Toronto Blue Jays: Is Josh Johnson Returning to Form Just in Time for the Jays?

Jon Reid@@JonReidCSMCorrespondent IIMarch 28, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Josh Johnson #55 of the Miami Marlins pitches to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 26, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It was just a few years ago that Josh Johnson was one of the most promising young stars in all of baseball.

At the age of 25, Johnson appeared in his first MLB All-Star Game and finished the season with a 15-5 record, a 3.23 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.

From there things only got better for Johnson, as he lowered his ERA in 2010 to a National League-leading 2.30 (he also appeared in his second consecutive All-Star Game that season) and finished fifth in National League Cy Young voting.

In 2011, Johnson was off to another blistering start, posting a 1.64 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in nine starts before being sidelined for the rest of the season due to right shoulder inflammation.

And the signs of that injury showed in 2012, with Johnson putting up an ERA of 3.81 (his highest of any full season of his career) and a WHIP of 1.28 (the highest since 2008).

Yet this spring, Johnson seems to be back to the dominant pitcher that people had been getting accustomed to since 2009.

Through 16 innings, spread across five games, Johnson has only given up two earned runs (giving him an ERA of 1.13) and has an astounding WHIP of 0.56. Johnson has also accumulated 21 strikeouts, while issuing just one walk to give a strikeout rate of 11.8 per nine innings pitched and a strikeout to walk ratio of 21.

Now, you may be thinking that it's only spring training, and that would be a fair point.

According to baseball reference, however, Johnson hasn't been padding his stats against prospects and minor league players. Their opposition quality (which measures the quality of opposition batters on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being major league caliber) statistic gives his opposing batters a quality score of 9.3 out of 10.

That means that so far, Johnson has faced hitters that are much close to major league caliber hitters than Triple-A hitters.

In other words, his numbers this spring are nothing to scoff at.

Couple that with the fact that from July to August and August to September last season, Johnson's ERA decreased dramatically (from a 4.88 ERA in the month of July to 3.86 in August and ultimately 2.91 in September), and all signs point to Johnson being back on top of his game.

If that is the case, the Blue Jays' rotation (which also includes reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow) becomes that much more formidable.