Edwin Jackson owns a big arm. He’s also very durable for today’s game. In addition to those two facts, and this will likely surprise you, the guy is only 29 years old. It’s pretty much time to give up on the hope that Jackson will ever become the pitcher that some pundits thought he could be even despite those three data points, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t bring enough to the table for you to be better off having him on your fantasy squad versus having another owner in your league employ the righty. Maybe.
* The Cubs agreed to a 4-year, $52 million deal with Jackson on December 20th.
Teams are always intrigued by talent. They will overlook plenty of personal and professional failings if the front office folks can see talent. Jackson is one of those guys that always intrigues (to draw a parallel to football, he’s kind of like Jermichael Finley). Despite never having that breakout season, teams continue to take shots on Edwin (this fact can be clearly seen as Jackson has been on seven teams since 2007 if you include the Cubs). Through all the teams, Jackson has taken the ball every five days as he has made at least 31 starts in 6-straight seasons. Moreover, Edwin is one of only 14 hurlers in the game who has thrown at least 180 innings each of the past five seasons (ask Barry Zito how much teams are intrigued by guys who never get hurt leaving a gaping hole in a starting rotation). At this point, that’s Jackson’s calling card – he ‘s always on the bump,
Does Jackson do anything on the mound worthy of intense interest? Not really.
For his career Jackson is 70-71.
His ERA is 4.40 (the league average has been 4.03).
His WHIP is 1.44 (the league average is 1.30).
His K/9 is 6.87 (the league average is 6.99).
His BB/9 is 3.53 (the league average is 3.25).
His K/BB is 1.95 (the league average is 2,15).
His hit per nine mark is 8.41 (the league average is 9.03).
There is not a single thing there that stands out with Jackson. None. Even the fact that he’s been able to take the ball every five games the last five years… is that really that impressive? I guess in this day and age it is, but when you look at the rest of his pitching line the tide might turn to his iron man trait being a bit disadvantageous. I mean, do you really want a guy pitching 190 innings on your fantasy squad if all of his numbers show him to be a league average performer?
Last season things were a bit brighter than the picture I’ve been painting. A bit. His win-loss record for the Nationals, the team with the best record in baseball remember, was a sickly 10-11. His total of 189.2 innings pitched was actually a four year low. Jackson’s ERA was 4.03, below his 4.40 career mark but still above the league mark of 3.95. Wait, I thought there were positives here? There are a couple, I’m just setting the bar really low by pointing out that even when things go well, they haven’t gone that well for Jackson. The hard thrower posted a 1.22 WHIP, the best mark of his career. Given that 1.44 career mark, and the fact that he’s only been below 1.39 once in a season of 30 innings prior to ’12, you get a pretty good feel for why you shouldn’t be expecting a repeat effort in ’13. Jackson did walk 2.75 batters per nine, his best mark ever, and if he can continue at that level perhaps he could keep that WHIP below the league average. At the same time, the previous 1,100 big league innings that Jackson threw that mark was just about one and a half. That’s horrible. In Jackson’s favor is that he has posted a walk mark below 2.80 in each of the past two seasons. I like the sound of that. Add in a career best 7.97 K/9 mark in 2012 and I’m slightly interested. Still, he’s flashed a very disturbing trend in the K/9 category. Look at his marks the past six years: 7.16, 5.30, 6.77, 7.78, 6.67 and 7.97. There is no consistency whatsoever there.
As for the batted balls, there are a few things to like there as well. A career 1.21 GB/FB arm, Jackson has bettered that mark each of the last three years with three of the four best marks of his career (1.55, 1.40 and 1.32). The number may have receded slightly the past two years but 1.32 is still a decent mark. Jackson also owns a league average HR/F mark of 10.0 percent, so when batters do lift the ball he’s right within the normal range of homers allowed.
In the end Jackson is a nice arm whose production never seems to quite live up to the talent. He’s done a much better job the last two seasons at limiting the free pass, and when his K/9 is in the 7′s that mix becomes a very intriguing situation. At the same time, his career has shown ups and downs, an overall there is nothing that truly stands out with Jackson other than his ‘averageness.’ He’s an arm well worth taking a chance on as a depth add, but just know that the odds of him every putting it all together for that breakout season we’ve all been hoping for have dwindled to the point that you should pretty much put the thought out of your head.
By Ray Flowers