For the first three months of 2013, the signing of Edwin Jackson looked to be a major issue for the Cubs moving forward.
Then, July came along.
The right-hander, who was signed to a four-year, $52 million deal last offseason, struggled mightily in the season’s first half, pitching to an ERA of 5.11 prior to the All-Star Break. Since the Midsummer Classic at Citi Field took place, Jackson has made three starts that have been altogether different than his first 18.
Although he has managed just a 1-1 record over the three starts, his earned run average over that stretch came out to 2.49, nearly three runs lower than in the season’s first half. He has located pitches much more effectively, striking out 14 and walking only four in 21 2/3 innings pitched.
This is the type of pitcher that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer believed they were getting when they inked the journeyman arm to the four-year deal, but it should be noted that Jackson never has been, and never will be, a front-of-the-line starting pitcher.
Over his career, the 29-year old has compiled a record of 77-82 with an earned run average of 4.42, pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, and now – the Chicago Cubs. Opponents have hit .270 against him, and he has posted a WHIP of 1.43, far above the mark of premier starting pitchers in the league.
This season, his HR/9 and K/BB ratios are below his career averages, but other statistics aren’t indicating such a promising year for the right-hander.
He has been using his fastball more than he has in three seasons (58.7%), which is still below his career average of 61.8%. His complimentary pitches have all been used in proportions roughly equal to his career marks, with increased usage of his cut fastball as opposed to years’ past.
Jackson has lost velocity on his fastball this season, averaging 92.9 mph per fastball. This pitch peaked for the right-hander in terms of velocity back in 2007 with Tampa Bay. His career average has come in around 94.1 mph, which still is over a mile per hour higher than his mark this season.
What this year comes down to for Jackson is becoming clearer and clearer as the year progresses. If he can’t locate his fastball consistently, then he will fail to amount to more than a back-of-the rotation starter over his time in Chicago. He must begin to handle right-handed batters better, as they have posted an average of .267 against Jackson, as opposed to the .247 mark lefties have hit. There is nearly a two run difference in the earned run average of the right-hander when broken down against left-handed batters and their right-handed counterparts.
If he can learn to better locate his fastball, and keep pitches out of the middle of the plate, he can project as a #3 starter, even a solid #2 as the Cubs begin to eye postseason berths in the years to come. Jackson makes his next start on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, as he eyes his eighth win of 2013.