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) that’s barely above the MLB average of .160. If any of the great on-base threats of this era have truly drawn their walks it’s Johnson, whose walk rate ranks fourth among all active players behind sluggers Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and Jason Giambi.
Now he’s back in New York, where as a Yankees prospect he had a .450 OBP in the minors and then got on base at a .376 clip through 248 games in the majors before being shipped to the then-Expos for Javier Vazquez. Johnson returns six years later, having posted a .412 OBP in 522 games while missing another 450 games with a never-ending list of injuries. And the man they call OBP Jesus will likely be doing his OBP’ing and walk-drawing directly in front of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Good luck, pitchers.

  1. AA3 - Dec 18, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    I like this deal for the Yankees. Only one year at a reasonable price and they replace #2 hitter Johnny Damon. I do wonder if his power numbers will spike in new Yankee Stadium just like Damon’s did in ’09. Also, he should be a good fill-in at 1B on the handful of days that Teixeira gets off and they’ll be able use Posada at DH when they’re facing LHPs and give his old knees a break. Short term deal, reasonable cost and additional roster flexibility? Seems like a good move with the one major question that Mr. Gleeman referred to: whether or not Johnson can stay healthy.

  2. Jason O. - Dec 18, 2009 at 1:33 PM

    ISOP is a bit deceiving in Johnson’s case. His career OPS+ is 125, and that’s no drop-off from the dangerous Matsui. Plus he’s younger than Matsui. Cashman wins again.

  3. StevenEll - Dec 18, 2009 at 3:21 PM

    I don’t think ISO is decieving – it just shows you that he doesn’t hit for a lot of power. Noone said he’s an average hitter because he hits for average power. OBP is the more important part of the OPS equation. In fact, its 1.73 times more important.
    I have a feeling that in that lineup, Johnson’s walk rate might go down a little, with his power going up. He’ll probably stay at about the same level hitter overall, but his traditional stats will look better.

  4. Arendell - Dec 18, 2009 at 11:04 PM

    Yes, and like his history goes for ever 5.25 games he plays he will miss 4.5 games. (950 game history) If healty he is a front line player. But there is no DL list he can not wind up on. Sorry. But True!!

  5. Jonell Ellingson - Feb 2, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    Hi webmaster, commenters and everybody else – The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need – Keep ‘em coming… you all do such a great job at such Concepts… can’t tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do!

  6. Bee Enochs - Feb 2, 2010 at 11:36 PM

    Hi webmaster, commenters and everybody else – The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need – Keep ‘em coming… you all do such a great job at such Concepts… can’t tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do!

  7. Laurence Kollross - Mar 6, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    It does seem that everybody is into this kind of stuff lately. Don’t really understand it though, but thanks for trying to explain it. Appreciate you shedding light into this matter. Keep it up

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