The one where I admit my wrongness: Edwin Jackson edition

Back in December 2008 the Tigers completed a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays that sent Matt Joyce to the Rays for Edwin Jackson. I wasn’t a fan of the trade, and those who read the post titled “Tigers set to send talented outfielder to Tampa for guy who throws hard” may have picked up on my displeasure. This is where I say I’m wrong.

Jackson has pitched better than I ever would have anticipated. He was credited with a breakout year in 2008 when he notched 14 wins, but wins and losses don’t really measure breakouts. His walk rate certainly improved, but he struck out fewer than 6 batters per 9 innings. His K/BB ratio was well under 2. Based on his career he looked to be a number 4 starter coming into 2009. That combined with Joyce’s potential, and other issues like contract status and years of service caused me to pan the deal.

But something has changed. Jackson has become a strike throwing machine. After Friday night’s effort he is walking fewer than 2 batters every 9 innings. His K rate is back North of 7 per 9 and he’s keeping the ball in the ballpark. He is benefitting from a low BABIP, but even if that number regresses his peripherals indicate he’s still an above average pitcher.

Whether it is Jackson figuring out how to maximize his stuff, or the tutelage of Rick Knapp, things are working. First pitch strikes are up. Swings and misses are up. Opposing hitters are chasing more pitches out of the zone. These are all good indicators.

We’re only 8 starts into the season and so small sample size balloons are still popping all over, but what is encouraging is that Jackson has never had a string of starts like these 8. And as a young player real improvement is certainly possibility.

As for Matt Joyce, his numbers don’t matter a whole lot at this point. With less than a year of service time he has plenty of time to still be a valuable player. But if Jackson can maintain anything near this pace throughout the season, the cost becomes much less relevant. I’m happy to be wrong so far and I’ll be thrilled to be this wrong at the end of the season as well.

21 thoughts on “The one where I admit my wrongness: Edwin Jackson edition”

  1. Yeah I’ll fess up I was not a fan of this deal but I agree with you Billfer, E-Jax is having a great season so far. Anyone see the article about Bondo coming back after a few rehab starts? Which starter gets the demotion? Willis, Porcello, perhaps even a recently struggling Gallaraga? Does Bondo get put in the pen until someone falters? I’d have to say whoever is pitching the worse between Willis and Porcello will be asked to take a seat.

  2. Great post Bill. I remember thinking (didn’t post it) that he could be an durable healthy innings eater, but nothing to the magnitude.

    So far he has greatly exceeded my expectations. If he really ends up with a 2.50 ERA or heck even under 3.5 ERA for this season, it would be possibly the greatest trade DD has made.

    Even if Joyce got to Raul Ibanez level – which I don’t think he will – it still would be a fantastic trade for us.

    Do you realize that excluding Greinke he is LEADING the AL in ERA? WOW WOW WOW.

    After his next start we’ll be ~ 1/4 of the way through the season. It is hard to believe he is this good. But, since he was highly touted(with great stuff) and young, maybe it shouldn’t be. That plus good coaching and hard work does work!

    1. the way Verlander pitched against the Twins – minus the pitch count – he would have out-pitched Greinke

  3. I share Bill’s sentiments. However, I’m not quite as ready to admit being wrong due to it just being 8 starts. But, I’m enjoying looking like a fool, that’s for sure.

  4. I feel less uneasy with EJ on the mound than I do Gallaraga or Porcello. So that’s got to count for something.

  5. I’d say if Edwin goes 10-10 4.60 ERA the rest of the way, the trade was worth it. I mentioned before with Porcello’s making the majors, that this April and May are really make or break for the team in terms of attracting fans in this economic climate so they don’t have to sell off player come July or August. So, I’m giving way more than usual priority to players getting off to a good start this year.

    For 2009, the Tigers’ long view is the short view.

  6. My sentiments exactly. It is hard to find good pitching and if Jackson can continue this then we found a good value. Plus, it helps that Josh Anderson seems to be working out.

  7. as much heat as DD takes on his trades, he has made and continues to make a lot of good moves. Every move is basically a coin flip when trading young players for young players. This is another example of one that is working out. Not DD’s first and won’t be his last good trade.

  8. I think the key point with Dombrowski’s trades it that he’s willing to be bold and creative. Sometimes that blows up in his face. But taking risks is greatly preferable to standing pat (Jim Campbell) or being insane (Randy Smith).

    Joe Dumars took over a junk franchise and won a title within four years, and all you hear from some people is “DARKO!!!!” You have to look at ALL the transactions to judge the guy.

  9. Looking at all the outfielders the Tigers have now, this deal seems even more like a ‘no brainer.’

  10. I must admit, I was not a fan of this trade when it happened either. Edwin has looked absolutely outstanding thus far, and if he keeps pitching even remotely close to what he’s done so far, I think we might be going places 🙂

  11. I never got attached to Joyce. He got HOT for a few weeks, hit some memorable homers, and that’s why he got over valued by fans here in Detroit. Tiger’s brass ranked him at about the same prospect level as Jeff Larish. So that made him excellent trade bait in the off season. There was talk that Joyce was being packaged with Larish in a trade for JJ Putz, but Detroit balked at that deal. Then Joyce quickly went to TB straight up for Edwin Jackson. I liked the deal immediately and thought we received more than what we gave. I figured TB was just clearing out a rotation spot for David Price, so they were sellers in a slow market, not buyers. In a different market, all Joyce should of gotten us was a decent set-up type relief pitcher, but we got a starting pitcher who we could immediately plug into our rotation instead. Jackson was a top prospect and I’ve been following his career since 2003 when he got called up for the Dodgers. Back then, he was the rookie that everyone wanted in my fantasy league.

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