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.

Comments (16)

  1. Edwin Jackson seems underrated by most. He’s a pretty solid pitcher. Interesting that Goldstein definitively states Darvish will be better than him. Hard for anybody to really know.

  2. If the Jays could sign Jackson to a 3/30 deal I would be glad if they did..

    I’m very interested to see how much he signs for….

    • That simply will not happen. Dude’s gonna get paiiiddddddd

      • I tend to agree…
        I saw a couple reports early in the off-season claiming he would get a deal around 3/30… At the time, I was puzzled…
        I think you have a better hold on free agent values than the stuff I read… Too lazy to find the links, but one of them was a guy from ESPN…

  3. Of course Darvish is better, Just heard KLaw in TSN radio say that if Jays get Darvish he jumps to the front of their rotation (although Law is consistent in his Romero-non-love).

    • Is Keith Law still saying these days that Romero is a bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher at best, haha?

      • He didn’t say it outright, but it was implied by saying Darvish jumps to the front of the rotation. I personally have Darvish pegged as our number 3, but what the hell do I know.

        • Would be cool if you were right about Darvish vs. Romero and Morrow… but Law is hardly the only scout to doubt Romero (still) and some work on Fangraphs suggests he benefitted this past season from an abnormally low babip with risp.

  4. It would be helpful to see some axis labels on your handy dandy pitch chart. I assume the y-axis is pitch speed, but I haven’t a clue what the x-axis represents….

    • Sorry about that. It is spin angle, or the axis on which the ball rotates. Usually it creates a tidy little graph that highlights each pitch a player throws, like this one! Jackson’s is a mess, owing greatly to a weird pitch f/x setup in Chicago.

  5. Hoping the jays get darvish and if they were to sign jackson with all the young guys who are decent we be pretty good for starting pitching but our bullpen still needs work.
    and with an abundance of outfielders non of which are any good except bautista and thames i think we could inprove our bullpen

  6. “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.”

    Doesn’t the new wild card make the margin for error wider in that you could presumably reach the playoffs having won fewer games? Why give innings away to a 2 year stop-gap for 15 million a year when you could be getting big league experience to your young arms for next to nothing? And why not end of that second sentence with a question mark?

    Unless you are saying the margin is more thin for the Yanks and Sox, in which case I take it all back!!

  7. Is it acceptable to continue to hold the Baltimore OriLOLes responsible for these pitching prices? Bensoooooon!!!!!!!

  8. How do you figure he’ll get 15/year? On the assumption that because Buehrle got 14.5 mill/year from the very free spending Marlins, Jackson will get a similar deal?

    I’d guess it’s closer to 12.5 than 15 on an annual basis, but what do I know.

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