Time for Jim Johnson to not close games


Days after getting wrecked in a series against the Astros, the Braves were playing the second game of a four game tilt in Washington. Having already taken Game 1 of the series and holding a three run lead the Braves sent Jim Johnson out to the mound in the ninth. It was the only option with Arodys Vizcaino on the disabled list and Jose Ramirez pitching earlier in the game. Johnson responded with his seventh blown save of the season.

Perhaps it could also be questioned why Ian Krol came in to replace another left hander in Sam Freeman to start the 10th but that situation would never had happened if Johnson could of recorded three outs without allowing three runs to score.

In many ways the role of Johnson would be identical to that of another former closer on the Braves roster in Jason Motte. The Braves do not count of Motte to tackle the toughest part of the Nationals lineup and seeing Motte late in a game typically means the score is steady on one side or the other.

Johnson’s seventh blown saves are hardly a surprise if you go back and look at his numbers. Two years ago he blew seven saves in a combined effort between the Braves and Dodgers. Even his 50 save season in 2013 saw nine blown saves but again that was a 50 save season and he has 19 right now. Something about a guy saving 73% of the chances he gets has to bring concern into the Braves dugout.

The Braves had hoped to showcase Johnson in much the same way they did in 2015 when they flipped him to the Dodgers along with a host of others which included Alex Wood, Luis Avilan and a bunch of other names that would make this column go beyond Johnson’s next save opportunity.

Johnson had done as the Braves had hoped for the most part, he wasn’t flashy but he was saving games and the team seemed destined to play just below .500 ball for the season. But then the Braves started scoring a little more, they were over .500 without star Freddie Freeman and suddenly Johnson was ineffective.

Brian Snitker refused to blame Johnson for his latest blown save which one would expect but with Vizcaino headed towards a return it is clear his days as the ninth inning option are numbered. Now it fair to wonder if his time with the Braves is up as well. Johnson’s latest run of poor results has likely sunk his trade value and with another year on his contract and roughly $7.5 million owed overall the Braves may be forced to try this gamble again next year or hope that Johnson does better in a role not involving the ninth inning.

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