The National League may have just lost a Cy Young candidate, but may also have gained an ERA title winner.

The Florida Marlins announced this afternoon that staff ace Josh Johnson would be shut down for the season after complaining of problems with his back and shoulder for much of the second half of the season.

Officially, Johnson has a mid-back strain and right shoulder inflammation. His back flared up on him during his August 7th start against the St. Louis Cardinals, and recently had to stop throwing during an off-day side-session because of discomfort in his back.

Thus draws to a close the most impressive season yet for the Marlins’ righty, who went 11-6 with a 2.30 ERA in 28 starts, striking out 186 batters in 183 2/3 innings.

Johnson was thought to be a long shot for the NL Cy Young Award this season, as he jockeyed for the NL ERA and strikeouts leads throughout the year with Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, and Ubaldo Jimenez. At this point in the year, the likelihood of his winning the award with only 11 wins, despite leading the NL in ERA, is remote at best, and almost entirely unlikely.

Nevertheless, Johnson’s early exit may mean that he will win his first ERA crown; with 183.2 innings pitched, he more than qualifies (Jake Peavy only had 166.1 innings when he won his first ERA crown in 2004), and he is currently leading Wainwright by a margin of .08 (2.30 vs. 2.38).

Neither Wainwright nor Halladay, Tim Hudson, or Matt Latos has pitched particularly well in the last couple of weeks, indicating that Johnson’s lead might be safe even despite his departure.

An ERA crown would be a nice consolation prize for Johnson, who endured nine games in which he allowed two or fewer earned runs without coming away with a victory for the Marlins because of run support.

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