For some reason, when struggling players join the Braves, they suddenly experience positive regression.
Whether it’s the change of scenery, coaching, or playing for a contender, Atlanta has a mysterious effect on players. Pierce Johnson is just the latest example of that.
The Braves sent the Rockies Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon in exchange for Pierce, who struggled mightily in Colorado, owning a 6.00 ERA. However, Alex Anthopoulos figured positive regression was in line, especially as he got away from Coors Field.
Johnson was still striking out an absurd 13.4 batters per nine while saving 13 games in 15 attempts. His track record painted the same picture. From 2020-2022 with the Padres, he posted a combined 3.39 ERA, 3.19 FIP, and 12.1 K/9. His splits this season were encouraging away from home as well, posting a 4.11 ERA and 2.31 FIP with 29 strikeouts over just 15.1 innings on the road.
Now, Pierce Johnson has established himself as a real weapon out of Atlanta’s bullpen.
After joining the Braves, he owned a 0.63 ERA in 15 appearances before a run-in with the Dodgers, in which he surrendered three runs. Still, on the season with Atlanta, he’s posted a 2.25 ERA across 17 appearances.
Since leaving the Rockies, Johnson has dropped his BB/9 from 5.8 to 2.3, cutting his WHIP by nearly half from 1.846 when in Colorado to 1.063 in Atlanta. His 5.25 SO/W is also nearly more than double his career best. One shaky outing against Los Angeles inflated these numbers, but Johnson has still been quite good.
The Braves should be thrilled with the trade to this point, which generally means a contract extension is coming down the pike.
Pierce Johnson is set to hit free agency this offseason, but I would wager he loves Atlanta. It’s a great team with even better facilities, and he’s got a shot at a World Series ring. Moreover, the Braves have money to spend and a bullpen to bolster before next season.
A two-year deal worth $8-12 million would be one that could work out for both sides. But it wouldn’t be an Alex Anthopoulos contract extension unless there was a team option. So, a one-year deal worth $4-6 million with a team option for 2025 at the same price seems more appropriate.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire