When the Cubs signed right-handed starter Edwin Jackson to a 4-year, $52 million contract this past offseason, I had mixed feelings. For beginners, Jackson is a durable, above-average starter, something the Cubs desperately needed and still need. On the other hand, the nomadic righty–Jackson has played for 8 teams in his 10-year career so far–has struggled and still struggles with bouts of inconsistency. There’s no arguing that Jackson is armed with a pretty healthy pitching arsenal, but it seems that for whatever reason, there is still potential left to be tapped.
The part of me that frowned on the hefty deal for Jackson was only validated after his first 10 starts. To that point, he was 1-7 with a 6.11 ERA in just 53 innings pitched. Jackson did suffer from a bit of bad luck here and there, as he wasn’t often hit hard, but hit often. Although anyone with sense expected a bad 2013 from the Cubs, no one was pleased to see the team’s big offseason acquisition stink it up the way Jackson was. It’s possible that Jackson hit rock-bottom in his 11th start, on June 2nd against the Arizona Diamondbacks. At Wrigley Field, Jackson gave up 12 hits and 5 earned runs (7 total) in an eventual 8-4 loss. Jackson’s record dropped to 1-8 and his ERA increased to 6.29. As far as 2013 was concerned, the Cubs weren’t getting close to a return on their investment in regards to Edwin Jackson.
But then, Jackson finished June on a somewhat respectable note, going 3-2 with a 4.65 ERA and 23/9 K/BB numbers in 5 starts. I was prepared to take that as about as the best we could possibly see from Jackson this season. The enigmatic Jackson had always shown flashes of dominance at times, but was mostly one of those “what if” guys who almost drew your pity. Once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Jackson never became the ace that he was predicted to be and instead, became simply, reliable. So going into July, I was just hoping that Jackson wouldn’t stink it up.
Of course, baseball happened. Jackson pitched well in consecutive starts–and wins–against the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. He pitched well enough to win in an eventual road loss to the Colorado Rockies before working into the 7th in a comeback road win against the San Francisco Giants. Jackson finished off July by posting his 3rd-best game score of 2013, pitching 8 innings of one-run ball against the Milwaukee Brewers. Making this start even more impressive was that Jackson’s start was interrupted by a 66-minute rain delay, but he returned to finish the 6th inning as well as the 7th and 8th in a 6-1 Cubs home win.
There probably weren’t too many starting pitchers worse than Jackson through his first 10 starts. By contrast, I’m not sure there have been too many who have been that much better than Jackson has been over his last 10 starts. In that span, Jackson’s line is:
6-3, 64.1 IP, 45 K, 15 BB, 52 H, 3.08 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 4 HR
That’s not exactly “scarily dominant,” but again, I’d bet that Jackson has been at least one of the better starters in baseball over the last 4-6 weeks or so. The contract he signed this offseason was the first long-term deal of his career, and it was only made more important by the fact that he was the first “big” signing of the Theoyer regime in Chicago. It’s safe to say that he may have been trying to do too much early on, or was just being Edwin Jackson. Regardless of whatever the case was, Jackson is giving the Cubs what they need, which is a durable above-average starter who gives them a chance to win more times than not. Keep it up, EJax.