Edwin Jackson’s Scorching Start(s)

When the White Sox first traded for Edwin Jackson, the idea was that he would be flipped to the Nationals as part of an Adam Dunn trade. When the other prospects the proposed Jackson-Dunn deal could not be agreed on, the White Sox decided to keep Jackson and insert him into the rotation. Considering the injury to Jake Peavy, and the unstable nature of Freddy Garcia, a lot of people (a writer for this site included) were more than content with having Jackson on the team.

Chicago White Sox Edwin Jackson pitches in the first inning of the White Sox MLB American League baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland, Ohio August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

So far it looks like a great deal for the White Sox. Jackson made his fifth start for the White Sox last night, and might just be the team’s best starting pitcher right now. In those five starts, Jackson has allowed just six earned runs over 36.2 innings of work, good for a 1.47 ERA. He’s only walked eight (the same number of guys he walked in his no-hitter in July) while he has struck out 45, allowed a .546 OPS against, and has been worth 1.4 WAR.

Has Jackson become a new pitcher with the White Sox and Don Cooper? Obviously we are dealing with an extremely small sample size, and no real conclusions can be drawn from Jackson’s brief time on the South Side. Jackson has struggled with his command throughout his career, and his career 3.93 BB/9 is 10 times more likely to be his true skill level than the 1.96 BB/9 he’s posted on the White Sox. He also isn’t really that much of a strikeout pitcher (6.65 K/9 in his career), but has struck out at least 10 in each of his last three starts, and his per nine rate is 11.05 for Chicago.

Jackson hasn’t gotten lucky on batted balls or home runs since coming to the White Sox, his BABIP and HR/9 are essentially the same as they were in Arizona. The only difference his more strikeouts and less walks, which is obviously great. It is also unrealistic to think this is the pitcher Jackson will be long term, more likely he’s going through a really good command period, which may or may not be related to an adjustment Don Cooper made.

The good news is, we can worry about Jackson’s future performance another day. So far he’s been excellent, and continuing that excellence is key during the final month of the season. Even with a little drop off, Jackson is still the best pitcher the White Sox have going. I would go as far as to say he would start game 1 of a playoff series were it to start right now. Things can, and probably will change by the time the playoffs come around, but this is for certain: If the White Sox make the playoffs this season Jackson’s dominant pitching will have to continue, and it will be one of the major reasons why they make it.

I was very skeptical of the deal when it was made, but there is no way around it. Getting Edwin Jackson was a huge win for Kenny Williams, and keeping him (good editing/reshooting during “The Club” makes it look like he always wanted to keep him) has done more to keep the White Sox in the race with the Twins than trading for Adam Dunn would have.

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