12 June 2017

Hoping for Lightning

Joe Reisel's Archives

I don't want Edwin Jackson on my baseball team.

I have nothing against Edwin Jackson. I've never met him, but I haven't heard complaints about him from the Norfolk staffers I work around. He was the guest on the Norfolk Tides radio pre-game show, and he was polite and talkative, answering the host's questions in some detail.

Nor is he the pitcher least likely to succeed I've seen. That distinction would probably go to the 35-year-old Ryan Drese, in who 2011 - three years after his last pitch in "organized" baseball - threw 44 innings with the Tides with some truly amazing results. For the past six years, we in the press box still amuse ourselves trying to come up with reasons why the Orioles added Drese to the Tides roster. (So far, the best reason is that the Orioles lost a bet.)

Nor do I not want him on the team because I'm a Cubs fan, and Jackson ranks among the very worst free-agent signings in Cubs history. There have been players who signed the wrong contract - or at least a contract that put them into a situation in which it was hard for them to succeed - but rebounded to play well elsewhere.

I don't want Edwin Jackson on my team because he's an extremely frustrating pitcher to watch.. He's got great stuff - he throws hard, and his pitches move. He just doesn't always seem to know where his pitches are going, and so he ends up throwing a lot of pitches that are called balls. And then he has to focus more on throwing the ball in the strike zone, and so doesn't pitch with his best stuff. And he gives up hits. And, just when he's ready to be written off, he'll go and pitch a great game. I'd rather have someone who pitches fairly well most of the time than someone who pitches brilliantly 20% of the time.

After the Orioles signed Edwin Jackson, he spent some time in extended spring training before being assigned to Norfolk in May. He spent about a month with the Tides before the Orioles added him to the team. In that month, Jackson made twelve appearances - of which I saw five - and pitched 20 1/3 innings - of which I saw 10 2/3. And in those appearances, he confirmed my belief that even when he pitches well, you can't have too much confidence in him.

The below table shows his basic pitching lines for the games I saw him pitch:

Date
Opponent
IP
H
R
ER
BB
K
May 7
Durham
3
3
1
1
1
2
May 13
Charlotte
1 1/3
0
0
0
2
2
May 21
Charlotte
2 1/3
3
1
1
2
1
May 31
Pawtucket
3
3
0
0
0
1
June 3
Rochester
1
0
0
0
0
2

That doesn't look too bad. His walks and strikeouts are variable, as you would expect in such small samples. It looks like he got lucky to give up only one run on May 21, but on the other hand he couldn't do much better on June 3.

When you look at his performance in more detail, however, you will probably be less impressed. The table below shows his pitch breakdown in each game:

Date
Opponent
Balls
Called
Strikes
Swinging
Strikes
Fouls
In Play
May 7
Durham
23
7
4
5
9
May 13
Charlotte
14
6
2
2
2
May 21
Charlotte
21
8
2
4
8
May 31
Pawtucket
9
5
7
4
9
June 3
Rochester
2
3
4
0
1

The good news is that he has been pitching with more command as he got more practice. In his first three appearances, he had more balls than strikes, and that's not allowing for the possibility that some of the swinging strikes or fouls were on pitches out of the strike zone. In his last two games, he was able to control and command his pitches better, concluding with a June 3 performance - pitching the ninth inning of a 8-7 Tides win - that even I couldn't find fault with.

So, perhaps the Orioles decided to promote Jackson to the major-league team while he was pitching well in the hope that they could catch lightning in a bottle, and get a couple of good outings from him before he stopped pitching well. They couldn't; Jackson made three appearances and pitched poorly in all three. With the bullpen overworked after a number of long outings, the Orioles designated Jackson for assignment to add Jimmy Yacabonis to the roster. In the next ten days, Jackson might be traded; he might accept another outright assignment to Norfolk; or he might declare free agency and try to sign with another team.

I hope he doesn't sign with my team.

4 comments:

Roger said...

I certainly agree with the opinion in this article. The Yankee series kinda tore this team apart. None of the pitchers did any better than Jackson except Bundy. And without any hitting behind it there's not much point in trying to find a pitcher who throws anything less than gasoline balls. No O'Day, no Britton, no Machado, hobbled Jones. The team needs a hospital ward more than a ballpark. I had high hopes for Yacabonis but he pitched only as expected - all walks, no outs. They might as well throw forfeits up there until they're at full strength. That way everyone else could get fresh. Not a good time for the team.

Richard Hilman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Hilman said...

Your description of Jackson's stuff, and his inability to control it without sacrificing its effectiveness, reminds me of Gausman. I'm starting to think that Gausman's career will end up being an Edwin Jacksonian one. I hate being an O's fan.

Joe Reisel said...

#Richard Hilman - Based on my observations of Gausman, he's a bit different that Jackson. Gausman's pitches don't - or didn't, when I saw him - have nearly as much natural movement as Jackson's. So when Gausman's hitting his spots, he can be very effective, but because his pitches are straight, batters can hit them. When I saw Gausman at Norfolk, the comp I came up with Homer Bailey of the Reds, and I still expect that type of #3-4 starter career for Gausman.