Kelly Johnson is so famous that when you search his name on Google images, this is the first picture that pops up:
That would be Clarence L. Kelly Johnson, a “Lockheed Aviation Legend” whose personal quote (I guess) was “be quick, be quiet, and be on time.” If the other Kelly Johnson—the one who didn’t pass away 20 years ago—is anything, it’s quick and quiet.
With his Thursday home run off the Cubs’ James Russell, Johnson leads the National League in home runs on April 30 with nine, one behind MLB leader Paul Konerko. He led baseball in isolated power at an absurd .457 before going 4-5 with a home run Thursday afternoon at Wrigely Field. He’s in the top five in baseball in wOBA and top 10 in WPA.
Those numbers have come in the mold of Lockheed Kelly Johnson: quick and quiet. I guess you could say the baseball Kelly Johnson is on time with everything, too, because you gotta have good timing to hit the ball as hard as he has this year.
What’s most impressive about Kelly Johnson’s start, though, is that he’s Kelly Johnson.
This is the same Kelly Johnson who, in 510 career games, has a pretty solid .346 wOBA. He’s always seemed like a good-to-very-good player, somebody who can get on base nicely with some gap-to-gap power.
The most home runs he’s hit in a season is 16, that coming back in 2007. He’s already halved that in a month this year.
ZiPS’ updated projection has him pegged to hit 24 home runs this year with his torrid start. Obviously, he’s going to cool down with the long balls—coming into today’s game, he was hitting a home run on one in every three fly balls.
A .389 wOBA in 2010 is what ZiPS sees at the end of the year for Johnson, too. For reference, only two second basemen had higher wOBAs in 2009—Ben Zobrist and Chase Utley.
How the heck did the Braves let this guy get away?
After posting a .306 wOBA in 2009, the Braves designated Johnson for assignment following the season, handing the second base reins over to Martin Prado. I guess it should be noted that Prado had a .396 wOBA coming into today—but his .408 BABIP is unsustainable.
Similarly unsustainable was Johnson’s .247 BABIP in 2009. He didn’t hit an abnormally low amount of line drives and he didn’t swing at an abnormally high amount of pitches out of the strike zone.
Johnson did hit more fly balls than ground balls for the first time in his career in ’09. Usually, batters who hit more fly balls have lower BABIPs.
But even then, that ugly .247 mark wasn’t going to repeat itself in 2010, right?
At first, I was surprised to see that Johnson’s 2010 BABIP was .250 coming into Thursday. Then I remembered that eight of his 20 hits coming into Thursday went for home runs. So that explains that.
What’s great about Johnson is that he isn’t looking like one of those early-season Pyrite players. While his first-month stats aren’t sustainable, they shouldn’t fall far enough to where Johnson’s first month is lumped in with the likes of, say, Chris Shelton.
Instead, expect Johnson to keep up a very nice level of production for the rest of 2010.