Dealing with Brett Jackson’s Historic Strikeout Rate and Other Bullets

brett jacksonWell, it’s here: the day the Hall of Fame voting results are released. For you, that means one of two things: either (1) it’s the day you finally get to find out about something you’re deeply interested in, or (2) it’s the day you can finally stop hearing about Hall of Fame voting every single day. Sounds like a win-win. The results will be revealed at 1pm CT today on MLB Network and MLB.com.

  • Brett Jackson, barring a cataclysmic rash of injuries (or trades, or a combination of the two), will begin the 2013 season at AAA Iowa. The hope is that his experience in the bigs last year, coupled with contact issues at AAA last year, will have demonstrated just what he needed to work on this offseason, and his reworked swing will help him improve next year. And the improvement is needed: according to a Baseball America piece, Jackson’s 59 Ks in 120 big league at bats last year was the second worst strikeout rate by a position player with 100 at bats in a season … in all of baseball history. Even if Jackson drops that rate by 10%, which would bring him into the 40% range, he’ll have a tough time being a big league regular, if history is any guide. It has tended to be the case that only huge walk, huge homer guys have had success with that level of strikeouts (while strikeouts, themselves, are just another out, too little contact drives down batting average, which drags down OBP and SLG). Jackson will always take a ton of walks, but he’s not going to have huge power. For him to take advantage of all of his physical gifts, and to have consistent big league success, he’s simply going to have to put the ball in play more often. I can’t wait to see how he looks in Spring Training and in the early season at AAA. (That BA piece is pretty interesting, and if you want to see all of the other 40ish% strikeout guys, it’s worth checking out.)
  • The Cubs Convention starts next Friday, and, although we don’t yet have the full schedule of events, WGN Radio will be broadcasting a variety of the panels/discussions/etc., so you can get a sense for a number of the events here on their schedule. I’ll be talking more about the Convention this and next week, and I hope a number of you will be in attendance. (And, so you can starting planning: it looks like we’ll have a get-together Friday night at Timothy O’Tooles, a bar a couple blocks from the Convention hotel; and then another on Saturday evening at the bar in the Convention hotel (the Sheraton).)
  • New Cubs color man Jim Deshaies was interviewed by Vine Line for their January edition, and they posted a snippet online. A notable quote, when asked about covering The Kerry Wood Game: “Kerry’s [20-strikeout] game was my second year in the booth. I remember it was grey and misty here. It had kind of a surreal feel. It was the most dominant performance, maybe ever—a one-hitter that could have been a no-hitter. That slider was breaking about three feet at about 90 miles per hour. It was so much fun to talk to the Astros hitters after that game.”
  • A Cubs prospect got FanGraphs’ nod as the best prospect performer in the Dominican Winter League … and it isn’t Junior Lake. It’s actually 25-year-old outfielder Nelson Perez, who hit .250/.443/.417, and walked (29) more than he struck out (28). Given that he’s struck out four times as often as he’s walked in his minor league career (2.5 to 1 in 2012, though), I’m thinking we’ve got a bit of a small sample size issue here. Perez split his time between High-A and AA last year, raking in the former, but flopping in the latter. He’s always had intriguing power, but my sense has been that he’s a borderline non-prospect. But, hey, who knows: maybe he developed an insane discipline skill over the past year, and will surprise us in 2013.
  • More anecdotal evidence that Sammy Sosa’s HOF vote total today is going to be incredibly low.
  • The Dodgers’ new owners don’t just spend from a bottomless pocket of money to bring in free agents, they do it to upgrade Dodger Stadium, too – about $100 million worth of improvements that should be in place by the end of Spring Training.
  • A new podcast is on the way later this morning, so go ahead and purchase your listening supplies – beer, Funyuns, Bubble Tape, folding chair – now, so that you’re ready to go when it drops.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

95 responses to “Dealing with Brett Jackson’s Historic Strikeout Rate and Other Bullets”

  1. TWC

    Ace, check that third word in in post again.

    The first time I read the fourth bullet, I thought it said Neifi Perez and I gagged a bit.

    1. hansman1982

      I don’t think your grammar nazi-ism is appreciated hear.

  2. Robert007

    Brett, I read somewhere , off of a twitter link, that Brett Jackson will have the chance to show off what he has in Spring Training & if Dale & Theo like what they see he could be the opening day , starting Center fielder. (Not barring a rash of injuries.) it mentioned Dejesus as a 4th OF.

  3. arta

    personally i wouldn’t count on B. Jackson this year. strikeouts have always been his problem, add a whole new swing/approach, just don’t see it in 2013/14. hope i’m wrong.

    1. hansman1982

      Not making contact has been his issue. Since jumping up to AA his swinging strikeout rate has been extremely high. The good news is that this rate (relative to league average) decreased when he jumped to MLB last year but it was still a shocking 24% (league average is 15%).

      If he can just start putting that 9% into play good things will happen.

  4. Ron Swanson

    That list of players in the Baseball America piece does little to encourage me about Brett Jackson’s chance. Guess like you say, it all comes down to his ability to retool his swing. His age is what he has going for him but there are a lot of others on there in their early 20′s that disappeared after making the list. Here’s hoping!

  5. JB88

    Are there any updates or puff pieces that discuss what Jackson has been doing to retool his swing this offseason? I don’t recall seeing anything.

  6. Jack Weiland

    Was that an intentional “The Contention” in that CubsCon bullet? If so, well done!

  7. Picklenose

    Brett, does striking out have an effect on slugging percentage other than just being an out (i.e. 0 bases in an at bat)? I’m not trying to be a grammar or stats Nazi, but your statement confused me. I can see the poor plate discipline really driving down on base percentage (and thus OPS) since each time you take a strikeout instead of a walk has twice the effect in on base percentage.
    A related question for you and Doc, is weighted on base percentage an important statistic? Fan graphs seems to imply it should be, and by that measure Dave Sappelt (small sample size, but interesting) is much better at the plate than we realize. In fact he could be quite valuable, up in the Rizzo/Sorianno range.

    1. hansman1982

      Do you mean weighted On Base Average (wOBA)? wOBA is a fantastic stat, but like any of them you need 500+ PA’s to start determining things. If you are and you are looking at his 2012 stats, take them with a grain of salt. Small sample size, late in the season, etc…

      Now, his time in the IL with the Reds did have a good amount of success. I think he will be a great 4th OF.

  8. @cubsfantroy

    I don’t see Brett Jackson amounting to much. I see him as another first round bust for the Cubs. I hate to say it, and I hope I am wrong, but he just doesn’t seem to look like he is going to make it. But hey, he got a taste of the big leagues, most of them didn’t even get that.

  9. Scott

    It would be interesting to see where BJax stands if you use plate appearances instead of at bats to calculate K rate. Using AB takes away one of his greatest strengths (BB). Not sure if this changes anything, but thought it was interesting.

    He had 120 ABs, but 142 PAs.

    1. bbmoney

      I’m not sure why they used ABs instead of PAs. Most places I see (maybe I look at the wrong places) generally calculate K% based on PAs.

      I mean, it’s still a terrible K rate but it makes me feel better that it’s not a rounding error away from 50%.

  10. Cedlandrum

    Brett Jackson is a very interesting player. He is so smooth athletically and he has so many good baseball attributes. He is a good defender, he runs the bases well, he has a decent arm, he has some pop. It was a lot of fun to watch him at Iowa this year. The strike outs were huge and puzzling, because he would go up and work the count in one at bat, then come up and hack at three pitches the next and strike out. you would think this guy can’t hit and then next time up he would drill a double in the gap.

    I hope he gets the swing figured out because if he does we have a very good all round outfielder. He reminds me of another prospect, Nic Jackson. Smooth athlete, hopefully he has a better fate then Nic.

  11. preacherman86

    Just to put into a bit of light the possibility of what Theo & Co want to see Jackson do I think it is appropriate maybe to look at the previous years transformation for Rizzo. Rizzo in 2011 in 128 ABs struck out 46 times, good for a 36% k rate. In 2012 then, following the offseason work under the watchful eye of Jedstein, That K rate in 337 ABs dropped to 18%. That means with a single offseason of work Rizzo went from a guy some viewed as a flop and overrated with a long and looping swing to a potential gold glover with a power back that has very good k rate for a slugging first basemen. Not saying Jackson is the same player, but if he can do reasonably the same positive change with a retooled approach and swing, is it all that unfeasible to imagine Jackson cutting his K rate in half as well? And if Jackson can cut it to the 25% range with the speed, walks, mediocre power and other tools he brings, I think it could be argued that not only can he be every day, but perennially a very good player, one that could be seen someday as great! I know it isn’t a lock or set in stone, but if he follows the same type of adjustment and retooling as we saw from Rizzo just last year, then we could have another scenario of a young guy some folks are getting down on compared to years past propelling themselves back into the good to really good type player conversation. That being said, with the state of the Cubs as is, Jackson will get at least 2.5 months in AAA much the same as Rizzo last year, saving the controllability years and giving him time to really rake and build confidence in Des Moines.

    1. Kyle

      The primary difference between 2011 Rizzo and 2012 Jackson is that Rizzo crushed the minors and had a small blip in the majors.

      Jackson’s problems in the majors were consistent with his problems in AAA, where he was also striking out at a historic rate.

    2. Scotti

      Rizzo’z issue was, for the most part, that he couldn’t catch up the inside FB. What they changed was his grip and they now have him swinging earlier in the count (he walked much less this past year).

      Jackson’s problems in AAA STARTED when he went to the same grip (Rizzo is, by nature, a pull hitter whereas Jackson uses the who field). Having Jackson swing earlier in the count has some merit–he took way too many hitable pitches last year (guys went right after him putting him 0-2 right off the bat). But he needs the same grip he had in 2011 and prior. Jackson can still be selective. He just needs to swing at those mashable pitches.

      1. preacherman86

        I hear ya Scotti, but just looking at Rizzo’s swing with the Padres vs. last year as a Cub, it looked much quicker! There were also rumblings of a long swing from Rizzo when we acquired him so it wasn’t all inside fb. That said, if it was just inside fb and swinging earlier in counts that cut his K% in half then by all means teach BJax the same thing and see what happens. if its that simple more power to the coaches and FO!!

  12. Segal27

    I think Jackson will fix the problem, he is a very hard worker and knows what he has to work on, I believe the time with Sveum and Deer will help him a ton. I am a huge believer in Brett and I really think he can become an at least average player.

    1. blublud

      Considering that Brett has already turned to the media side of things and is running a website, I don’t think the Major Leagues are in his future. Plus, if he does turn it around and makes the Bigs, who’s going to operate BleacherNation.

  13. Curt

    I guess I really still don’t understand the snubbing of all of the steroid users from the hof baseball is littered with cheats and questionable characters is it personal with the writers and shy is it , I think the writers should lose this privilege , I get that some of them cheated , but you still have to hit the ball, you still have to pitch the ball, you still have to be consistent over several years, so stop whining about the integrity of the game , emperor selig took care of that when he decided to let the all star game decide home field instead of actual on the field records. The sportswriters need to get over it and themselves.

    1. Scotti

      Curt, say Commissioner X was considered a HOF caliber baseball executive who also systematically kept an entire race out of the game. Should he get voted in? The answer is obviously No. But Cap Anson IS in. That was a different time and things have changed for the better. Same with spitballers. If Garza put up Nintendo numbers after discovering Vaseline would he get in? No. Same with drugs/steroids. There was a time that SOME drug use was tolerated. That drug use had marginal positive effect on their numbers (mostly negative). Then some players crossed an even bigger line (using steroids to take their bodies from all-star to HOF or HOF to first ballet HOF). Anson and the spitballers are in. Fine. Those were different times when that behavior was openly accepted. Roid use was never openly accepted and it was always illegal.

      1. Behind enemy lines (south side cub fan)

        The illegality argument is inconsistent to me. Users of far more dangerous illegal drugs are in (recently, see Paul molitor) and in consideration (see Tim Raines), not to mention those guilty of domestic abuse etc. etc.

        I think there are still good arguments to be made, but illegality is not one of them.

        1. Scotti

          I only used the fact that this was illegal to counter the oft used argument that the steroid use was somehow out in the open–it was not. While certain front offices looked the other way (OAK, STL, BOS chief among them) this was always done in secret because it was NOT openly acceptable behavior.

  14. waittilthisyear

    my gut tells me jackson is going to be serviceable if not better than that. of course, i first considered his future while simultaneously considering vitters’s, so perhaps i viewed bjax through rose-colored lenses…

  15. CubFan Paul

    “The Dodgers’ new owners…about $100 million worth of improvements”

    according to the Cubs VP of Marketing, Wally Hayward, the Ricketts have only spent/alotted only $10M a year for improvements/renovation at Wrigley.

    1. preacherman86

      they also didn’t pay 2 billion for the team, so proportionally they are doing the same probably

      1. CubFan Paul

        I don’t understand your math.

        1. Scotti

          Paul, that ten million is per year. The hundred million is a one time shot. Unfortunately Wrigley’s upkeep is around ten million (just to keep it operational) and a mere hundred million wouldn’t fix it’s systemic problems (neither would the fifty million the math implies).

    2. Behind enemy lines (south side cub fan)

      The city of Chicago should pay for a multi billionaire to improve the quality of his product/return on investment and until they’re willing to contribute it’s unreasonable to expect him to do so in any meaningful fashion.

  16. preacherman86

    this completely not researched, but being that the Dodger ownership spent 2.15 billion to purchase the team, 100 million is less than 5% of that value in improvements, and that is not an annual figure, it is a one time expenditure at this point. The Ricketts paid 845 million, so in less than 4 years the percent of money spent for the team compared to improvements will be the same. And factor in the Dodgers ownership don’t have to mess with landmark status, wrigleyvile requirements, and other such things and you can see that it really isn’t that comparable to want the Cubs to spend at the level of the Dodgers. And wait a few years when the Cubs young guns are ready at the MLB level and the Dodgers are having 250 million in payroll and an average age of 33 or older, and tell me which franchise looks better.

    1. CubFan Paul

      Ricketts could have spent $300M in renovations/improvemnts by now from couch cushion change. That’s why I don’t get your math/billionaire excuses.

      1. preacherman86

        true, he could have probably done that. I’m just saying, when you spend 2.15 billion there is crazy incentive to win now!!! especially with a payroll of 250 million and a roster full of big names and egos. Point being, Ricketts is making improvements, albeit slower than the Dodgers, but so is every other team in baseball. And like a previous post mentioned, if the city would pitch in a bit of help it could go faster. Final point in this discussion on spending being, Ricketts only owns a 20% share of CSN and none of WGN. The TV money alone that Dodger ownership is gonna be making pays off the improvements, while Ricketts and the Cubs don’t have the same luxury. If Ricketts were making 240-250 million a year in a tv deal then I suspect he would also spend 100 million on repairs. Give it a rest, the current state of affairs, tv deals, etc. handicaps many teams, Cubs being one of them. With that tv deal the Dodgers can pay the payroll and the renovations without batting an eye really.

  17. itzscott

    Question for the board experts….

    How does a prospect with such a flawed swing get drafted in the 1st round AND THEN makes it all the way through to the majors where it’s only then it’s discovered he has a flawed swing that needs to be changed drastically?

    Is this like an “Only the Cubs” type of thing?

    1. preacherman86

      turns out no, its not a Cubs thing, and it is probably because flaws get exposed as the competition gets better. Anthony Rizzo had a flawed swing that was retooled once he came to the Cubs. It was flawed in Boston and San Diego and they didn’t recognize it. I remember a guy named Matt LaPorta (unsure on spelling) who was the centerpiece in a deal that sent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. The Brewers and Indians were equally high on him, and not until he played in Cleveland was it realized his swing wouldn’t translate to MLB success. He is still a minor leaguer in Cleveland’s system I believe. Brandon Wood, Lastings Milledge, Conor Jackson, Andy Marte, Joel Guzman, etc. were all top prospects in the last ten years. Top prospects many times have holes in their swing that isn’t shown until the big leagues. Most do in fact, the once who can adjust and learn and fix it are the ones that turn into stars.

    2. Scotti

      No. Brett Jackson is already considered a successful draft pick given where he was drafted. As to the swing… He had difficulty with K’s in college and worked with the Cubs to fix it after the draft (he had a correctable hitch that he fixed). The problems he has now didn’t surface until last year. He even had a good (enough) K rate in his month in AAA the year before. He takes a lot of pitches, walks and has some power so he SHOULD K more than most. Simply put, he’s pulling off the ball low and away (in AA and below he drove that ball). This shouldn’t be a huge issue. He had a good two week (or so) stretch last year where he changed his grip and went with the ball).

    3. Kyle

      He was drafted at the end of the first round. By that point, you are already talking about fairly flawed prospects. There’s not nearly enough elite prospects to make it deep into the first. His contact problems were well known when he was drafted.

      More to the point, it’s not that his swing has a massive flaw. It’s that his inability to make contact is a flaw that they’d reasonably hoped would be solved through normal means. Now that it’s clear that it’s not and he’s likely to join the vast majority of prospects who don’t become regular major leaguers, they are trying something desperate.

      1. Scotti

        Kyle, his current funk is not related to what caused his collegiate K rate. They worked with him on that hitch after the draft–that’s why he moved so fast. This began in AAA last year (it wasn’t even an issue in AAA in 2011).

        1. Kyle

          He struck out in 30% of his PAs at AAA in 2011. Yes, that’s a big issue.

          It got worse in 2012, sure, but it has always been an issue, and it’s become more of an issue every time he moved up to face better competition.

          1. Scotti

            For being such a big issue he hit .297/.388/.551/.939. Since he walks at a 12.8 clip per PA career in the minors of course he’s going to K. A 29.8 rate is NOT an issue when you are walking at 13.0 and hitting for power as he did (ESPECIALLY when you are promoted mid-season).

            As to “worse at every level”… He has 73 BB and 126 Ks in his A/AA season and 73 BB and 138 Ks in his AA/AAA season. He was 47/158 in his AAA only season. Those first two ratios are rather consistent. Last year he fell off the wagon. The first two years were BETTER than 1:2. Last year was 1:3.4!!! Before last year he was climbing the prospect ladder (BA’s #74, #38, #32). Last year he fell OFF the prospect ladder.

            Of course you accept the trade off of power and walks for some added Ks. But what happened last year was fewer walks, less power and less contact. He took a drastic leap down and that cannot be explained away by his moving up the ladder. He was moving up the ladder in his prior seasons too. In those seasons his combined BB:K ratio was consistent. Looking at data doesn’t show you his swing. Looking at video does. There are hundreds of Brett Jackson AB available on the Internet. You can see the changes (college to pro, early minors to last year’s AAA debacle) in swing, strike management and grip. That’s where the story is at.

            1. JR

              Yeah I looked at a lot of video awhile back trying to figure out his issues too. And he did change his stance a ton before last year. Obviously it didn’t work well at all. Hopefully he gets it turned around, or at least go back to 2011.

              1. Scotti

                The most interesting video is of his college days. There’s a video out there where someone taped about fifty AB (good, bad and the ugly–all outcomes). You really see the hitch that Tim Wilken talked about after drafting him. It’s there on K’s, obviously, but even on doubles and HR. They quieted that down and it hasn’t been there since.

                I’m not certain who worked with him last year (or why) but it really messed him up (both his swing and his head). Last year he was too patient and he was taken advantage of. Last year he was trying to pull everything (you can see him reach for pitches he used to drive the other way and totally miss because he was pulling).

                At the end of August he had a really good Brett Jackson type streak where he ditched the Rizzo grip and was going with the pitch, hitting to all fields but he couldn’t keep it together. Here’s hoping he gets back to doing what he was before last year. A guy who walks, K’s, hits some HR and plays a decent CF.

            2. Kyle

              That .939 OPS came with a huge BABIP. Once that regressed, what was left didn’t project to be a big-league regular.

              Sorry, but 30% K-rate at AAA is absolutely a big deal. The list of guys who go on to succeed in the majors after being exploited by AAA pitching to that degree is very, very short.

              Your A/AA AA/AAA numbers conveniently left out plate appearances. The 126 Ks at A/AA came in 580 PAs, the 138 in AA/AAA came in 512. His K-rate jumped at least 4 percentage points at every promotion after A+.

              There can be more than one story. It’s entirely possible that his swing got messed up last year and made things worse, but the strikeouts were on pace to be a possibly career-killing problem even before that.

              1. Scotti

                K rate concerns are not independent of BB. If a guy doesn’t walk then 25-30% is a concern. If a decent power hitter has around a 1:2 ratio then he is doing fine regardless of a 25-30% rate (Jackson was 1:2.3 in AAA that year and that was just fine for a call up).

                A guy gets promoted to AAA (or wherever) mid-season and he walks, hits for power, I don’t really care what his K rate is along as his BB:K ratio is fine–the Cubs brain trust just hired Rob Deer for goodness sake. They seem to get this.

                Jackson clearly wasn’t “exploited.” If hitting .297/.388/.551/.939 is exploited then please sign up all Cub prospects to get some of that! No one should expect Jackson to hit for high averages. He should hit for power and take walks.

                Regarding BABIP. BABIP “regression” does not affect HR, BB or K’s and has nothing to do with this discussion. BABIP regression could not possibly have caused Jackson to K more, walk less or hit fewer HR.

                Re. convenience… I didn’t “conveniently” anything. Again, K rates in isolation are not as valuable as BB:K (a low BB:K explains a swing and miss problem while a good BB:K explains patience). A K rate just sits there begging to be explained. What is worse, a marginal K rate with very few BB or a significant K rate with very good BB? Obviously the later (which is why Brett Jackson wasn’t told to start swing at strike one last year–they want to see if he can be a high K high BB guy before they kill his BB). Now, did I accuse you of “conveniently” ignoring his BB:K rate? No. You were merely making a different point as was I.

                Finally (crowd cheers), while I’m no devotee of BA (to say the least), “career-killing problems” generally do not see prospects skyrocket up their top 100 list. They tend to have the opposite effect even for BA. What we have ALWAYS had is a guy with patience, power and the ability to play a good CF. My guess is that if he pans out he’s a .250-.260 guy with, obviously, seasons above and below that mark. A K rate of 25-30% isn’t going to kill that (and his full-season K rate was always lower than 30% headed into this last year).

                1. Kyle

                  Sorry, but there was very little sense in that post and I’m not going to fisk it.

                  In summary, so long as we believe that he can strike out in the majors at the same rate he did in AA, he’ll be fine. But I have this funny feeling that MLB pitching is a bit trickier.

                  1. Scotti

                    I don’t know all that “fisking” entails but thanks for abstaining–it just sounds painful.

                2. Kyle

                  OK, I lied, I will fisk it.

                  “K rate concerns are not independent of BB. If a guy doesn’t walk then 25-30% is a concern. If a decent power hitter has around a 1:2 ratio then he is doing fine regardless of a 25-30% rate (Jackson was 1:2.3 in AAA that year and that was just fine for a call up).”

                  1) K-rate concerns aren’t completely obliterated by BB rate either.

                  2) Calling Brett Jackson a “decent” power hitter is pretty generous. He’s got decent power for a CFer, I guess.

                  “A guy gets promoted to AAA (or wherever) mid-season and he walks, hits for power, I don’t really care what his K rate is along as his BB:K ratio is fine–the Cubs brain trust just hired Rob Deer for goodness sake. They seem to get this.”

                  Rob Deer did it in the majors. If we were talking about Brett Jackson’s slash line in the majors being acceptable despite K’s, then the comparison would be relevant.

                  The issue is that guys with Jackson’s K-rates in AAA don’t have a history of doing it in the majors. The one or two guys who overcame 30+% AAA K-rates had power that Jackson has never thought about.

                  “Jackson clearly wasn’t “exploited.” If hitting .297/.388/.551/.939 is exploited then please sign up all Cub prospects to get some of that! No one should expect Jackson to hit for high averages. He should hit for power and take walks.”

                  No one’s expecting Brett Jackson to hit for high average. But if he can’t hit for a minimal average, his BB’s can’t make up for it enough to give him a useful OBP. And if he’s striking out 30% at AAA, that does not portend being able to keep his MLB levels to a point where he can put up a useful MLB OBP.

                  “Regarding BABIP. BABIP “regression” does not affect HR, BB or K’s and has nothing to do with this discussion.”

                  BABIP effects OPS and slash line, which is what you were quoting in defense of Jackson. If you have simply brought up Jackson’s AAA peripherals, then I wouldn’t have referenced his BABIP.

                  “Re. convenience… I didn’t “conveniently” anything.”

                  Sure you did. You tried to refute the fact that his K rate has gone up noticeably at every promotion since the very low minors by pointing to raw K totals for two seasons. You either intentionally left out the difference in plate appearances or weren’t bothered to look it up.

                  “Again, K rates in isolation are not as valuable as BB:K (a low BB:K explains a swing and miss problem while a good BB:K explains patience). A K rate just sits there begging to be explained. What is worse, a marginal K rate with very few BB or a significant K rate with very good BB? Obviously the later (which is why Brett Jackson wasn’t told to start swing at strike one last year–they want to see if he can be a high K high BB guy before they kill his BB). Now, did I accuse you of “conveniently” ignoring his BB:K rate? No. You were merely making a different point as was I.”

                  I am pretty much ignoring his BB/K rate, because I don’t care about it that much. He walks a lot and strikes out a lot more. I don’t care about the ratio.

                  Brett Jackson has a swing-and-miss problem. Any attempt at analysis that tries to deflect that is wrong, and if his high BB/K ratio leads you to believe he doesn’t, then BB/K is misleading you.

                  He made contact on 62% of his swings at Iowa this season. The *MLB* average was 79.7%. He has a massive swing-and-miss problem.

                  You’re trying to wave away an unprecedented strikeout problem by saying “well, it’s just because he takes walks,” and it’s not true. You don’t put yourself in position to challenge single-season K records just because you take a lot of walks.

                  “Finally (crowd cheers), while I’m no devotee of BA (to say the least), “career-killing problems” generally do not see prospects skyrocket up their top 100 list. They tend to have the opposite effect even for BA.”

                  Well, that’s just absurd. A rather sizable majority of BA top 100 prospects will never have significant careers. Of course many of them have career-killing problems.

                  ” What we have ALWAYS had is a guy with patience, power and the ability to play a good CF. My guess is that if he pans out he’s a .250-.260 guy with, obviously, seasons above and below that mark. A K rate of 25-30% isn’t going to kill that (and his full-season K rate was always lower than 30% headed into this last year).”

                  If he had shown any indication that he can strike out 25-30% in the majors, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But guys who strike out at 25% in AA and 30% in AAA and 35% in their second look at AAA probably can’t strike out just 30% in the majors. The majors are kind of hard to hit in.

                  1. DarthHater

                    See, Scotti? You were right. It is painful.

                  2. Scotti

                    You did lie and, as I suspected, there is something wrong with fisking…

                    A few points:

                    *20-25 HR is plenty “decent” to anyone who follows the game today. No roids means that 25 HR is in the top 20 for at least the last 3 years in the NL. Top 20 is better than decent. Nintendo numbers are a way of the past. Certainly very good power for a guy up the middle but it plays in the corners easy (and it’s all natural and to all fields). Trying to discount that fact just hurts your point.

                    *Rob Deer “did it” in the minors, too. He had value because he walked and hit for power. Dude hit .249 in the minors but that was only because he played a lot down there in his 30′s. He hit .207 his first year in AA (177 K’s, 37.3%), .217 in his second AA shot (185 K’s, 34.0%) and .227 (175 K’s, 31.8%) in AAA on his way up.

                    *If you pay no attention to BB:K then you stamp Rob Deer’s minor league numbers as FAIL and you get rid of him. However, if you pay attention to context (BB:K) you would see there is a reason why he was K’ing so much (his AAA year his BB:K was 1:1.82–very acceptable) and you give him a shot. He averaged 32 HR per 162 games in his MLB career. About 10, or so, more than a Brett Jackson may hit but he also hit .220 which is well south of where I’d suspect Jackson could wind up if he pans out. Deer was worth, what, 10-15 WAR (I’ve seen as high as 17.0).

                    *As to your comments about how Jackson’s K’s sucked this year in AAA–no duh. No one–ever, anywhere–has disputed that. Not me, not him, not his mother, not his grandmother. As noted by others here, Jackson changed just about all you can change headed into this past year (grip, swing, mind-set, etc.). But you can’t just look at his numbers and see what was ailing him. Even seeing he had more K’s and fewer BB seems to “say” he became inpatient but he was actually TOO patient (the Cubs got on him about letting hittable pitches pass by after he came up). IF you watched his AAA video, or looked deeper in the numbers, you could see it. But, AS I STATED, Jackson did not have a good BB:K ratio this past year in AAA. I’m not sure why you missed that but there it is, again.

                    *Various and sundry insults… Really? Why go there? Life is too short for that and, studies show, shorter for those who go there. Be good to yourself, if not to others…

                    1. Kyle

                      If we’re projecting 25 home runs from
                      Brett Jackson in the majors, then we’ve reached a level of crazsybuckets that I just wasn’t prepared to deal with. My bad.

                    2. Scotti

                      Making with more insults… Again, look up these studies. It’s the insulter’s life that is shortened…

                      Regardless: “He’s an above-average hitter with the potential to hit 20-25 home runs in the big leagues…” …concurred a scout for an American League team. –From BP.

                    3. Kyle

                      That scouting report is more than two years old. I’d like to think we’ve learned a bit about him as a player since then.

                    4. Scotti

                      Actually the BP article is from April 2011. Do the math. Regardless (again), there has been no indication that Brett Jackson’s power potential has decreased. The question is the contact issue that came up last year. Watch the video. He can drive the ball to all fields. I’ve seen hundreds of outcomes. The guy has good power. He has 35 2B, 14 3B and 25 HR in 154 career AAA games. He doesn’t have top-end power but he is very similar in frame to Leon Durham (Jackson is bigger) and “Bull” Durham averaged 22 HR per 162 games (and FWIW, Durham’s original AAA run put up very similar power numbers). He won’t have high slugging #’s but he’ll hit extra bases (like he did in late August. Something like 10 of his 12 hits were for extra bases in a 15 day stretch).

                      This is old. I’ve got a toilet to clean. At least I hope I do.

                    5. Scotti

                      Rob Deer has a thingy:

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxdE0ZWBOIU

                      Actually a very good 6-minute instructional video on how to strike down on the ball, among other things, featuring Rob Deer’s Viz-U-Bat (apologies if it has been posted).

            3. JR

              Last year Jackson tried to change his swing and it looked just like Rizzo’s. It obviously worked well for RIzzo, but it worked terribly for BJax. A swing is a funny thing. I think the player HAS to be comfortable and can’t just copy of another players. They should take ideas, but not the entire stance of another player imo.

  18. itzscott

    …and isn’t this the same pattern we see with Vitters?

    1. Scotti

      Vitters’ “pattern” is altogether different. He has a fantastic swing with very little noise. His problem is selection. He swings at pitches he should let pass. Probably the best swing on the team. Vitters needs selection and confidence. At bat anyway.

  19. ruby2626

    So hansman if I do the math if he swings and misses at strike 3 24% of the time and his average K rate is 50%, doesn’t that mean he looks at strike 3 over 25% of the time? Think about that for a second, for every 4 times up he takes a called 3rd strike at least once. The phrase swing the bat Sally comes to mind and unless he is going to go with LaHair’s BABIP for April and May which was the highest I ever saw he is going to have a hard time batting over .200

    With all that said I still have not given up on this kid. I am hoping for Anthony Rizzo Jr. The similarities are that he also flopped big time in his debut with S.D. and completely redid his swing. I think the Cubs will use the same approach, leave him in AAA for half the season and if he is doing well then promote him. Worked great with Rizz, let’s hope Jax is the same way.

  20. Stockholm Cubs

    “Even if Jackson drops that rate by 10%…”

    Do you mean 10% or 10 percentage points? Big difference on the SO ratio if my math’s right.

  21. DarthHater

    The next phrase says: “which would bring him into the 40% range.” I think that makes it pretty clear that what Brett meant was if Jackson drops his K rate from about 49% to about 39%.

    1. DarthHater

      Also, Brett’s “a huge jerk” if you don’t read his stuff very carefully. You have been warned. ;-)

  22. Kyle

    Small side note: While it’s simpler to generally say “strikeouts are just outs,” technically strikeouts are a tiny bit worse than other outs. The number I’ve seen most often is that a strikeout is worth -0.05 runs less than the average contact out.

    That’s not a lot, but when you start to strike out at Brett Jackson levels, it adds up quickly. If he can get his strikeout rate down to 35% of his PAs (roughly where it was in AAA), then that’s still 210 K’s per year. That’s be -0.6 wins per year compared to a similar player who strikes out just 100 times.

    1. Adventurecizin' Justin

      Hey Kyle…how does that -0.05 number get figured? I’ve always been on the side of the fence that strikeouts are often way worse than regular outs unless a batted ball leads to a double-play. Does that stat take into consideration the number of runs scored on batted ball outs (even double-plays) versus runs scored on a strikeout? I could be wrong, but I’d bet that more runs are scored on DPs than are scored on strikeouts.That should be a factor, in my opinion, if it currently is not. Take care…Justin

      1. Kyle

        Here’s a list of the common ways linear weights are calculated:

        http://www.tangotiger.net/wiki/index.php?title=Linear_Weights

        Yes, they take into account all those things.

        Long story short: Strikeouts do not erase baserunners and add an out on double plays, which is *really* bad. They also do not advance runners, which is a medium amount of good. Given how often each happens, it comes pretty close to evening out.

  23. FFP

    So is the idea that with the new, more level swing, that his bat will move through the strikezone more in line with the plane that the pitch travels in? (Where is Oswego Chris?) Does that help him make contact more often, so his K rate drops? Now I’ve got to go look to see how many strikes he’s been looking vs.how many he’s swinging with the old swing.

    1. Scotti

      Jackson’s swing is actually very level.. He was pulling off the outside pitch last year. He mentioned trying to hit for more power last year before he was brought up. He said he felt more HR’s would get him a better chance to be up. As it turned out he hit fewer HR. The guy has natural power and doesn’t need to be a pull hitter to hit 20-25 HR (which in today’s cleaner game is a healthy amount of HR).

    2. Drew7

      “So is the idea that with the new, more level swing, that his bat will move through the strikezone more in line with the plane that the pitch travels in?”

      Sort of. Matching the trajectory of the pitch is the goal, but taking a “level” swing wont get you there. Since the mound is elevated and the pitcher is throwing overhand (well, in most cases), matching the plane of the pitch actually requires a bit of an uppercut.

      1. Scotti

        Drew, it is actually true that you want to be hitting DOWN on the ball to hit line drives. Swinging UP on the ball means you are generally going to pop up (or foul back or swing and miss). That Rob Deer link I gave a few moments ago spells it out fairly well. It sounds counter intuitive but it is really, in a way, just billiards.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxdE0ZWBOIU

        Deer goes over that at about 3:30

  24. Kyle

    I’m assuming it’s something very similar to what they did with Ian Stewart, who did see a noticeable reduction in his K’s last season, but also a significant increase in ground balls.

  25. Kyle

    Kind of a fun side note. If Jackson can turn it around a bit, he could do a lot toward helping us with the type of offense Epstein has emphasized.

    Besides just being good sense to have a high OBP, our front office has talked about how having high pitch-count at-bats lets you get into the other teams’ middle relief, the weakest pitchers on the team.

    So it turns out, on average, by inning, the MLB OPS+ looks something like this:
    110
    95
    100
    105
    105
    105
    95
    95
    85

    The first inning is usually pretty good because it has your best hitters. The second inning has a high probability of being the bottom of the order. Third-sixth is a little higher than normal, reflecting a tiring starting pitcher. 7th and 8th begins to favor the pitching, as teams can mix-and-match the matchups to favor relievers. The best relief pitchers tend to come in in the ninth and really suppress offense.

    From 2003 to 2010, here’s Boston’s 6th inning team-adjusted OPS+ (basically, how much better or worse than their own overall offense did they do in the 6th inning)

    113, 116, 103, 132, 117, 96, 100, 106

    I didn’t notice any other inning show a clear difference from the league average, and the league average for the 6th inning is about 105.

    But during the run from 2003-2007, they were adding 10-15 runs per year with that effect. That’s not nothing, for sure.

  26. baseballet

    Only fellow Cubs fans could spin the second worst strikeout rate in MLB history as no big deal. Hilarious!

    1. Scotti

      I don’t believe anyone’s made that argument though I haven’t followed the thread.