Saturday, June 06, 2009

Jackson Is The Real Deal

When the Tigers first acquired Edwin Jackson from the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Joyce last December, I was not happy with the move. I knew he threw hard and had great stuff and that he was once one of the top prospects in the game but his performance had never lived up to his potential. He lacked control (4.5 walks per nine innings), was not a strikeout pitcher (6.1 per nine innings) had a career 5.15 ERA.

Some pointed to his 14 win season with the pennant winning Rays last year as a sign that he had turned the corner. However, the wins came more from strong support from his offense, defense and bullpen more than his own performance. His 108/77 K/BB ratio and 4.88 FIP were less than impressive and a look at his game logs showed that he was not dominant even in his best games. I knew why the trade was made. The Tigers needed pitching, Dave Dombrowski loves high risk high reward players and, at 25 years of age, there was still a chance for Jackson to turn his potential into reality.

While I conceded that Jackson had some upside and that he gave the Tigers much needed pitching depth, I did not envision him being anymore than an innings eating starter with an ERA closer to 5.00 than 4.00. Thankfully, I was wrong about that and I think he has even exceeded the expectations of his staunchest supporters. His dominating complete game four hitter versus the Angels tonight lowered his ERA to 2.16, second lowest in the American League to Zach Greinke. He also has an excellent 62/19 K/BB ratio in 83 innings.

Last week, I said that his eight inning two hitter versus the Orioles was his best start of the season to that point. Tonight's game may have been even better. He allowed only four hits and one walk in nine innings but the best part was how he finished it up. With a two run lead in the top of the ninth, Jim Leyland let him go out there to finish it. This was reasonable given that he was still under 100 pitches when the inning started. He proceeded to strike out three very tough hitters - Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrerio and Torri Hunter in succession to give the Tigers a 2-1 victory.

Most impressive was the fact that retired the trio largely by blowing it by them at 98 and 99 MPH that late in the game. Not only has Edwin managed to harness his great stuff but he knows how to pitch too. He got through eight innings by getting the Angels to hit the ball to his teammates and saved his best pitches for the ninth inning. His last two starts have finally convinced me that his good start is no fluke. The kid has figured it out.

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