Josh Johnson has been superb so far in 2009, and one might be forgiven for not remembering that it was only a year ago that Johnson made his return from Tommy John surgery. Typically, post-TJ pitchers struggle with their control for a while after they come back, but this has not been the case for Johnson.
Johnson hit the ground running in the second half of 2008 and picked up right where he left off when the new season began. In 135 IP, Johnson has struck out 113 batters while walking just 35, yielding an earned run average of 2.80. When he's not missing bats altogether, Johnson has been able to induce ground balls at an impressive rate (54% GB rate in '09).
Though it will be hard to beat out the remarkable seasons of Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, and Javier Vazquez, Johnson should at least be in the conversation when people start filling out NL Cy Young ballots.
Much less impressive has been the Braves' Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami. The 34-year-old has been plagued by control problems all season long, walking almost 4 batters per nine innings on his way to a 4.04 ERA (an ERA he's fortunate to have given his 1.9 K/BB ratio).
Kawakami's struggles have gotten worse of late. Over the past month, he has walked as many batters as he has struck out. Somehow, he has managed a 3.27 ERA over that period of time. But if he doesn't turn things around soon, his luck will eventually run out.
If for no other reason, Kawakami needs a good start to quiet speculation that he might eventually be moved to the bullpen - the footsteps of Tim Hudson are only going to get louder.