OAKLAND CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Edwin Jackson #33 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 22 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
I think it's a question worth asking, as surprising as that may sound. Most people view Jackson as an enigmatic pitcher with great stuff that never seems to push out great results, and that's been an accurate perception for the most part. I mean, he threw a no-hitter and followed it up by going 1-4 with a 7.24 ERA, 19 strikeouts and 15 walks in 27 innings over his next five starts, so it's easy to see how he got label.
But then he got traded to ...
Chicago, the employers of Don Cooper: The Most Underrated Coach in Baseball. And like many pitchers before him, such as Gavin Floyd, Esteban Loaiza, John Danks, Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton and Jose Contreras, something appeared to click for Jackson when partnered up with the Coop. I don't know if he was re-charged because he jumped into a pennant race after leading one of the worst pitching staffs in the game, or if he was simply sick of the dry heat in Phoenix and welcomed the humidity of the Windy City- but the guy that's made 10 starts for the Chicago White Sox is a different animal than any Edwin Jackson we've seen.
First off, I'll just toss out the major numbers, so we can get them out of the way: 10 starts, 69 innings, 3.25 ERA, 3.09 xFIP, 9.22 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 12.2% whiff rate, 75.8% contact rate, 48.5% groundball rate. Simply fantastic.
Beyond the change in his statistics, which went from solid to spectacular, you can see it in his stuff, too. His fastball averaged 95.3 MPH in Chicago, compared to 94.0 in Arizona and a 94.1 career average. He saw similar upticks in velocity with all of his pitches, too. And as R.J. Anderson pointed out earlier this month over at FanGraphs, it appears that Jackson has altered his pitch usage under Cooper as well, possibly implementing a cutter into his repertoire- something that Cooper has tried to (and successfully) taught many pitchers over the years.
Everything just really seems to be clicking for Jackson, who's been missing bats, keeping the ball on the ground, and locating his pitches with surprising accuracy. He really looks like the guy that many prospect evaluators projected when he was regarded as one of the very best pitching prospects in all of baseball.
Yeah, I know, it's only 69 innings and we can't slap the ace tag on Jackson yet. And beyond that, Jackson pretty much better be an ace next season, because the White Sox gave up a massive amount of value in Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg in order to land the right-hander. But we've seen pitchers take a big leap before, and it's especially plausible in this case given that Jackson is only 27 (seems like he's been around for forever, though) and has always had some of the best raw stuff in the game. Jackson's already in his fifth organization in six years, but when it comes to "changing the scenery" for Mr. Jackson, maybe the fifth time's a charm.