Guest Post: The case for an Edwin Jackson rebound in 2014

Guest Post: The case for an Edwin Jackson rebound in 2014

Edwin Jackson is a popular subject this year after his disappointing debut in a Cubs uniform last year.  The stuff is there, particular with his fastball/slider combo, but Jackson hasn't been able to put together a consistent career to this point.

Today, we have a guest post for you from one of our readers and he gives his take on why Jackson should bounce back...

The case for an Edwin Jackson rebound in 2014

by Joe Piscopo


Edwin Jackson's 2013 season was a disaster and the Cubs made a mistake in signing him.  This is the prevailing thought process by every baseball talking head and article written about Jackson's 2013 season, his first with the Cubs.  Even Theo Epstein was almost apologetic when asked about the Jackson signing at the 2014 Cubs Convention.

I believe that 2013 was not nearly as horrible as some have made it out to be for Jackson.  I also believe he will rebound in a way where his 2014 will fall more in line with his career averages.

Personally, I was happy when the Cubs inked Jackson to a 4-year contract for $52M.  He had been pitching well for a few years and I felt $11M per year was a fair price for a decent #3 starter, or at worst, a top-tier #4.  If people were expecting him to be an ace, then they were mistaken.  Jackson has never been an ace, despite having had ace-type stuff, and the Cubs are not paying him ace money.  $11M a year is not an enormous amount of money in today's world of professional baseball.

As 2013 wore on, Jackson wasn't winning many games for the Cubs and the grumbling and complaining about him started.  Of course, as any informed baseball fan knows, you cannot judge a pitcher based on wins.  As the end of the season neared, I wanted to investigate if his season was really as bad as everyone was making it out to be.  So I delved into his stats to see what I could uncover to find out if Jackson truly was getting worse or if something else was happening.

For most of the people that have chided Jackson in 2013, their reasoning is because he won only 8 games, lost 18 and posted an ERA of almost 5.

For the 3-year span of 2009-2011, Jackson was a 3.5 - 3.6 fWAR pitcher.  I had to compare his 2013 stats to that 3-year peak he had to find out what was causing his supposed regression.

Compared to that 3-year peak, in 2013, his strikeouts were down slightly, his walk rate was the same, the amount of HR's per 9 innings he allowed were down and his groundball rate was increased 7.2%.  No alarming differences there. So I needed to dig deeper.

Being that he was inducing more groundballs than at any point in his career, could the defense behind him have something to do with the amount of runs he was giving up?  That very well could be one reason.

One glaring difference I did find was that in 2013, his BABIP was higher at .322 compared to his 3-year peak of .306.  So it's pretty clear that he was inducing more groundballs and many of the hits he gave up were finding more holes than usual.  Jackson cannot control what the defense behind him is doing.  If the Cubs defense in 2013 was sub-par and allowed more balls in play to become hits than the average team, Jackson is not at fault for that.  And luckily for us, what Jackson is able to control is shown to us in his FIP and xFIP at 3.79 and 3.86, respectively.  Over a full run lower than his ERA of 4.98.  What that spells to me is Jackson pitched just about the same as he had during his peak, save for some bad luck, and should improve going forward unless the Cubs defense lets him down some more.

One other thing I found that might have something to do with Jackson's 2013 is Wellington Castillo, the Cubs main catcher, who caught 22 of Jackson's 31 starts..

I'm not going to act like I know much about pitch framing because I surely don't.  There is a growing opinion that pitch framing is a lot more important than many of us realize.  Castillo is still a fairly young player that many in the organization say still has much to learn about catching.  There is no great trove of evidence I can point at to blame Castillo's pitch framing for Jackson's season.  However, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs did write an article back in July that gave one example of poor pitch framing by Castillo which may or may not be attributable to Jackson giving up more runs than normal.

So I do expect Jackson will have a better season in 2014 because he is essentially the same pitcher he has been for the past several seasons.  He did not regress or get worse in 2013.  I believe it was the Cubs defense, and possibly young Wellington Castillo, that are to blame for what many consider a poor season.

Jackson was still a 2-win pitcher for the Cubs in 2013 and at the consensus going rate of $6M per win in MLB, Jackson was slightly underpaid at $11M last season.

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  • People are going to be so mad when Travis Wood 'takes a step back' this year. ERA needs to go.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Yes, I think people will be disappointed. I'm sticking with my prediction though that he will outperform his peripherals more often than most during his career.

  • 52/4 =13 mill per year

  • In reply to travelguy:

    $8 million signing bonus.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    I'm pretty sure the Cubs are still responsible for paying the signing bonus. The whole tone of the article was to determine the player's value (the player's on-field performance versus the compensation paid out). It doesn't really make sense to determine the value relative to just a portion of the compensation.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    That counts as well. He is a $13M/year pitcher for the Cubs that has only $33M left on his contract.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    $8M was a signing bonus. Technically he's making 3/33 for the remainder of the contract. If he can be a 2 to 2.5 WAR pitcher, that's market value. Not good value, but it is the open market price.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So, doesn't that mean that he was a $19 mil a year pitcher last year? Probably splitting hairs here. I don't think he is the pitcher he was in 2013. Honestly, for him I don't care much about ERA or Win/Loss record. I just want to pitch a ton of innings and keep pressure off the bullpen.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    According to my abacas it is. No matter how you figure, if he gets 4 for 52 it averages $13M per.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Technically, it does come out to $13M per year counting the signing bonus. Still not a great deal of money. Especially if he rebounds how I believe he can.

  • Mike, Jackson last year might have been one of the most frustrating pitchers to watch of all time. Granted, he wasn't signed to be an ace but I had hoped he would be more like a 3 (at best) or a 4 (if the expectation was set properly) and an innings eater. Unfortunately, he performed like a run of the mill 5th starter that are a dime a dozen. The plot seemed to be the same with every start - in what inning was he going to have a blow-up inning? Yeah, he has good stuff but he seems to be a bit of a choke artist and just doesn't seem to have learned how to effectively pitch when he doesn't have his best stuff or when he gets into jams. I don't think he'll be as bad as he was last year but I just don't see/expect significant improvement from him either in 2014. When it's all said and done, I believe he'll be mediocre and not the innings eater that the FO had hoped for.

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    Still don't like or understand the signing. I think the overemphasis of peripheral numbers, and trying to pin reasons for his failure on other players, and circumstances comes off as excuse making, and wishful thinking by someone who wants this to work, because he was on board with it from the beginning. I'm pretty sure they could this kind of production from a lot of pitchers for a lot less with the same kind of peripherals. It's not even an argument against the numbers the question of value here. I mean pitch framing? A bit of a stretch. As far as defense is concerned the Cubs infield defense was pretty damn superb. Rizzo was as good as any 1st baseman in the league, Barney's a legit gold glover, aside from the occasional concentration lapse (which I feel is more overblown than it should be) Castro gets to more balls than most of the Shortstops in the league. Third was average at worst. Outfield might have been more of an issue. I think he'll do better this season too mainly because you can't be much worse, but by no means am I going to blame everybody and everything else for what has been and will continue to be a mediocre starting pitcher.

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    John, the peripheral numbers are showing us the true story. If a player behind the pitcher doesn't make a play they should have, you can't blame the pitcher for it.

    Pitch framing is not a stretch at all. Did you read the article by Jeff Sullivan on Fangraphs? Pitch framing is really important in getting strike calls.

    And you might think the Cubs defense last year was superb but again, the numbers tell a different story. In Jackson's starts last year, he had 19 errors committed by our players and 2 passed balls. 11 of his runs given up were unearned.

  • In reply to JoeMlbMan:

    Sorry, typo. 17 errors, not 19.

  • I know it happens to a lot of pitchers, so I won't take out the pitch framing, but I won't blame it solely on Welly either.

    I can tell you MANY times where Jackson threw a strike, or near perfect strike, only to have it called a ball. Sure, it happens to everyone, but I've personally seen it happen to Jackson a lot in 2013.

    What do I want? Get rid of human error and use technology for balls and strikes. Lots of numbers would shift, but they would be more of the correct ones.

    How can we really say how good or bad someone is until the game catches up to calling plays correctly 100 percent of the time or very close?

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    In reply to givejonadollar:

    I think plate Umpiring has come a long way from past seasons. Used to be real bad. Now they at least try to maintain a true strike zone universally, instead of what individual umpires like to call strikes, but I'd be perfectly happy to leave it up to a laser system.

  • I love the new uses for statistics throughout the game, but sometimes things don't pass the eye test to me. EJ and JS having good statistical years is one. The BARISP is another, in my mind I see bad pitching and clutch batters, or in the Cubs case lack of clutch hitting (Rizzo for one). I know I am wrong if you look to the stats, but my eyes differ.

  • I'm not a fan of Welly's framing skills. And I expect Jackson to be a little better this season. but I aint buying the Framing & defense angles. That same defense and framing skills seemed to work just fine for our other pitchers. Feldman & Wood had career years with them.

    There might be other explanations buried in the saber stats somewhere. But unless you can show how the defense & framing didn't have the same effect on the other pitchers, with much better/different results; then I call BS. It's just a convenient excuse.

  • I really hope I am wrong, but I think jackson is going to be a disaster this season. He is poor pitching out of the stretch, fastball command is not there. I could see him out of the rotation by July.

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    First of all, can we get the 800 lb gorilla question out of the way? Is this THE joe piscopo from SNL? I know mary gross and tim kazurinski from that era were chicagoans, don't know about piscopo.

    Second, a small note about spring training stats. In know it's received wisdom that ST stats are meaningless and I largely agree with that. While some stats like W-L are clearly meaningless, the name of the game is still - even in the spring - to throw strikes and get hits. I've looked at the team stats for 26 players that we all feel have the best chance to be on the final roster (I included Bonifacio, Kalish and Murphy - one of them may be the odd man out):

    team Batting: ave/obp/slg/ops: .249/.350/.439/.789
    SO/BB 106/45

    Pitching: opp ave .278
    WHIP 1.40
    K/9 7.75
    BB/9 2.80
    ERA 5.09

    A team with a collective ave of .249 while giving up .278, with an ERA over 5, WHIP 1.40 is not going to win a lot of games. And remember these are all your major league Cubs, playing against a mixture off major leaguers and minor leaguers/DFA candidates. They should by this time be doing better.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    I don't think so. I think this dudes from Austria or something. t least here's mention of it on his twitter description. Clearly knowledgeable with the numbers, and a cub fan. He has good points but to me it seems like he's trying to convince himself of it more than anyone else.

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    Said he's a fan of the Austrian school of economics.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, Austrian school of economics is correct, John. Not Austrian personally. Italian boy from Chicago. :-)

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    Sorry for the horrid typos by the way. On my phone and not proofreading. I swear I'm not drunk or slow. LOL!

  • This sounds like the same sort of stuff like "Adam Dunn won't be as bad his second year." He wasn't, but sure was his third.

    I don't have the statistics, but I also seem to remember that Jackson often got pulled after giving up a big multirun inning. Also, it is one thing to say your defense is bad, but supposedly inducing grounders also includes locating your pitches so the batted ball heads in the direction of the fielder. One does not get a 5 ERA due to fielder's errors.

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    Inside the mind of the typical bi-polar Cub fan:

    I hate Edwin Jackson. He stinks. His ERA is 4.66, which is awful, and he's been on eight teams in 11 years, so he must be a cancer in the clubhouse. Theo, you're an idiot for signing this guy.

    I love Henry Blanco. His career .217 average is misleading. He's the greatest player to squat behind the dish that's not named Molina. And the fact that he's been on 11 teams in 17 years is a good indication that he's in demand. Theo, you're an idiot for not bringing him back to Chicago.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Hank hasn't made $13M in his entire career.
    Just curious, does this bi-polar thing you mention have anything to do with our weather this winter?

  • In reply to xhooper:

    the bi-polar vortex might.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    This made me laugh out loud

  • Not everyone fits into bad luck category, remember volstad.

    Jackson had a team around him that was 77 runs above league avg on defense. He needs to get better under pressure situations.

    Wood knows when to throw that cutter and get the weak pop up, he led the league in this. Jackson is the opposite, he didn't know how to extinguish the fire.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    Actually, when Vostad was with the Cubs, there were some who played the unlucky card with him, too. Then when the Cubs dumped him, they admitted he sucked. I see the same scenario playing out with Jackson. Only the Cubs sign an innings eater that can't get through six innings.

  • In reply to Vinny:

    The big difference between Volstad & Jackson is that nobody really ever thought that Volstad had good 'stuff'. Jackson - although erratic throughout most of his career, occasionally has really good stuff.

    Just enough stuff to be maddeningly close to being good.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    Ejax actually needs to use his change up more. In tight situations, he almost always went FB/ slider, niether which is consistent enough.

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    mariners released scott baker

  • This signing was a real head scratcher to me. Totally out of character with EVERYTHING this organization has done to this point. $13M for a guy that hasn't performed commensurately. Even if he did, his performance would be lost on this rebuild squad. His contract will be up just as they are ready to compete.
    High price/risk for a flip--if that was their intent.

  • Maybe this signing wasn't about the stats at all. I know they did 100% of their research, but maybe at the end of the day the only number they really cared about with EJax was the near or above 200 IP every single year. It really diffuses a ton of pressure from a below average bullpen and saves the younger arms from becoming overused or rushed in from AAA before they're ready. At 11MM per year, it's not a very steep price if he serves the exact function they brought him in for. For 11MM on other pitchers, sure you get better peripherals and a better ERA, but at the cost of a few DL stints or only around 150-160 IP per year. You won't find a durable guy with great numbers for that price nowadays, so I think at this stage the FO chose durability over other options for the reasons mentioned above.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    I've always felt like that was the biggest part of it, along with a bit of a knee jerk reaction after losing out on Sanchez @ $80MM. After seeing the likes of Geronimo, Raley, etc fill in; we needed someone to chew up some innings.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I would agree - it was almost like they figured they better sign 'somebody' young enough to a long enough contract to make some subset of fans take notice.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    IDK that they were motivated by the fans thoughts/feelings. except that they shared a brutal stretch of lousy SP after the sell off in 2012.

    We had the Dempster fiasco, Garza was injurred, Shark shut down, Wood was inconsistent, and we kept sending guys like Volsatd, Raley, Germano, etc... out there. That was a rough final 2 months of the season. We didn't have anyone in AAA to help out then (Rusin is the only one still with the club). And our only SP FA signings was Baker & Feldman. In short, we needed Jackson to avoid another similar situation because we knew it was likely to be another sell off in 2013.

  • So I learned three things from this post. A primary factor to EJ's poor 2013 was due to "pitch framing," 52/4 = 11, and Joe Piscopo is still alive. I can sum up my feelings thusly, "Send a wire to the main office, tell them I said....OW!"

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    I think the spam monster ate my last post.

  • First off, as a guy who lives and dies with this team I'm certainly hoping he has a huge campaign in 2014 just like everyone else. I also have no real problem with/comment on his salary. Number one, its not my money. Number two, guys get what they can get. Its neither an albatross nor a bargain. It is what it is.

    All due respect to the author and analysis but I think blaming his performance on the defense and the catcher is weak. Wely's a good catcher. Curious to me that Navarro who is a below average defender and caught the other 9 starts (I'm guessing, maybe Boscan caught one late or something...too lazy to research it) bore no blame. We all know Barney and Rizzo had plus to plus-plus defensive seasons. Valbuena's good. Starlin was what he was but he does have plus range, so in terms of ground balls getting through for hits, eh...I'm not on that train.

    For you to say he "didn't regress or get worse in 2013"...I'll call that fair I guess. I know you did plenty of statistical analyses. My problem with Edwin Jackson and the reason he's one of least favorite Cub pitchers in recent memory (25 years!) is the fact that he has yet to get BETTER. With that age/stuff/health profile, why are we not steadily getting better in our prime years??

    For me the answer is simple. Pitchability. He doesn't have it. Pitchability to me is striking out two guys in a row when its 2nd and 3rd, no outs. Its not walking the first two batters of the ballgame. Its not walking two guys and getting pulled from the game after you give up back to back homers. I'm sure most of the die hards on here saw basically every pitch the guy threw last year. I do know that I did and he's just the most uncomfortable watch for me. Theo would never admit it explicitly, nor should he, but I have to believe he regrets bringing him in, at least to some extent.

    Hes' a classic example of have good stuff + stay healthy for a decade = get your big contract. I have a feeling that he'll be a coaster and him getting a four year deal was maybe the worst thing that could have happened to the final polishing off of his development as a major league starting pitcher. Good stuff is a pre-requisite at the highest level. It gets to a point where you need more than that to take it to the ultimate level. I don't think he'll ever be that guy and I'll always place the blame squarely on him for that.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Agree 100%. I didn't read this comment until after I already posted my own. If I had I wouldn't have posted it. You already spoke for me. You're not a mind reader are you ;-)

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Must be a case of great minds thinking alike, HefCA!

  • Sorry guys. Have been out of commission today. It appears I may have a stress fracture on my foot and had been dealing with that all day.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yuck. Sorry to hear that. Hope you feel better.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I got a stress fracture in my foot one time from going feet first into the boards at full speed playing hockey. I feel for you, its no fun to deal with that. Get better soon.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Bummer John - have had one of those before.

    Enough to really slow you down - but not really enough to lay you up completely. And about the only way to heal them up is to gut it out and take it as easy as possible while healing up.

  • Ouch John. That is no fun. Must have been a long day and hope it heals quickly.

    How concerned ought we be about our bullpen? Veras got shelled again tonight. Egads. Can we afford to put him in the closers role and if not, who else?

  • In reply to Morgzie:

    I'm pretty confident the Veras signing was just someone capable and inexpensive to soak up the "saves" as far as stats go. I think Strop or one of the younger arms like Vizcaino is the ultimate goal, but with the arbitration salaries being so archaic and using stats like saves and wins as meter sticks, you let the verases and greggs of the world "soak up" the saves in the down season so that young players like Strop and Vizcaino are still very cheap via arbitration down the road, and we can still use them in high leverage 7th-8th inning situations until then without them jumping in price.

  • I'm the author of the article. I replied directly to a couple of the comments but one or two didn't show up.

    I see some of you saying that our defense was good in 2013 and the pitch framing argument is weak.

    In response to the pitch framing, I urge you to read through all of that Jeff Sullivan article I credited on Fangraphs. Pitch framing is very important.

    As for our defense, the Cubs players committed 17 errors in Jackson's starts last season and two passed balls (both Castillo). 11 of Jackson's runs last year were unearned.

  • In reply to JoeMlbMan:


    I agree with the spirit of this article, in that I don't think E-Jax is as bad as his W-L and ERA suggest. I'm glad you wrote this as I don't think we can just dismiss him as a bad signing. But I'm struggling to get my head around your justifications.

    I have read the pitch framing article, and others on the topic. I'm a former D-1A catcher and now umpire at the HS & Collegiate level. Trust me, I understand the nuances & importance of pitch framing. I don't need an article or a statistical justification to show me Beef sucks at this part of his game. I can see it. What your article isn't showing me is how this same pitch framing, or lack thereof, and "bad defense" didn't have the same impact on the rest of the staff. It's basically the same defense & pitch framing this year, so that in and of itself is not cause for E-Jax to rebound. Wood & Feldman had career years with this same defense & pitch framing.

    You mentioned the 17 errors committed and 2 passed balls while E-Jax was on the mound as if that was significant. We had 100 total errors last year. Beef had 8 PB's total and Navarro 5 not sure if others had any. But at quick glance, I'm not seeing that our defense, pitch framing, or passed balls was any worse for E-Jax than the other pitchers....

  • In reply to JoeMlbMan:

    "11 of Jackson's runs last year were unearned."

    So, what explains the 5 ERA?

  • In reply to jack:

    The .322 BABIP has a lot to do with the amount of runs he gave up. That's just plain bad luck.

  • Seating in the seats the first game of the season I saw Jackson get the first two outs of the first inning then proved to give up hits and walks to load the bases. 2 outs, bases loaded a grounder up the middle that Barney gets just goes under lillabridges glove to clear them.

  • Ramirez may end up getting that last spot ahead of Rondon and Grimm. He's given up 0 earned runs and last night struck out the side throwing at 97-98 miles per hour.

    Another former Rangers prospect Pimentel has been dominating for the Cubs, we will see how he does in Iowa as a starter.

    I would think if Rusin has one more good start he has to be your 5th starter.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Ramirez has already been optioned to AAA.

    I think the key decision here is who starts while Arrieta is on the DL? Rusin has earned it, but that doesn't mean he's a lock for it. That pushes Villanueva to the pen. But if they opt to go for Villanueva for what looks to be 1-2 starts, then Rusin will go to AAA as our #6 SP. Thus leaving room for an extra BP arm until Arrietta is healthy.

    Veras, Strop, Cabrera, Russell, Wright, Rondon, and Grimm if Villanueva starts.

    Veras, Strop, Wright, Russell, Carlos Villanueva, A. Cabrera, Grimm/Rondon if Rusin starts.

    btw, Pimentel pitched 5 shutout innings yesterday. Only gave up 3 hits, 0 BB's, and 9 K's!

  • Wow Iowa pitching should be REALLY good.

    Relievers: Vizcaino,Rondon,Rivero,Schlitter,Sanchez,Rosscup,
    Parker,Loux,Mateo. Then maybe Lim,Coleman & Hottovy.

    I dont think I ever remember a AAA staff like that.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Interesting names on that list.

    I wonder i f guys like Loux or Coleman even pitched in any Spring Training games this year (other than minor league games)?

    Gotta love the intense competition, pitching-wise in Iowa this year!

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Casey Coleman pitched 1.2 innings over 2 ST games. Not exactly stellar results, though extremely small sample size. I think Casey may be an organization arm elsewhere before long.'S'&season=2014&season_type=ANY&league_code='MLB'&sectionType=sp&statType=pitching&page=1&ts=1395756512982&timeframe=

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Loux is out for the year with TJ surgery

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    The Iowa rotation is probably going to be
    Rusin (once Arrieta returns)
    One of Negrin/Coleman/Rhee probably fills in for Rusin early in the year

    The bullpen will have:
    2/3 of Grimm/Rondon/Ramirez (with the other in the Chicago bullpen)
    Sanchez and Hottovy probably are competing for one spot

    Mateo, Gutierrez, Lim, Negrin, Coleman, Struck, Rhee, Hatley, Zych, Batista are guys that are competing as well. but I would think at least a couple of the veterans get released/traded, and then Hatley/Zych/Batista and maybe Rhee going back down to AA. Loux and McNutt probably start off on the DL, but it wouldn't surprise me if one or both get released/traded at some point this year.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Negrin has been stretched out as a SP this ST and has looked good from reports I've read. Also, we re-signed Wada to a MiLB contract and he'll likely factor into consideration for a rotation spot as well.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Wada should have been included with Negrin as a guy that fills in the rotation. I suppose Jokisch could be sent back to AA to open up a spot for another veteran, but there is only so many spots. To me there are basically 10 spots locked up. Which leaves 2-3 spots for Negrin, Wada, Hottovy, Sanchez, Coleman, Lim, Rhee, Mateo, Gutierrez. The losers will get released/traded/phantom injury. And some of the vets like Wada, Lim, Sanchez, Hottovy may have agreements in place where if they don't make the MLB roster they can ask for their release to see if they can catch on somewhere else. An injury or two late in camp may open up another spot or two or maybe they want someone to open up in exst to pitch in warm weather the first few weeks, but there just simply isn't room for everyone.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The depth we have is a good problem. We just don't have any top tier impact talent in that rotation. I'm cautiously optimistic of many of them for various reasons, but none of the SP's we have above TEN scream "difference maker" to me. Unless Vizcaino is stretched back out for 2016 anyways...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I would agree with that. I think Hendricks and Jokisch can be MLB starters, but they aren't impact guys. Edwards is really the first potential impact guy that figures to get a shot (maybe late 2015, but probably 2016). Even Johnson, to me, isn't an impact guy. He's a #4.

  • Okay. So the defense & Wellington Castillo are supposedly to blame for Jackson's 2013? You've got to be kidding me. I understand the art of framing a pitch, I was a catcher & pitcher. Now I'm a travel coach & teach my catchers that very thing. But to blame 1 starting pitcher's foibles out of a 5 man rotation on the catcher's framing technique?

    Also, you do know that runners who got on by error, & any runs scored off of errors do not count against ERA, don't you? Defense was not the Cub's problem last yr. Some say they should sacrifice defense at 2B & 3B this year for more offense.

    It's one thing to claim a guy or club needs to get better in an area or 2, but to blame these 2 items for a pitcher's down year is really reaching. I have a few phrases that I throw out at my travel team & one of them is No Excuses.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I specifically said that Castillo's pitch framing "may" have had something to do with Jackson's supposedly poor stats. My article was showing my opinion of the situation. I never claimed any of it as fact. As I took a look into his peripherals, a different story started to emerge than the W-L record and ERA.

    And yes, I know unearned runs do not count against "earned run average." Many were claiming that our defense was good last year and I was simply trying to prove that it really wasn't.

    And notice that I state the rebound I believe he'll have is going to mean a season that is more in line with his 3-year peak. To me, that spells out an ERA of 3.80 - 4.20. I'm not saying his rebound will be 20 wins and an era of 3.

  • In reply to JoeMlbMan:

    Okay, I hope he has a better 2014 than 2013 as well. But it still looked like excuses for his bad year, under the guise of explaining why you think he'll rebound. It's just my opinion of how the article read out to me. Surely in retrospect you can see that point of view? And I'm not the only one who thought that. But we are hoping for the same thing. EJax rebounds & that can only help the Cubs.

  • I think EJax will have a better year this year but not by much. He is a 4.00era and a 1.40 whip guy so I wouldnt ever expect too much from him hopefully he gets hot and someone else might want him.

    I dont like the defense and Castillo argument it doesnt make a lot of sense. The reason I think he will see a modest improvement is because of his high 2013 babip. But lets also remember part of babip has to do with how hard the ball is hit (harder hit balls equal more hits against).

  • I'm not going to say I watched all of Jacksons starts. Were his BABIP hard hit or soft rollers? That definitely can have an effect. With some pitchers, hitters tend to find the hole because of their ball placement in the strike zone especially if they get behind in the count. If we really want to get technical, on average where in the count were the majority of hits.

  • "So it's pretty clear that he was inducing more groundballs and many of the hits he gave up were finding more holes than usual. Jackson cannot control what the defense behind him is doing. If the Cubs defense in 2013 was sub-par and allowed more balls in play to become hits than the average team, Jackson is not at fault for that. "

    I would like to challenge this notion that pitchers lack any control over the success of their fielder's success. The Cubs were an extreme shift team last year, and a recent analysis showed that they wee one of the least successful at that (giving up more runs that would have been expected for a non shifting team). Part of that is coaching, positioning, and scouting reports. Another huge part is the effectiveness of a pitched hitting his spots. If a shift is on, and this pitcher misses away, a groundball is more likely to find the hole on the vacated side of the infield.

  • In reply to WGNstatic:

    All we need look at is the FIP and xFIP Jackson posted last year. That basically shows what his ERA would be minus the defense behind him. It shows only what's under Jackson's control. Both of them were under 4.

  • In reply to JoeMlbMan:

    I don't agree FIP and xFIP are the end-all to determine the value of a pitcher. These stats have flaws, too, and don't tell the whole picture, especially for a starter.

    Do you want to know the most important stat for a starting pitcher? It's the percentage of quality starts. Nothing is even close. IF a starter consistently sucks as a starter, it will always show up in this stat. I do not know what Jackson's percentage of quality starts was last year, but I would bet it ain't good. It would be interesting to know how many quality starts he had, versus how many bad ones.

    A guy who sucks 75% of the time, and then pitches just lights out the other 25% is a horrible pitcher, IMHO. But you could probably use stuff like FIP or xFIP to "put lipstick on the pig' so to speak. I'm just saying it's still a pig.

  • I have read the pitch framing article, and others on the topic. Certainly an interesting read, and likely an understated area of importance.

    That said, I am not sure I see much evidence that this is the main culprit in Jackson's crummy 2013 numbers. If nothing else, his 2013 catchers were so much worse than those he has had over the rest of his career, shouldn't we see an uptick in his walk rate (which we did not)? I am not saying this is the only area of his stats that would be impacted, but I have a hard time seeing way that his season stats could be so negatively impacted by pitch framing and not have it lead to a drastic increase in his BB rate.

  • Does Jackson have a tendency to give up runs in bunches rather than a run here, a run there? Anyone have any stats about this?

    My gut feel is that he does give up runs in bunches, more so than the average bear. If he does, then part of the blame for his trouble in 2013 also falls on lame-brain-Sveum because he let him stay on the bump too long.

    Anyone have something on this?

  • I'd say the typical Cubs infield defense of Rizzo, Barney, Castro, Valbuena is at least average.

    Jackson had a bad year. We picked him up to be a 3/4 and he pitched like a fringe 5.

  • Whats POs me about Jackson is that in his entire career hes never improved. Always has been what he is, a basic .500 pitcher. Problem is, hes a career .500 at an age where many pitchers start to lose velocity and regress, and have to make adjustments to stay on the same level. The EJax I saw last year wasnt making those adjustments.

  • Sorry Joe, but did you actually watch many of the games Jackson pitched last year? For the most part, he was god-awful. I think he had a good 4 week run in July (after the Cubs were virtually eliminated from playoff contention), but other than that, you could make the case that he was the worst starting NL pitcher (who kept his job) last year.

    He certainly was the worst on the Cubs. Maybe Castillo was better at framing pitches for the other Cubs starters. But I tend to doubt that. When I saw that he was just a .500 pitcher on arguably the best team in baseball (the Nats) before being signed, I was worried that he is the kind of guy that is just more comfortable pitching in smaller market. Trade him to Minnesota or Pittsburgh, he'll probably pitch better there anyway.

    A word of advice for the statheads. You'll have your work cut out for you defending Jackson this year, because I believe 2013 was no fluke for him.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    That's why I can't take fangraphs war serious, I don't see any way he was a 2.0 WAR pitcher last year.

    Baseball Reference war has him in the negatives, that sounds about right. Completely agree with what you're saying.

  • We can go back and forth about this all day. Many of you are relying on the "eye test" and I don't. The numbers tell the story. It wouldn't be any fun discussing baseball if everyone agreed on everything.

    We'll just see what this season bears out. Time will tell.

  • Hi Joe, I agree with your conclusion. I'm a bit of a curmugeon and love to be a contrarian, so don't take what I said personally. I like the stats-side viewpoint, too, but too many people on this blog (which is the best sports blog anywhere, by the way) are stats-centric. So I'll tend to push against it a bit. It is fun to argue without any rancor. You have taken this road. Kudos to you.

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