Edwin Jackson Waits to Get Paid

With the two biggest names on the free agent pitcher list off to Miami and Anaheim and Yumania hitting a fever pitch, Scott Boras client Edwin Jackson sits at home and waits. Right-handed and well-traveled as Jackson might be, he represents a tidy free agent acquisition for any team in need of rotation help.

As Joe Sheehan pointed out earlier this week, Edwin Jackson isn’t that much different than Mark Buherle. Edwin Jackson is durable. But is Edwin Jackson good?

It isn’t that Edwin Jackson is a bad pitcher. Far from it. Edwin Jackson is an effective pitcher. He eats innings and keeps the ball in the ballpark. Judging by his stuff, you may expect more strikeouts than the 18% or so he manages.

Jackson throws four pitches..I think. Looking at his usage numbers on Fangraphs one thing jumps out: there is a problem with the Pitch f/x system in Chicago. His slider usage jumped and his pitch chart…well it looks like this.

Somewhere in there we learn Jackson throws a fastball, slider, and change with a curveball? He is mostly fastball/slider, with the fastball clocking in around 94 and a slider he at 88 or so. He goes to the slider a lot at 30%. That is the third-highest rate among pitchers over the last three years.

Jackson curbed his control problems from his Devil Ray-days and became a very functional big leaguer. But is he worth the contract he’s about to land?

Edwin Jackson is a league average pitcher. That is not a bad thing. But it is not a sexy thing. Any team signing Edwin Jackson and expecting him to set the world on fire should prepare for significant disappointment. The biggest thing to consider when the Edwin Jackson signing is announced is sticker shock. It might seem like an awful lot of money but he assuredly won’t be overpaid.

But League Average is not a four-letter word. That Edwin Jackson will sign a contract so lucrative it will make your head spin is not an indictment of him, it is an indictment of our slightly warped view. If Edwin Jackson is the third-best pitcher on your team, your team is very good. If he is the best pitcher…you’re doomed.

It just so happens that the going rate for 200 inning pitchers who don’t walk the planet or serve up gopher balls is $15 million dollar per year, for five years. That’s just the way it works.

I could jazz up this post with heat maps and other sexiness but it doesn’t change the facts. Edwin Jackson throws hard enough to keep himself out of trouble for now. He keeps his slider out of the middle of the plate and doesn’t shoot himself in the foot.

The fifth year of his contract won’t be pretty as his fastball loses a few ticks and the high number of sliders take their toll but if you’re a team like the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Rangers, that is the risk your run. You need to know those 200 innings are in the bank this season, the future will sort it self out in time.

They can hope and pray for health or kids to get it together but the new Wild Card reality suggests the margin for error is increasingly thin. Why trifle around with a scrap heap find or kid on an innings limit when you can plug Jackson in and put those innings pretty much to bed.

Again, this isn’t criticism of Edwin Jackson. If anyone could pitch 200 innings with a SIERA around 4.00, they would. Jackson isn’t some kind of Jon Garland jerryrig. There is no shame in being a rich man’s Jeff Weaver. Some people take great pride in being Jeff Weaver, including one of the great crime fighters of our time.

Consider Edwin Jackson something of a humble brag. If he joins your favorite team, it means your team is in need of the very best workmanlike starter available. That probably means they have designs on the playoffs, like the Cardinals last year when they brought him in at the deadline. Or the White Sox before that. And the Tigers before them. You get the picture.