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Edwin Jackson’s New Slider

Edwin Jackson’s prospect status has always attracted a claque yet his performance through 2008 hardly warranted the hype. A lively arm capable of touching the upper-90s with a blazing fastball and a whip like slider seemed destined for major league stardom, even more so after his debut, outpitching Randy Johnson – which should be a warning to anyone who takes the first “x” amount of games or innings as a predictor of future performances. Pitching coach after pitching coach tried to solve the Jackson enigma without much success. As blessed as his right arm was, he would go throw lapses where walks were plentiful and strikeouts, not so much.

Naturally, it’s a bit odd to glance at Jackson’s stat line and see a 3.51 FIP to go along with 7 strikeouts and 2.2 walks per nine. That’s not what we’ve come to expect from Edwin Jackson at all. So what’s changed?

Jackson’s BABIP is lower than it should be, but that has little bearing on his FIP, his HR/FB% is down despite his FB% being up, that’s something to watch for, Jackson’s getting slightly more first pitch strikes and a bucket load more of hitters chasing him outside of the zone. Why?

As it turns out, Jackson’s slider has experienced a metamorphosis in his short time spent in Detroit. Velocity has remained the same as the break has shifted. No longer is Jackson’s slider sweeping towards lefties, instead the break is far more subtle, and perhaps far more deceptive. Rather than breaking ~2 inches, it’s breaking 1, and the vertical movement is ‘down’ about an inch as well.

Whether Jackson has gained control over the pitch with this change – whatever the change may be, it’s the only one in his arsenal, because he’s no longer throwing his change-up very often – or simply a deceptive trick, it bears resemblance to another slider on the Tigers staff, Armando Galarraga. Whether this is a Galarraga hand-me-down or a Rick Knapp lesson, it seems to be working. We’ll see if it continues.