Saturday, August 15, 2015

Howdy, Edwin!

The surprising thing about the signing of Edwin Jackson isn't that the rebuilding Braves picked him up. It's that it took 13 years for it to happen. Maybe I'm alone in this, but it's seemed like Jackson was due to be a Brave several times before, but it finally took a former Brave (Rafael Soriano) joining the Cubs to make it happen.

Jon Durr | Getty Images
Jackson broke into the majors as a top prospect for the Dodgers in 2003. Over the next three seasons, he logged time in both the majors and minors, but never established himself until finally being dealt to the Rays before the 2006 season in a four-player trade that would send another former Brave, this time Danys Baez, to the Dodgers. Tampa Bay, unlike the Dodgers, was more willing to let Jackson figure it out and over a three year period, Jackson pitched in 87 games, including 63 starts, and logged 380.2 ING. It remains the longest tenure in innings that Jackson has received in any of his eight stops (nine counting Atlanta).

The Rays, like the Dodgers before them, grew tired of waiting for Jackson to begin to emerge as the pitcher many had hoped he would become and moved him to the Tigers for Matt Joyce after 2008. On a 86-77 Tigers team, Jackson set a personal high with 214 innings pitched and was especially good in the first half as he limited opposing hitters to a .212 batting average and went to his only All-Star Game on the heels of a 2.52 ERA. However, things regressed for him in the second half to the tune of a 5.07 ERA, prompting the Tigers to include Jackson in a three-team trade with the Yankees and Diamondbacks that included Max Scherzer going to Detroit, Curtis Granderson heading to the Bronx, and Jackson moving out west to the desert.

Jackson spent the first four months of 2010 with the Diamondbacks pitching similar to the way he finished the second half with the Tigers - poorly. His ERA was 5.16 when, at the trading deadline, the White Sox sent a couple of pitchers, including Daniel Hudson, to Arizona to add Jackson as they attempted to make a stretch run to the playoffs. A September collapse kept that from happening, though Jackson pitched his best ball of the year after the trade. He would remain with the White Sox into 2011 and over his first 19 starts, he was 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA and 3.25 FIP. Pretty stout numbers for him. His time with Chicago remains some of his best pitching in the majors (30 starts, 3.66 ERA, 3.22 FIP). The White Sox would trade him to the Cardinals and he remained a decent back-of-the-rotation option for St. Louis and would remain in the picture in the postseason. In fact, he started four games for the Cards in October, including Game 4 of the World Series where he would take the loss in a 4-0 game. The Cards would later win it in seven games, leading to Jackson's only championship ring.

After a solid year-and-change with the White Sox and Cardinals, Jackson finally entered free agency for the first time in 2011 and waited for the long-term deal that would allow him to settle down and stick around for awhile. None were to his liking and just weeks before pitchers and catchers were to report to spring training for the 2012 season, Jackson accepted a one-year pact to join the Nationals. It would be a good spot for him as he made 31 starts and finished the year with a 4.03 ERA and two appearances, including one start in the NLDS. More notable for him was that it added a bit more longevity to the best pitching of his career and he finally was able to secure the long-term deal that would stabilize his future - four years, $52 million.

It immediately looked bad. He dropped his first five decisions and never was able to get his ERA under 4.60 after his second game of the year. On the year, he finished with the season with a 4.98 ERA. Jackson finally paced the league in a statistical category - 18 losses. Many suggested that there existed some reason for optimism. After all, a 3.79 FIP was his second best total in any season to that point. Maybe he would bounce back in 2013.

He didn't. He was so bad that the Braves apparently flirted with the Cubs about sending Melvin Upton Jr. to Chicago for Jackson.

After a 6.33 ERA in 2014, the Cubs decided to shift Jackson to the pen for the remainder of his tenure. He was doing an acceptable job as a low-key, long reliever for Chicago this season and had thrown 31 innings on the year with a 3.19 ERA, but the Cubs liked their bullpen with Rafael Soriano in it rather than Jackson and decided to cut their losses (and the roughly $15M owed to Jackson).

Jackson throws a fastball or slider over 85% of the time, preferring to utilize a cutter, curveball, or change-up sparingly. Like Jason Frasor, David Aardsma, and Nick Masset before him, Jackson's chances to be a Brave in 2016 will be completely dependent on his play moving forward. The Braves are committing precious little to Jackson. He simply brings a veteran arm who can help with innings that a young staff sometimes struggles to give. The Braves are also counting on the idea of a hungry player who knows his future in the game relies on him being able to shake off his previous bad play and move forward with solid contributions.

Teams like the Braves can take chances on guys like this. Atlanta isn't going anywhere and they might be able to benefit from a hungry veteran trying to play for a major league contract after the season. Either way, he allows them to not abuse younger arms to get to game 162. That in itself is a good thing.

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Do me a solid and also check out my Saturday Stats Pack at my About.com blog that was posted today. Some interesting tidbits about historically low power numbers for Atlanta, Pedro Ciriaco's tendency to not let any pitch get by him, Shelby Miller's bad-luck record, Andrew McKirahan's bad luck ERA, and nothing about Matt Wisler's luck (though his K numbers are a little concerning).

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