2011 Fantasy Baseball Projections: Buy or Sell White Sox Pitcher Edwin Jackson?

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Projections: Buy or Sell White Sox Pitcher Edwin Jackson?
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Chicago White Sox pitcher Edwin Jackson dominated the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday, allowing just one run on four hits and one walk while fanning 13.

After two starts this season, the 27-year-old is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 12.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

Given his uninspiring career totals before today’s gem (4.61 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.71 K/9, 3.87 BB/9 in 88 1/3 innings), one can’t help but wonder: Is Edwin Jackson’s spectacular start legit?

Before digging into the meat and potatoes, I should note that I haven’t touched Jackson in any fantasy league in at least five years. Given his history against the Rays, however—17 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, including a 149-pitch, eight-walk no-hitter last June—I couldn’t resist spot-starting him Thursday against the Evan Longoria-less Rays.

Despite playing for three different teams (Tigers, Rays, White Sox) over the last three seasons, Jackson has shown significant improvement in several statistical categories:

Strikeout Rate:

  • 2008: 5.30
  • 2009: 6.77
  • 2010: 7.78

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching):

  • 2008: 4.88
  • 2009: 4.28
  • 2010: 3.86

Contact Rate:

  • 2008: 83.3 percent
  • 2009: 79.2 percent
  • 2010: 77.2 percent

Swinging Strike Rate:

  • 2008: 7.6 percent
  • 2009: 9.8 percent
  • 2010: 10.4 percent

It’s obvious that Jackson has improved over the last few seasons, but just how good is he?

Since being dealt from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox at the trade deadline last season in exchange for Daniel Hudson, Jackson has been a completely different pitcher:

  • 89 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 9.81 K/9, 2.33 BB/9

While this is a very small sample to draw conclusions from—less than half a season, in fact—the advanced statistics support Jackson’s strong performance on the south side.

In fact, Jackson was actually a tad bit unlucky in 2010:

  • BABIP: .313 (MLB average .293)
  • LOB rate: 69.6 percent (MLB average 72.2 percent)
  • FIP: 3.86 (ERA 4.47)

One reason for Jackson’s success has been his slider, which has ranked among the best in the majors over the last three seasons:

  • 2008: 18.8 runs above average (sixth best in MLB)
  • 2009: 17.7 runs above average (sixth best in MLB)
  • 2010: 12.4 runs above average (10th best in MLB)

His electric mid-’90s fastball has been surprisingly ineffective, though it has improved in recent seasons:

  • 2008: 13.4 runs below average (12th worst in MLB)
  • 2009: 8.9 runs below average (18th worst in MLB)
  • 2010: 7.3 runs below average (19th worst in MLB)

Jackson also throws a curveball and change-up on occasion (combining for 11 percent of his offerings last season), but generally sticks with his fastball/slider combo.

While Jackson has been extremely impressive in 13 starts with the White Sox, there is one major red flag to speak of. Jackson has always been prone to the home run ball, made evident by his career HR/9 of 1.06.

Pitching half his games (theoretically) in one of baseball’s most home run-friendly parks, this is cause for concern.

In 11 starts (including Thursday) at U.S. Cellular Field, Jackson has posted the following totals:

  • 71 IP, 3.80 WHIP, 1.32 WHIP, 8.49 K/9, 3.17 BB/9

Spectacular? No. Solid? Yes.

In fact, I would project Jackson’s 2011 campaign to end with totals very similar to these. He certainly isn’t (nor will he ever be) an elite pitcher, but a sub-4.00 ERA with an excellent strikeout rate will help fantasy managers stomach the less-than-ideal WHIP.

Jackson is currently owned in just 59 percent of Yahoo! leagues. His next two starts (at Oakland, vs. Tampa Bay) are very favorable, making him a must-add in all formats.

 

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