Edwin Jackson in Control

It wasn’t too long ago that Edwin Jackson was considered a bit of a bust after failing to produce with the Los Angeles Dodgers and his early career with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Through his first five minor league seasons, Jackson made 46 starts between both teams in question, mostly in a 2007 season marked by a 5-15 record and a 5.76 ERA. Although Jackson’s peripheral stats indicate that he pitched much better than his basic stats show, his 4.90 FIP still didn’t suggest the major league ace that some had claimed Jackson could become.

When the Devil Rays changed their name, their fortunes changed. So did Edwin Jackson’s. Despite a nearly identical K/BB rate and HR/9 rate, Jackson turned his brutal 2007 into a respectable 14-11 and 4.42 ERA season, apparently making him worth enough to be traded for highly regarded Tigers farmhand Matt Joyce.

Jackson’s basic stats saw even more improvement in 2009, as he went 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA for Detroit and held a sub-3.00 ERA for much of the season. But this year, we did actually see improvement in his peripherals, as his K rate landed between his ’07 and ’08 marks while his BB rate continued its downward march.

BB/9

That’s a very encouraging trend for a pitcher who will be 26 for most of the upcoming season. With a K rate below 7, however, it is unlikely that Jackson will emerge as an ace. Even with the encouraging control he showed in 2009, Jackson’s FIP still was a modest 4.28. That’s above average, and for a pitcher that’s under team control, that makes him a very solid asset. However, Jackson’s likely to be overvalued in this market due to his ability to throw a 94 mile an hour average fastball and his great ERA.

That isn’t to say that teams should avoid trading for him, or that the Tigers should unload him at the first half-decent offer. At his age, it’s still possible that we see the improvement that turns him into a sub-4.00 FIP pitcher. Still, most projection systems will likely peg Jackson for a FIP around 4.40. We can’t say that Jackson is an elite pitcher based on what we’ve seen from him, and he shouldn’t be treated as such by major league front offices.



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Paul
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Paul
6 years 7 months ago

He’s going to be overvalued because Burnett’s FIP was higher. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cards go get him and capitalize on the upside.

Ray
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Ray
6 years 7 months ago

No mention of his dramatic splits this year? He had a dominant April and May, a solid June and July but absolutely fell apart in August and September. For some young pitchers you could say that the innings caught up to him but Jackson only saw an increase of ~30 innings this season. His K rate and BB rate both fell as the season went on, he was dramatically more hittable and I would imagine the advanced metrics would show the same (I couldn’t find season splits of FIP, xFIP, etc).

Mike Rogers
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6 years 7 months ago

He only went up ~30 innings, but he threw wayyyy more pitches. 2008 saw him throw 2955 pitches in 32 games for an average of 89.5 (call it 90).

2009 saw him throw 3454 in 33 games for an average 104.6 (call it 105).

Essentially 15 more pitches per outing which is a considerable amount, in my opinion.

Ray
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Ray
6 years 7 months ago

Fair enough. How much of his drastic drop-off in production over the course of the season can really be attributed to higher pitch counts though? I’m not saying there isn’t something there, but he completely fell apart in the second half–every meaningful number was trending to the negative more and more as the year went on. So while some of it may have been workload I just wonder how much of it was regression/batters figuring him out.

Regardless, I’ll be very interested to see how he performs next season.

Devon F
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Member
Devon F
6 years 7 months ago
LeeTro
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Member
LeeTro
6 years 7 months ago

I’m not too sure what to make of Jackson. He had some significant Plate Discipline changes this year. Hitters chased 5-6% more balls against him this year than in years past. He also kept the contact rate at his pre-2008 levels, down 4% from ’08. A very peculiar stat was him throwing a career-low percentage of pitches in the zone without getting first-pitch strikes against more hitters. That combination usually does not lead to improving BB rates.

Also, in his pitch F/X data, I found two possible changes, though the first one would seem to be a bad thing. His fastball added an inch of tail and had about .6 inches less “life.” A much bigger change was in the slider, going from an average of 2 inches of HM to only .3 inches. This was also accompanied by an extra inch of drop. I think I’m just rambling at this point…

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