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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.