FanPost

Don't Underrate Edwin Jackson

Pitcher A, 2012 opening day age: 28. 2011 average FB velocity: 94.5

Season

IP

K9

BB9

Ground/Fly

SwStrike%

ERA/FIP/xFIP

fWAR

2009

214

6.8

2.9

0.92

9.8

3.62/4.28/4.32

3.6

2010

209

7.8

3.4

1.55

10.4

4.47/3.86/3.71

3.8

2011

199

6.7

2.8

1.40

9.2

3.79/3.55/3.73

3.8

 

 

Pitcher B, 2012 opening day age: 33. 2011 average FB velocity: 85.6

Season

IP

K/9

BB9

Ground/Fly

SwStrike

ERA/FIP/xFIP

fWAR

2009

213

4.4

1.9

1.26

6.6

3.84/4.46/4.37

3.4

2010

210

4.2

2.1

1.19

6.1

4.28/3.90/4.49

3.7

2011

205

4.8

2.0

1.27

6.5

3.59/3.98/4.14

3.4

 

 

Pitcher C, 2012 opening day age: 34. 2011 average FB velocity: 91.4

Season

IP

K/9

BB9

Ground/Fly

SwStrike

ERA/FIP/xFIP

fWAR

2009

181

6.9

2.1

1.21

9.2

4.12/3.76/3.82

3.0

2010

211

8.2

2.3

1.25

9.7

2.76/3.27/3.31

4.7

2011

139

6.0

2.1

1.27

8.0

3.69/3.44/3.95

2.5

 

We can see that all three candidates offer excellent durability, though C has had recent injury issues and is a question mark going forward. A and C will give you decent K’s, though B lags far behind. All 3 limit their walks, with A slightly behind but not majorly so. A is significantly better at getting groundballs and swinging strikes, along with being a full 5 years younger than his closest competitor B. Their triple slashes are roughly a wash. Going by peripherals, age, and lack of recent injury, A would therefore look like the best choice for a mid- to back-rotation starter for a contending team.

 

You may have guessed by now that A is Edwin Jackson, B is Mark Buehrle, and C is Roy Oswalt. Most proposals for pitching this offseason seem to either fall into the area of excessive money and risk (C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish), trades of varying plausibility that would require significant sacrifice of MLB talent and prospects (John Danks, Gio Gonzalez), or raiding the junkyard. It’s an open question whether the Red Sox will bother signing a free-agent starter at all. I don’t actually advocate signing Edwin Jackson in a vacuum; if it’s decided that the team does plan to sign a starter, however, I would argue that Jackson represents the best choice in a poor overall market.

 

In my opinion, the ideal archetype for a mid-to-back rotation starter is one with the durability to cover 190-200+ innings without a hitch and the upside to ensure those innings can be pitched at least to league-average standards. With this team, the offense will do the rest. Jackson holds a significant advantage over Buerhle and Oswalt in peripherals, stuff, and most importantly age (and by extension risk), making him in my opinion the best candidate to fulfill those expectations in a multiyear contract. To be sure, Jackson does have a few red flags I am wary of. Though he has been the picture of durability, making 31+ starts every year since 2007, his slider usage has increased steadily in that time, up to a career high of 33.7% last year. Pitchers who lean that heavily on sliders scare me as far as their prospects of holding up health-wise into their 30’s.

 

To this end, I would investigate the possibility of a short-term deal of 2 or 3 years, with an increase in AAV. From the team perspective this minimizes risk in years committed, while receiving the player’s prime seasons at age 28-29. From Jackson’s perspective he would re-enter free agency at age 30 or 31 and be able to aim for another large contract, having massively increased his value and exposure from pitching for a large market team. Dave Cameron at FanGraphs made an interesting observation that Jackson has seemingly been consistently underrated due to his inability to shake the reputation he gained early in his career, when he pitched poorly and coughed up walks like a blindfolded Dice-K, despite the fact he has become a completely changed pitcher. Unless somebody pulls a Ruben Amaro, I feel it is extremely unlikely Jackson will get a lucrative enough contract this winter that he would make more money than he would by using the aforementioned tactic of taking a short “springboard” contract first. 2 years for $24-28M or 3/35-40 would seem a fair compromise. This essentially pays him as a 3-win pitcher while representing a significant raise from his past contract, which bought out his last 2 arb years at 2/13.4. Given that Scott Boras is involved, however, it would still be preferable to take a pass rather than swallow an overpay if push comes to shove, as Jackson isn’t nearly good enough to be worth that extra mile.



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