Edwin Jackson still in the mix for the Cubs’ fifth starting spot


After two straight seasons that featured immense struggles, cavernous lows and few bright spots, Chicago Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson is looking to right the ship in the third year of his four-year, $52 million contract.

With four starting spots already nailed down in the Cubs’ rotation, Jackson finds himself in a less-than-enviable position: win the final slot in the rotation – which has four other candidates (Travis Wood, Felix Doubront, Tsuyoshi Wada and Jacob Turner) vying for the job.

Since joining the Cubs prior to the 2013 season, the veteran journeyman has been a far cry from his former self, pitching to a 5.58 earned run average across 316 innings of work. His win-loss record (15-33) hasn’t been anything to write home about – at least not if you want the person writing back to be impressed.

If not for injury that sidelined him last year, he may very well have lost 20 games – which hasn’t happened since Mike Maroth of the Detroit Tigers dropped 20 contests back in 2003. In 2014, he posted an earned run average below 5.00 in just one month – May – when he came in with a slightly more respectable 4.30 clip.

First-year skipper Joe Maddon is looking forward to the decision ahead – although he says he’s been blunt and honest with all those looking to win a job in the rotation this spring.

"“They’re very competitive and the fact we have a lot of folks for some really narrow choices, it’s going to be an interesting spring. I know that competition normally brings out the best in everyone.”"

It’s somewhat surprising that – even after his struggles – Jackson will get a legitimate look this spring. An excellent Daily Gammons piece from Bill Chuck last November broke down quality starts and the anti-quality starts, which he coined as “lack of quality starts” or LQS.

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An LQS is described by Chuck as a start lasting less than 5.2 innings and allows three or more runs – and who leads all of Major League Baseball in such a measure since 2010? That’s right, folks. None other than our very own Edwin Jackson.

He’s made 48 such starts that are classified by Chuck as an LQS – meaning that just under one-third of his games started have been downright terrible. However, there’s one step lower than an LQS – and the Daily Gammons writer doesn’t even waste his time coming up with a catchy acronym for these outings: they’re simply labeled ‘bad’ starts.

And once again, the 31-year-old leads the pack, tied with San Francisco Giants’ right-hander Tim Lincecum atop a list he doesn’t want to be on – let alone top. In those 38 starts labeled as ‘bad,’ Jackson has a minuscule .152 winning percentage – which is even worse than his .298 mark on the North Side over the past two seasons.

There’s been no one worse than Edwin Jackson over the last four years. Yet, here we are, talking about him landing a spot in the Cubs’ rotation this spring.

Personally, I feel like it’s time to let Jacob Turner make a serious run at the fifth spot given his youth and upside. However, I’d be more comfortable falling back on the likes of Wada or Doubront (or preferably Travis Wood should he not be traded this spring) – than climbing on the merry-go-round that is Edwin Jackson for the third straight season.

That being said, we owe him a decent chunk of change between 2015 and 2016 (a neat $26 million) – far too hefty a price to let him rot down the left field line in the bullpen – where he hasn’t been much more effective than he has been as a starter anyways.

Maddon’s keeping all his options open in his first camp as the Cubs’ skipper – which is good. But I’d be shocked if the team gambles on Edwin Jackson for a third consecutive spring – especially when the club has so much at stake: like a winning season for the first time in this decade.

Next: Jon Lester to start Opening Night for Chicago Cubs