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edwin jackson cubsEdwin Jackson says that his outing this week against the White Sox was his best start with the Cubs (Cubs.com), and I’d have to agree. That got me thinking about having some fun with his early-season numbers, much in the way we’ve had some fun with the big offensive performances so far this year. Will it work for a pitcher?

Let’s find out …

  • In the game, Edwin Jackson threw seven innings, allowing one earned run on six hits and no walks. He struck out nine. That’s just a great start right there.
  • Heading into the game, Edwin Jackson was sporting a 5.24 ERA. After the game, even though it was a 1 ER game, his ERA still dropped all the way to 4.57.
  • Jackson’s FIP, which was already decent at 3.64, dropped precipitously to 3.18. That’s good for 21st in the National League, just behind Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner.
  • Jackson’s xFIP dropped from 4.47 to 3.99, which is still tied for 12th worst among qualifying starters in the NL, but, before the game, he was third worst. (xFIP adjusts for expected home run rates, and, since Jackson hasn’t really given up any homers this year, he gets dinged, because there’s expected regression there.)
  • Jackson’s walk rate had become a real problem for him this year, ballooning to 11.2% entering the start. Seven innings without a walk? Dropped it all the way under 10% – it sits now at an elevated, but much more reasonable, 9.6%.
  • Similarly, his strikeout rate – 17.1% before the game – shot up thanks to those nine Ks in seven innings, and is now 19.7%. That’s high enough that he’s surpassed it only twice in his career.
  • Obviously, then, his K/BB ratio went up a great deal (because both sides of the coin improved), from an ugly 1.53 to a more-career-normal-like 2.06.
  • Jackson nearly doubled his accumulated season WAR total so far (SMALL SAMPLE WARNING IN THE EXTREME) from 0.4 wins to 0.7 wins.
  • Get this, though: because of all the strikeouts and those six hits, his already unreasonably high BABIP against (.340) actually increased to .344. His career mark is just over .300, so it’s possible he’ll see some further positive regression from here. (Howeva, his elevated Line Drive rate also increased in the game, from 26.9% to 28.3% – in other words, that elevated BABIP isn’t all just bad luck from dinkers and dribblers finding green.)
  • All in all, it’s a huge improvement in Jackson’s stats, all from one May start. Hopefully we get to do this again in five days.
  • newsguy23

    Don’t care for Jackson at all. Big money for a 5 starter

    • Q-Ball

      Things is, $11 mil/yr isn’t “Big Money” anymore for a pitcher. It’s “average money”. I agree E-Jax has not pitched up to his contract, but luck hasn’t been on his side either. We still can get positive value.

      When Ricky Nolasco gets the same money, it just doesn’t seem like a big number anymore

    • DoodtheDood

      Thank god some people realize he was an awful signing from the start.

    • Thiscantbegood

      Its sad when the worst pitcher the Cubs have is making the most on the team.

      • Drew7

        Not with the salary structure in MLB. Ideally, you’d have a young rotation full of arb and pre-arb guys.

        Oh, and I’m not sure Jackson is the worst pitcher the Cubs have, anyway.

  • MightyBear

    Personally I think FIP and xFIP are over rated stats for pitchers.

    • Edwin

      Why?

      • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

        Cause that’s how he “feels.”

        • http://kempfintl.com pfk

          It’s important that we consider each other’s “feelings.” BNers are sensitive people.

          • Edwin

            Strong men also cry.

            • http://kempfintl.com pfk

              I know. I’ve cried watching the Cubs for 60 years!! Better days are coming starting in July. No more tears. Nothing but cheers.

              • Fishin Phil

                I have no feelings, my heart is made of wood.

  • arta

    agree with newsguy23, I’ve never liked this guy.

  • cubsfaninca

    A 5 starter? I’m not a big Jackson fan either (I think his problems are between the ears, not the arm) but you can’t really call someone who has averaged 190 IP for the last 7 years a #5 starter. Maybe on the Dodgers right now but that’s about it.

    • Voice of Reason

      What difference does innings pitched make?

      Last year Jackson wouldn’t even have been in the rotation for a competing team. He was god awful. He wouldn’t even have been a #5.

      The only reason he got to pitch so many innings last yeae is because he is with the lovable losers.

      • Noah_I

        On any team that uses advanced metrics, he would have remained in the rotation.

        • Voice of Reason

          I understand advanced metrics but pitchers must go out and throw and not go off what stats on paper say.

          He would have been out of the rotation if on a contending team last year and then left off the playoff roster.

          • TWC

            “I understand advanced metrics…”

            Larf.

            • http://kempfintl.com pfk

              I had Advanced Metrics once but my doctor cleared it up.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The stats are telling you how well he’s actually throwing. In post-season, you want to go with the guy who has put up the best xFIP numbers: that is the guy who has the highest probability of keeping the other team close.

          • Noah_I

            Right, and the advanced metrics say that he threw the ball fine (decent K and walk rates, didn’t give up a lot of home runs, solid ground ball rate), but that balls found holes, particularly at inopportune times (high BABIP and low LOB percentage). Teams that utilize advanced metrics would have looked at that and kept sending him out there every 5 days, with the thought being that statistics that are often noise caused the high ERA, and would eventually even out. Would he ideally be a part of a playoff rotation? No. But he’d make the roster as an emergency starter/long reliever.

            • Voice of Reason

              So you need advanced metrics to show you that when he pitched balls found holes, particularly at inopportune times.

              That’s hilarious.

              • itzscott

                Advanced metrics proves that if he didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.

              • TWC

                “So you need advanced metrics to show you that when he pitched balls found holes, particularly at inopportune times.”

                I thought you understood advanced metrics.

                • Voice of Reason

                  Who doesn’t understand them?

                  I mean… Jackson threw pitches that found holes and it happened at inopportune times.

                  Where would be without those advanced stats? We would be wondering why Jackson sucks.

                  • TWC

                    “Who doesn’t understand them?”

                    You don’t.

                    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                      And this surprises you why?

                  • Noah_I

                    No, you don’t understand advanced metrics. Advanced metrics look at the things a player can control. In the case of a pitcher, that’s K rate, BB rate, and arguably ground ball rate (which xFIP looks at) and HR/FB (which FIP uses). They tell us, based upon those measures, what you would typically expect a pitcher’s ERA to be with an average defense in a neutral ballpark (which is one of the reasons xFIP has become more popular than FIP, since playing in certain parks will affect HR/FB). When a pitcher’s ERA is far off from his xFIP and FIP, as Jackson’s was, then you ask why? For example, Matt Cain has regularly outperformed his xFIP by significant margins because he has the odd ability, proven year in and year out, to limit HR/FB.

                    But when the issues are BABIP and LOB%, we know that those are things that fluctuate greatly from year to year, and we know that Jackson has, over the course of his career, posted near average BABIP and LOB%. So the question is if allowing grounders or bloop hits to find holes in situations where runners are in scoring position is a skill, or just randomness. And experience tells us it’s heavily skewed to randomness, and that a pitcher’s BABIP and LOB% in any given year is not particularly indicative of what those rates will be the following year.

                    So Jackson had bad results last year, yes. But advanced metrics tell us he did it for unpredictable reasons. When Jackson has struggled this year, it’s largely been because of walks. If Jackson goes back to walking 4-5 per 9 as he did in April, yeah, he’ll be officially bad. But 7 months of play with negative BABIPs and LOB rates are just not indicative of a pitcher’s skill level.

                    • Voice of Reason

                      The cubs win 60% of the time when a guy named frank sits behind the dugout in a red shirt. So what? Show me the stat from a few weeks ago where the cubs should have been two games under .500. Really??

                      Games aren’t won on paper. I get the advanced metrics, but after a while you have to realize that the.games are actually determined by what happens on the field at that given time. Sure those stats give you probability, but that’s it. Sure you can have fun with them.

                    • mjhurdle

                      “I get the advanced metrics”

                      Just going by your Frank/Red Shirt example, i don’t think you do.

                      If you could prove that year in and year out, all things being equal, the Cubs won 10 more games a year when a man named Frank wore a red shirt and sat behind the Cubs dugout, then the response would not be “so what”, but rather that the Cubs would find a way to get a guy named Frank in a red shirt to sit behind that dugout every game.

                  • roz

                    Guys, I think Voice of Reason is actually Harold Reynolds.

    • Noah_I

      Yeah, he’s an innings eating 3 on a second division team, an innings eating 4 on a contender. I still think the BABIP stabilizes, and when all’s said and done he ends up with an ERA in the high 3′s this season.

      • another JP

        Which is about right Noah. I’m hoping that last start is enlightening enough to EJax that he does some film study to realize he can’t get lazy and just rely on his FB. When he mixes in a slider and doesn’t get wild in the strike zone he’s a good pitcher. The guy has good stuff and needs to trust it by not nibbling so damn much and walking batters.

        If the 2010 version of EJax that put up 3.5 WAR is back that contract he signed suddenly looks like a winner for the FO.

  • Darth Ivy

    Do they trade him in the last year of his contract as a rental, hold on to him until the end, or even trade him next year with a little more time to get a bigger return?

    • AreWeThereYet

      If some team offered something decent, they’d trade him tomorrow.

  • CubsFaninMS

    It’s good to read how Edwin’s strong outing improved several of his key performance metrics. And, of course, we all truly hope it’s the start of some positive regression whether it is to improve our chances of winning or trading him for greater long-term assets. That being said, Edwin’s sporradic performance with the Cubs and his entire career give us plenty of reason not to get too excited. A pessimist (which I am generally not) could easily tell you “If the Cubs would’ve scored 6 runs, Edwin would’ve given up 7 runs.” I guess my point is.. I’m cautiously realistic.

  • http://BN Sacko

    What didn’t other teams see in him that we did. He has really been around retained by nobody. Was he our only pick after Annibal?

    • http://BN Sacko

      Even with his A game last outing, he appears to have cerebral issues.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Well, what other pitchers were out there unsigned at that time? That is the answer to your question.

      (Also, the attempt to sign EJax was independent of the attempt to sign Sanchez; this is the sort of thing where you have to pursue both in hopes of getting one, and if you get both, then that is even better; however, given that many other teams pursued both and got neither,that is always the most probable outcome.)

      • Voice of Reason

        What other pitchers were out there?

        You certainly aren’t advocating signing a player because he’s the best available at that time?

  • The Real Wrigley

    The guy has been so bad with the Cubs , that one good outing get such a long write-up?
    Yes, I’m happy to see him do well. But, no, I don’t see very many stories like this one in the next two years.

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