It's always important to have a back-up plan. Especially when a team has invested millions upon millions of dollars on a hard-throwing pitcher who puts tons of torque on his arm, it becomes important to have a serviceable, MLB-ready starter waiting in the minors who keeps the ball low and avoids big mistake pitches.
Bbbuuuuttt....that's not what anyone really wants. Otherwise why trade for the expensive, volatile, hard-thrower in the first place? In moments like these, it's nice to have the ability to panic after a couple of bad starts and flip that young starter for another expensive hard-thrower. Yyyyyeah, back to normal.
Now maybe that hard-thrower was just supposed to be a trade-chip for a plodding masher, the team's favorite player type, but that kinda interferes with this tangent I'm on.
Perhaps Edwin Jackson is with Chicago at the end of the 2010 season because he's more of White Sox than Daniel Hudson. He's well-traveled veteran rather than a prospect, he has a big arm with control problems like so many other South Siders, and his best years are at hand rather than annoyingly ahead of him. Sometimes a match is just right.
Stat line: 11
starts, 75 IP, 4-2, 3.24 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 73 H, 8 HR, 77 K (9.24
K/9), 18 BB (2.16 BB/9), .326 BABIP, 3.17 FIP, 2.0 fWAR, 1.8 bWAR
What did we expect?: Kenny Williams' greatest folly.
Yes, in a world overpopulated with unaccountable bloggers making knee-jerk condemnations of everything and anything, I positioned myself as one more squealing voice. In my defense, the only promising stretch of Edwin Jackson's career up to that point--the first half of 2009--had been stamped out by a full calendar year of walk-poisoned mediocrity, but when I unfurled this title line--
"White Sox interested in Edwin Jackson - What? Was Todd Ritchie unavailable?"
--I should have foreseen the retraction coming. It got worse.
"Secondly, Edwin Jackson?!!??! He of the least impressive
no-hitter of all time? He of the no quality starts in his five outings
since the no-hitter? He of the 4 teams in 6 years? He of the 1.50 WHIP
on the season? He of the 1.51 WHIP for his career?!?!!?
has a big arm, and pretty good slider, and these were the reasons he
was a top prospect in the Dodgers organization in his very early 20s.
Now Edwin is 26, still prime, but far removed from his days of promise
because of walks. Tons of walks. 60 in 134.1 innings. 4 per 9
innings. Even if opponents weren't hitting .274 against him, and his
BABIP came down from .314, Jackson would be fatally flawed by the free
passes he doles out every start. He's had two walkless starts this
season, and his last one happened two months ago.
Maybe I'd be less peeved about going after Jackson and hoping that his talent and stuff could overcome his walks if it wasn't the exact same thing we're currently doing with Dan Hudson!!!!"
Further ire could be derived from the fact that the Sox were cashing out and selling low on Dan Hudson when he had plenty of years at a cheap pay rate and only progression ahead of him for a shaky, expensive veteran bound for free agency in 2012. But the idea that the Sox were doing all that and might not even get immediately better in the process...well, that was really frustrating.
The result: As far as on the field production, there's pretty much no complaint that can be made with Edwin Jackson. He stepped into a Sox uniform and promptly ripped off the best 5 starts of his career (the best five starts of a lot of people's careers), which was a nice thing to focus on while the team was gagging up the division lead with typical levels of inevitability.
Jackson's turnaround wasn't just a boon for a rotation hampered by back explosions, but another victory for Don Cooper-based pitching acquisitions. Immediately under Cooper, Jackson's control problems dissipated, he attacked the strikezone vigorously, and gave hitters an actual reason to chase that slider again, resulting in his absurd opening month (45 K in 36.2 IP).
Unfortunately, Jackson leveled off, because to not level off would be kinda insane. It'd be nice if Arizona dealt the Sox a Cy Young quality pitcher for B prospect, but the good news is that even when Jackson's hits allowed ticked up in September to the tune of an ERA of 5.23, his control maintained an acceptable level, and he still kept the ball out of the air (47.2% groundball rate), indicating a long-term ability to pitch in U.S. Cellular field...or at least next season...the only year where he's still actually under contract.
Love him or leave him?: I like Edwin Jackson, he's athletic, he's durable, and with apologies to J.J. Stankevitz and The Gloyd, Eddie with his 95+ heater and wipeout slider was the most entertaining pitcher on the Sox staff. He's only 27, seems to have kicked his biggest problem, and could have a lot of productive seasons ahead of him.
Which makes it a little sad that Jackson is without a doubt the most tradeable piece in the White Sox rotation. Peavy and Buehrle are unmovable, Danks and Floyd have better contracts and more consistent track records, and if the Sox trade Chris Sale at this point I'm going to eat all of my toes. As pleasant as a surprise Jackson's run with the team was, coming off the best stretch of his career right before his contract year is the absolute best time to trade Jackson. He's at maximum value and it would cost the Sox the least.
Now, clearly the mandate for the White Sox is to win in 2011. Keeping Jackson in the rotation and Sale in the bullpen is certainly a strong arrangement, but if Williams wanted to take advantage of Sale as a starter to flip Jackson for bullpen help/more offense/actually viable prospects, or a combination of the three, I couldn't besmirch him for doing so.
I hear trades go better when you actually have good players to deal, and by some combination of good scouting, better coaching, and dumb luck, Edwin Jackson turned out to be quite a good player.