Athletics Acquire Conor Jackson

The Oakland Athletics sit at 32-33, only four games out of first in a tight AL West, despite a terrible .316 wOBA from their outfielders. Oakland GM Billy Beane saw a chance to upgrade at that position today, acquiring Conor Jackson from the Diamondbacks.

This is a classic buy low from Beane. Conor Jackson has been struggling since an unfortunate encounter with valley fever in 2009. In his last 282 PAs, Jackson has a .280 wOBA. Given that he splits his defensive time between left field and first base, that’s well below replacement level even before we take into account that Jackson isn’t a great fielder. So what does Beane see in Jackson?

In the three seasons before 2009, Jackson was a well above-average hitter. Each season saw an OBP above .365 and a wOBA above .350. His walk rate hovered just above average and his strikeout rates were low, a combination leading to the aforementioned above-average OBP. There’s reason to believe that Jackson can return to this previous level of play, as the limited plate appearances he’s seen aren’t nearly enough to establish a new talent level. ZiPS believes that Jackson will be an above-average hitter for the rest of the season, projecting a .269/.351/.411 line, good for a .341 wOBA, the rest of the way.

That’s not a fantastic number for a mediocre corner outfielder, but it should provide an upgrade over Eric Patterson or a legitimate right-handed platoon partner for Gabe Gross, both of whom are mightily struggling at the plate in 2010. Beane likely believes that if Jackson has made a full recovery from his ailment that he could return to the .350 or .360 wOBAs he posted in ’06-’08, which would make him easily the best-hitting regular outfielder on the team.

The Athletics sent 24-year-old Triple-A closer Sam Demel to the Diamondbacks to complete the trade. Demel has solid but not dominant numbers with Sacramento, posting a 3.11 park adjusted FIP. He has a solid 8.7:2.8 K:BB ratio, but that FIP is supported by a very low 3.7% HR/FB rate. Including a luck adjustment (which can be seen here), Demel has a 4.03 FIP. Given the presence of Jerry Blevins, Andrew Bailey, Mike Wuertz, Craig Breslow, and Brad Ziegler, Demel is an expendable piece.

Jackson is certainly no guarantee, as the move to a larger stadium in the better league could just push his already poor 2010 numbers even lower. However, there’s a pretty good chance that Jackson becomes the best-hitting outfielder on the A’s roster with this move. Given that the price was a fringe-type minor league reliever, the risk here is low, and the potential reward high enough to warrant the acquisition.




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20 Responses to “Athletics Acquire Conor Jackson”

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  1. SF 55 for life says:

    love this trade for the A’s.

    still don’t understand designating Jake Fox for assignment though.

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  2. PL says:

    Despite the love from this site, Fox is a AAAA bat and that was proven this year. He looked awful from day 1 and was completely terrible defensively everywhere. He is a DH who cant hit non-AAA pitching. If there’s any justice in the world he will never play in the bigs ever again.

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  3. Sam says:

    Is wOBA still not park adjusted here? If so, please stop using it until it is.

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    • Bronnt says:

      Is this a serious complaint? Park adjustments can’t seriously account for more than couple of points in most cases, and certainly don’t mean the difference between a “Good” and “below-average” hitter.

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      • Sam says:

        Adjusting for park (and league) is a pretty easy thing to do, and there’s a significant difference between Oakland (pitchers park, superior league) and Arizona (hitters park, inferior league). So, yes, this is a real complaint.

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    • Toffer Peak says:

      wRC+ is park and league adjusted and is also on this site so you can stop your whining.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/what-is-wrc/

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      • Sam says:

        The fact that the site does have a park adjusted metric only makes it dumber that they use unadjusted wOBA as an analytic tool in their articles.

        If they were using batting average to measure offense in their articles, would it not be OK to “whine” about it since they also have wRC+ on the player pages?

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      • Son of Sam says:

        Seems like a legitimate complaint to me – I think (I *think*) wOBA is used because it’s readily recognized on the BA/OBP scale, but wRC+ seems like it gives similar information and makes the necessary park adjustments, which would make it a superior metric.

        And, the logic behind wRC+ (100 = avg; > 100 = above avg; < 100 = below avg) is so, so easy to understand and interpret. Much more so than, "is .350 wOBA good? Well…it depends. What's league average? And it's not park adjusted…and…and…)

        We shifted from BA to OBP and the earth didn't spin off its axis. I think we can similarly shift from wOBA to wRC+.

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      • Jack Moore says:

        Unfortunately, ZiPS doesn’t project wRC+.

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      • (Son of) Sam says:

        To quote Prof. Plum: “Ooh…shucks.”

        Jack, aside from being able to use wRC+ as a projection tool, where do you fall on the discussion of wOBA vs wRC+? (As a tool to analyze what has already occurred, anyway.) Just curious, you’re more familiar with the strong points and shortcomings of these various “all in one” metrics than I.

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      • Sam says:

        Jack,

        I hear you on ZIPS, but I think you should be clear about that in the article. Is a .341 projected wOBA in Arizona really an above average projection for a hitter moving to the AL? I’m not sure, but I’d guess it’s pretty close to average.

        But it was more about your use of wOBA to describe the A’s outfield and Jackson’s prior seasons. Given the significant park and league differences, the gap is much smaller than unadjusted wOBA suggests.

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  4. DMoore says:

    “Alex Gordon has tons of defensive value at 3B.”

    Is that still true while he’s playing left field?

    Seems to me that would make for a ‘huge difference.’

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