2013 Pitching Profile: Edwin Jackson

JACKSON-E-022613-SG-11

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Following what seemed like an interminable Spring Training season, Edwin Jackson will finally make his Cubs debut tonight against the Pirates at 6 p.m. CST. In January, the 29-year-old right-handed pitcher became the first major free agent signing of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era when he inked a four-year, $52 million contract with the team. With temperatures hovering in the mid-30s at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park Wednesday, it could be a good night to be a power pitcher.

Though Jackson’s career has been marked by short stints with various major league teams—he’s now with his eighth team in 10 big league seasons—his stats show general improvement. In 2012, Jackson finished the year with a 4.03 ERA and 8.0 K/9, slightly better than his career 4.40 ERA and 6.9 K/9. With a fastball that can reach 97-98 mph, Jackson brings a top-line power arm to the fold and will strengthen the Cubs’ pitching depth—a crucial component to success.

Jackson is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line‘s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.

EDWIN JACKSON*
Repertoire (Avg. MPH):
4-seam (94), 2-seam (94), Cutter (93), Change (87), Slider (86), Curve (80)
Age: 29
2012 Stats: 189 IP, 21.3 K percentage, 6.8 UBB percentage, 4.03 ERA, 98 ERA+, 1.22 WHIP

Last Season: Steady Improvement
As the rotation horse for last year’s playoff-bound Nationals, Jackson had somewhat of a coming of age. The flamethrower, who didn’t turn 29 until season’s end, set career bests with his strikeout and walk rates (21 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively). Despite already working for eight major league employers, Jackson’s career has been marked by durability and general improvement since he made his big league debut after his 20th birthday. He’ll be well worth the Cubs’ four-year investment if he extends his streak of five straight seasons with at least 180 innings.

Plan of Attack: If you have two plus-plus pitches, use them
Watching Jackson deal can be a real treat. His momentum drives toward the plate, and his explosive arm action generates a mid-90s fastball that can touch 97-98 mph even into the late innings. He relies mostly on the pure velocity of his four-seamer, but he’ll sink some two-seamers (and an adequate change-up) away from lefties as well. He even re-implemented a cut fastball during the second half of last season. But his fastball largely sets up his other great weapon—the slider.

Putaway Pitch: Slider
If Jackson gets two strikes on a hitter, watch out. Last season, one of every two swings on Jackson’s slider was a whiff. It was even harder to hit with less than two strikes, when hitters weren’t expecting it. Jackson’s slider has late, downward break and moves farther out of the zone as the game goes along. Largely thanks to the increased use of his slider, as well as his sinking fastball, Jackson transformed from a fly-ball pitcher before 2010 to a more neutral one since.

*Numbers courtesy Brooks Baseball

—Sean Ahmed

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