Is Edwin Jackson Throwing a Cutter?

Don Cooper is one of the game’s best pitching coaches in part because of how quickly he can teach and encourage pitchers to use the cutter. Countless White Sox pitchers have become benefactors of the pitch, including John Danks, who has quickly morphed into one of the finest pitchers in the American League. It should be no surprise that the White Sox’s biggest trade deadline acquisition – Edwin Jackson – is already showing signs of possibly throwing a cutter despite still being fresh-faced to the team.

For those unaware, Jackson has made five starts for the Pale Hose. Racking up over seven innings per start (on average) and posting a 5.63 K/BB ratio. That’s more than double Jackson’s previous career best ratio. Now, it is only 36 innings, and lots can happen in such a small sample size. My statement is not just based on that success, but also the pitch data coming in from Jackson’s brief time in the Southside.

Baseball Info Solutions’ data has Jackson’s fastball moving from 94 MPH to 95.4 MPH, his curve gaining about a mile per hour, and his change doing the same. His slider, though, has not only increased in usage, but also jumped nearly 3 MPH. That didn’t quite feel right, so I went to the pitchfx data to see if there’s been any change in movement on the slider. Here’s what I found:

4/6-8/1: 21.8% usage, 85 MPH, 1.43 vertical movement, 1.24 horizontal moment, 20.8% whiff

8/4-9/1: 27.6% usage, 87.9 MPH, 2.75 vertical movement, 0.16 horizontal movement, 30.6% whiff

That’s not definitive or anything, however everything points to something. Whether it be a new grip or arm slot or just random coincidence, I don’t know for sure. Admittedly some of this an inherent bias thinking that Cooper would quickly latch onto Jackson and morph his arsenal a bit with the addition of a cutter, but the data seems to support that a bit. We’ll see how it works out and whether Jackson will be the newest member of the Don Cooper fan club.

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21 Responses to “Is Edwin Jackson Throwing a Cutter?”

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  1. Doogolas says:

    I’d be curious to know who the top 5 best and worst pitching coaches in baseball are by the numbers. But that’d take a TON of work.

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    • MikeS says:

      How would you do it? I guess you could look at individual pitcher’s FIPs under various coaches but the numbers would be small. How long is the average pitching coach in his job and how many chances does he get with new guys in that time? I think those are small numbers. Then there is background noise. Pick up a guy who is 26 and on the rise vs one who is 34 and about to decline. Guys who come back from injuries, who reach free agency coming off a career year, are nentendered after a bad year or are moved to the bullpen all add noise to hide the signal. You wouldn’t get any knowledge about what kind of an effect he has on guys who come up through the minors or are traded from another organization and immediately placed on the big league club. I think it would be a great idea I just don’t know that you could do it objectively.

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  2. opisgod says:

    No chance that Jackson is just throwing his slider harder like everything else? It’s common knowledge that a 88 mph slider has less relative movement than a 85 mph one. I’m hard pressed to think there is any sign of a cutter there.

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    • Rich says:

      I guess its more that the gun in Commiskee is a little high, rather than hes throwing everything harder.

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  3. PG says:

    I’ve heard two things about the Jackson/Cooper relationship.

    First, Cooper has wanted to work with Jackson for years. I read something about Cooper not wanting someone so bad since Thornton.

    Second, and possibly related to the first point, Cooper immediately made a slight chance in Jackson’s mechanics, telling him to stay more upright on his back leg when he pushes off.

    Either way, Cooper has a knack for improving the command of guys with big arms but mediocre results, so I wouldn’t be shocked if Jackson is his latest success story.

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    • James says:

      I don’t know enough about pitching mechanics, but I would think that being more upright/stiffer back leg could produce these changes (more downward movement, less horizontal movement)… I doubt one could seamlessly transition to another pitch midseason without compromising control.

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      • Daniel says:

        This wouldn’t be the first time Cooper instructing a power pitcher to use new mechanics yielded improved command as well as velocityu almost immediately.

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  4. garik16 says:

    The distinction between a slider and a cutter is very small, if any. There’s a reason why MLBAM’s classifications have issues with the two.

    I haven’t checked Jackson’s data myself. But if you’re #s are correct, I don’t think that’s a new pitch. The 2 MPH difference is minor, and as you noted, his fastball you think seems to be “faster” also. This could easily be simply pitchfx differences between Arizona and Chicago, or well just the AL Central compared to the NL Central. You note that EVERY pitch has a velocity increase; that smells like its just calibration error.

    Even then, the movement #s are so similar that I’d suggest its the same pitch, thought the pitching coach may have altered the amount he uses it.

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  5. Buford says:

    No mention from Jackson, Cooper or the Chicago media about a new pitch only a more upright posture. Miguel Cabrera said Jackson had the best slider he had seen all year. Maybe the new posture improved the quality of his slider. It sure has improved his control.

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  6. Munch says:

    From tracking the recent ChiSox – NYY 3 game set on MLB Gameday, US Cellular has a juiced speed gun. From memory Sabathia got up over 98, Joba hit 100 and Mo was hitting 94.
    Those figures are about 2MPH over the odds

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  7. Sox27 says:

    Here’s how I look at guys who are perceived to be the best pitching coaches in the game: guys who take cast-offs and turn them into viable pitchers. The three that come to mind most are Coop (perhaps beause I’m a Sox fan and am exposed to this on a daily basis), Dave Duncan, Leo Mazzone. Here’s just a brief listing of players that have had their careers benefit from the guidance of Dr. Cooper: Gavin Floyd (Phillies castoff), John Danks (Rangers castoff), Jose Contreras (Yankees castoff), Matt Thornton (Mariners castoff), Bobby Jenks (Angels castoff). I know people will say Jenks is bad now and Contreras was mediocre over the entire duration of his time with the Sox, but Jenks from 05-mid 09 was a dependable closer and Contreras while his run wasn’t as long as some of the other pitchers listed he did rack up a 17 decision win streak from mid 05 – mid 06. I know wins aren’t the best metric but if you look at his numbers during that time he was truly dominant.


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    • Josh says:

      But then there’s Andrew Sisco, David Aardsma, Mike MacDougal, Nick Masset and all the other guys Cooper couldn’t fix. It’s an imperfect science.

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    • Paulie L. says:

      You can probably add Damaso Marte to your list.

      People can say what they like about Jenks and Contreras, but the fact is Jenks was in the gutter and Contreras was run out of NY. It should also be noted that Contreras was traded for Esteban Loaiza, who had his career year pitching for the White Sox in ’03 after adding the cutter under Cooper.

      It should also be mentioned that the White Sox have had the healthiest pitching staff in baseball over the last decade, with no other team with as many starters making 30+ starts each and every year. Don Cooper is grossly underrated.

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    • Phil says:

      I think another example would be Bryan Price. Dude’s had success everywhere he’s been — Mariners, Dbacks, Reds.

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  8. Steve C says:

    He is also hitting the ground a little bit more lately, 58% over the last month. He was floating around 50% prior to moving over to the south side.

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    • Geffen says:

      But the “ground gun” is a bit juiced up at cellular too, no?
      Kidding aside, Cooper has obviously made adjustment(s) that have paid immediate dividends. If Cabrera says it’s the best slider he’s seen all year, that’s some pretty high praise.
      Just one of the many reasons why we love the game soooo much!

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  9. Sox27 says:

    @ Josh

    The names you listed certainly were not fixed by Coop. I think on a whole though the number of pitchers that have improved under his guidance outweighs the number of pitchers he hasn’t. But you’re right nobody is going to be perfect.

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  10. grandbranyan says:

    Mike Maddux definitely deserves a mention here as well. I’ll give Petersen some more time in MKE, but losing Maddux was a much bigger organizational hit than losing Jack Z.

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  11. blackout says:

    The Jackson slider I’ve seen in recent CHW highlights is markedly better than the one he struggled to throw for strikes in AZ at the beginning of the year. It’s absolutely filthy and is crucial to his success; that hard, pin-straight FB only works as long as hitters aren’t sitting on it. This has been the secret to any short term success Jackson has enjoyed the last three years so it’s not surprising. Here’s hoping it sticks this time.

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  12. Is it having a good pitching coach, or a general manager who is willing to take risks on former top prospects or first round picks, as Kenny Williams has done on both pitchers and hitters. I think is a combination as both, as Kenny gets the talent and Cooper or Greg Walker fixes it. I think lots of credit has do be given to Kenny for trusitng his coaching staff as well as seeing talent that can be harnessed. He’s acquired guys like Jackson, Matt Thornton, Carlos Quentin, AJ Pierzynski, Gavin Floyd, Jose Contreras, etc. All of these guys either did not perform or fell out of favor in their previous organizations. The combinations of these guys seems to work very well in consistently putting a competetive team out there, and though Jackson and Quentin cost top prospects, the rest of these guys were basically free.

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