After the White Sox traded for Diamondback hurler Edwin Jackson, the haters immediately came out. And I admit--for the first few hours, I was one of them. How could we possibly trade our best pitching prospect for a pitcher who's ERA is over 5.00? Then I cooled off, used my brain and looked a little more into it. Let us all remember--you can't argue with success.
Although Jackson has been rough this season, no one can doubt the potential that is there. He is only 26 years old and only been a starter for 4 seasons. Although he is incredibly wild (already 60 BB this season), he has electric stuff and throws extremely hard. This must be true, because teams were lined up at the trade deadline to acquire the 5.16 ERA Jackson.
Plus, he has shown flashes of brilliance at times. When you look at the Edwin Jackson game long, you will find mostly 4-7 innings pitched with 3-5 ER given up, mostly in the 5 IP, 4 ER mold. Not good. But you will also find the following games:
@ TB Rays: 9 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 0 H
@ LA Dodgers: 9 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 3 H
@ FL Marlins: 8 IP, 0 ER, 12 K, 4 H
@ SD Padres: 6 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 3 H
Remarkably, despite the 4 times he has held opponents to 0 ER, he has held zero opponents to 1 ER and only once did he allow 2 ER. What does this tell me? He either dominates, or gets rocked--and this season, it has been more of the getting rocked (hence the 5.16 ERA).
Despite this, the potential to dominate is clearly there. Not only notice how he dominated, but against whom he did. Four teams, four winning records, two division leaders. Rather impressive.
So we see here, without a doubt--Edwin Jackson has potential, and bundles of it. The key is how to hone that potential. How to turn this wild, raw, flame throwing, young guy into an All-Star? If only there was a pitching coach who had a history with these types of players...
Well its funny you should mention it--Don Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach, is one such coach. Let's take a look at some Don Cooper products only on the White Sox current roster.
Bobby Jenks: Acquired at the age of 24 and halfway through the 2005 season, he was dropped by the Angels due to weight and attitude problems. Besides that, he wasn't producing, getting lit up like a Christmas tree in the minors. After going to the Sox, Don Cooper refined his mechanics and he has averaged 35 saves over four seasons and a career ERA of 3.30.
Matt Thornton: This is the case most like Jackson's. The hard-throwing lefty was struggling mightily in Seattle--an ERA of 5.21...out of the bullpen! When Seattle came to Chicago to play the Sox and Thornton entered the game, Cooper told Kenny Williams he saw a mechanical flaw and could fix Thornton. Williams acquired him at the age of 27 and he is now an All-Star Reliever.
Sergio Santos: The short-stop turned pitcher was considered to be the mop up man entering the season. But this raw, hard-throwing righty was able to refine his pitching abilities and make a run at the all-star game and has the lowest ERA on the White Sox.
Gavin Floyd: A pitcher very similar to Jackson is the respect that he was young, talented, wild and was getting rocked elsewhere, Williams made a big (and criticized) move to acquire him. His ERA lowered 2 whole runs in his first season with the Sox, and he now resides at a comfortable ERA of 3.54 and has a contract extension that was less criticized under his belt.
Like Thornton, Don Cooper has seen video of Edwin Jackson, and he likes what he sees. The White Sox have been extremely successful in the past with these sort of pitchers. You can't argue with success.
However that's not all. Another reason why this is a good acquisition? It is what the Sox do. In the past decade, I can only think of two players that the White Sox drafted, groomed in the minors, then brought up to make a big league impact--that is Mark Buehrle and Gordon Beckham (who we got because we drafted 8th overall and he fell to us...that usually helps.) The White Sox are just terrible at drafting--plain and simple. Let's take a look at the Sox first round draft picks this decade:
2010 Chris Sale LHP
2009 Jared Mitchell OF
2008 Gordon Beckham SS
2007 Aaron Poreda LHP
2006 Kyle McCulloch RHP
2005 Lance Broadway RHP
2004 Josh Fields 3B
2003 Brian Anderson OF
2002 Roger Ring LHP
2001 Kris Honel RHP
2000 Joe Borchard OF
A rather embarrassing list. So how do we continue to compete, you ask? We trade for young, raw, talented players who are having bad careers elsewhere. Just think of the list of names of players that we have now because of risks we have taken on players like Jackson--talented but inconsistent and little major league success. Carlos Quentin, Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, as well as all of those pitchers I named earlier. That is the core of our team. The White Sox are very good at finding these young, talented players and turning them into All-Stars. No question--the White Sox should continue to do what they are good at (acquire these high risk, high reward players) and not do what they are bad at (draft and groom).
Kenny Williams and Don Cooper are both very good at what they do. Very few people will argue that. So why question this trade? Both Kenny and Coop (as well as a handful of scouts) reviewed tapes on Jackson before Kenny made any type of offer, and Cooper said (like he did with Thornton and Floyd) that he could fix Jackson. I have no reason, with his strong track record, to believe he can't.
It has become clear to me that, if you complain about this trade, then you should also be complaining about the acquisitions of Quentin, Konerko, Rios, Danks (traded Brandon McCarthy for him), Thornton, Floyd and Jenks. No doubt--every trade the Sox make is not going to work out. Its called "HIGH RISK, High reward for a reason". There will be some that do not work out as well. But it is this strategy that has gotten us where we are--why argue with success?
I imagine the haters out in numbers against the Hudson for Jackson trade (some 60%, according to a recent Bleacher Report poll) will not be complaining in 2 or 3 years when Jackson is another in the long line of magical wonders produced by Don Cooper.