A few days ago, Jason Beck decided to torment me again.
DETROIT -- The returning Tigers starting pitchers are at the center of most of the questions. The one new starter can quietly settle in.
I disagree. How will Carlos Guillen adjust to left field? Will he be healthier out there? What about Inge at third? Will being moved back to his favorite position help his bat? Does Adam Everett still have it in the field? Can HE stay healthy? Can Polonco produce enough to be signed to an extension? Will Laird and Treanor be solid fits behind the plate and with our pitching staff? Where will Marcus Thames get at bats? Is Sheff healthy? When will #500 come? You get the point.
Will Zach Miner, Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis take the fifth spot? Can Robertson and Willis find their old form? Is Jeremy Bonderman really healthy? How can Justin Verlander avoid a repeat of last year?
What's the deal with Edwin Jackson? The answer to that one, at least, is not much, really.
You sound like Jim Leyland giving a vote of confidence to Fernando Rodney with that one.
Coming off a relative breakthrough season, he's quietly looking to build off of that, even though it's coming in a different city.
Breakthrough season, huh? 199 hits allowed in 183.1 innings pitched. 77 walks and 108 strikeouts. 4.42 ERA. Breakthrough.
"Me, I'm trying to be the person who just picks up slack," Jackson said. "A good pitching staff, there's a slack there, where one person does a good job, then the next person gets it done. That's what it takes to win ballgames."
No sarcasm intended here...I hope that someone in the Detroit clubhouse writes that down. That, or gets us a good pitching staff.
In comparison to past Tigers acquisitions, Jackson was relatively anonymous as he walked through Comerica Park on his various stops for TigerFest.
Give it time. The death threats will come in time. And if he's really bad, maybe some barely literate smartass will start a blog with his name in it.
He doesn't have nearly the stardom that Willis and Miguel Cabrera brought into town a year ago, or Gary Sheffield the year before that, or the track record of Kenny Rogers in 2006.
Yeah...it would have been a lot cooler if he'd have attacked a cameraman before coming up north.
Yet on a Tigers squad that struggled to piece together a five-man rotation by last season's end, Jackson could be one of its more important pieces. After being left off the Rays' postseason rotation last year, he comes to Detroit with a rotation spot in hand and a role to play. No career comebacks or turnarounds or vaults to stardom; the Tigers need consistent innings.
Notice anything there, kids? He has a rotation spot in hand...consistent innings. He was left off the Rays' postseason rotation...in his "breakout year". This is almost as scary to me as the words, "Bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the 9th, Tigers down by 1, and here comes Brandon Inge to the plate."
Jackson has the stuff to provide that if he can carry over his progress from last year. He might have some of the best stuff on the staff.
What's that line from the movie "Waiting"? Oh yeah, "That's like being the smartest kid with Down's Syndrome". Dan Petry today could have been our #3 starter last year. Our staff had no "stuff" last year.
He is just now starting to make it work for him. Five years have passed since Jackson was the teenage phenom making his Major League debut with the Dodgers as a September callup, yet he's just 25 years old. Since then, he has had his share of struggles, high ERAs at Triple-A, passes-over in the Dodgers' rotation, a trade to the Rays for two relievers, a half-season in Tampa Bay's bullpen and a 15-loss induction to the Majors in his first full big league season in 2007.
I am so happy that we gave us a promising, left-handed, slugging outfielder for this guy.
The reward came last year, when his season was arguably a microcosm of the Rays. He topped his career high with six victories by the end of July, and ended up with more wins than his previous five Major League seasons combined. His 4.42 ERA was his lowest for a season, Majors or Minors, since '03.
Jason, you're better than this. Wins mean jack squat as far as pitching stats go. Jackson had absolutely nothing to do with how many runs the Rays scored for him last year compared to other years. Guys that pitch on teams that score a lot are going to have more wins. Is it a guy's fault if he has an ERA of 2.24 but his team averages 1.3 runs per game for him? Say my imaginary friend goes 9-11 with that 2.24 ERA. Is he worse than the guy that goes 15-8 with a 5.29 ERA? Of course not. Wins are a team stat that matters...not a pitcher's.
Yet the results and the pitching didn't necessarily go hand-in-hand. He was 5-6 at the All-Star break, but with a 3.93 ERA and an average of better than six innings per start. His innings dropped and ERA rose in the second half, yet he won nine of his 13 starts.
Thank you for proving my point.
He had his share of damage. The key was not to let it unravel his outing. Sometimes, it worked. Compared with the .281 batting average he allowed overall, he lowered that to .262 with runners in scoring position, .242 in those situations with two outs. That helped overcome a .373 on-base percentage allowed to leadoff hitters.
Yes...letting the leadoff guy get on. Something he has in common with, oh I don't know...EVERY pitcher on our staff. No wonder DD wanted him.
"I think it was composure," Jackson said. "It's hard to keep your composure, especially when you're at a high level of competitiveness. When the game gets that fast, you have to slow it down mentally. That was the biggest key to getting out of big situations and not letting innings snowball."
Imagine that. Major league baseball isn't easy. If only the good ones were paid an outrageous amount of money to do it...oh yeah. They are. Quit whining and throw strikes.
A consistent mid-90s fastball to go with a slider, curveball and changeup gives Jackson the chance to dominate games when he has his command, though he fell into a fastball-slider combination last year.
Hooray. See "Bonderman, Jeremy".
Of his 15 quality starts, 11 were six innings or longer with one earned run or less. He allowed a lone run over 20 1/3 innings in a three-start May stretch against the Blue Jays, Yankees and Cardinals.
The flip side was seven outings with six earned runs allowed. When it came time for Tampa Bay to set its postseason roster, Jackson was left off the American League Division Series roster against the White Sox, then put in the bullpen for the AL Championship Series and World Series.
Inconsistant and unreliable. This is our new #3 starter, people...using his "breakout year" as an example. Kill me.
There's more, but it's pretty boring. I know things are slow, but I used to like Jason Beck's stuff. Lately, he's just been terrible. At least make a bit of sense, okay?
Anyways, kids, enjoy the cold weather. I'm off to South Carolina for a week. Take care.