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Graphical looks at Jackson’s fastball effectiveness, or lack thereof

2010/08/07

According to FanGraphs, Edwin Jackson throws his fastball 62.2% of the time at an average speed of 94 miles per hour. That’s pretty fast. In fact, only Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Verlander, Josh Johnson and David Price throw harder on average among MLB starters. The strange thing is that over the past three calendar years, Jackson’s heater has cost him 34 runs according to FanGraphs pitch type values. Only the Pirates soft-tossing slop-baller Zach Duke has had worse results with his fastball.

Why this is, I don’t know for sure, but unlike most pitchers, velocity hasn’t corresponded with effectiveness for E-Jax. This is his run values per 100 pitches against his velocity. Negative values here are good, they mean runs saved per 100 pitches. High values are bad. (Big thanks to Steve Sommer for helping me graph this mess.)

Weird. Unlike most pitchers, slower is better. Steve Sommer or Dave Allen I am not when it comes to pitch f/x, so I’m just guessing that the higher run values for the faster stuff is could be a result of him forfeiting control to gain velocity, and the trade off isn’t paying off, not unless he’s pushing 100 MPH. Being “effectively wild” isn’t E-Jax’s bag.

And now for his location –

I couldn’t put a line in for vertical location to break up the strike zone, but between -1 and 1 is the strike zone.

We learn a couple things from the graph. The second graphs shows us that Jackson is a big Weezer fan. We also learn that as in the case with most pitchers, Jackson is more effective when he’s painting corners.

Jackson gets hurt when he tries to go too high in the strike zone, but he’s good when he’s getting pitches over in the lower half of the zone. No big surprises there.

Answers? You wanted answers?!?! I give you nifty graphs, not answers. I have a guess, and I’m going out on a limb here – Jackson doesn’t have the best control of his fastball. He has a great slider and he throws a change-up occasionally, but he’s been mostly a two-pitch pitcher without a real change of pace. Don Cooper seemed to help on that issue right away, Jackson threw 1/4 change-ups in his ChiSox debut against the Tigers and pitched a great game. Maybe that’s all he’s ever really needed to do: change speeds more often.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve H. permalink
    2010/08/07 7:36 PM

    Glad I checked in with the site again! I enjoy your analysis, and hope I can count on you for (at least) sporadic postings through Oct. You do good work. Keep it up!

  2. 2010/08/08 12:14 AM

    I got messed up by pitch f/x’s classification of Jackson’s changeup — the breakdown was actually this:
    Fastballs: 63 (f/x: 61)
    Sliders: 21 (f/x: 8)
    Changeups: 13 (f/x: 23)
    I went back and looked at the film (God bless MLB.tv) and gauged that against Brooks Baseball’s pitch f/x and came out with that. Outside of one questionable changeup/slider, I can say with confidence that’s what Jackson threw Wednesday.

    If I had a theory on Jackson’s fastball velocity, it’d be that he has better command when he dials the velocity back a bit. But I can’t say that with anything close to 100 percent confidence.

    • 2010/08/08 12:15 AM

      That’s 8 sliders, not sunglasses sliders.

      • 2010/08/08 7:19 AM

        E-Jax’s slider is so bright, batters gotta wear shades.

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