Edwin Jackson’s First Start as a Chicago Cub

In light of all the recent contract extensions, it’s tough to keep reminding yourself that contracts like the one the Cubs Front Office handed out to Edwin Jackson (and tried to give to Anibal Sanchez) are substantial deals. By giving a guy $13 million per year for the next four seasons, you’re hoping that Jackson can provide 2-3 WAR per season, hopefully more in the beginning of the contract. What can we expect to see out of the Cubs’ new #2 starter?

Jackson’s inning totals have declined for the past 4 seasons, but he still threw 189 in 2012. Despite that, he posted some of the better peripheral numbers of his career:

Career 2012
K% 17.6% 21.3%
BB% 9.0% 7.3%
GB% 43.8% 47.3%

If Jackson can repeat numbers like that, while seeing a correction in his unusually high HR/FB% and unusually low InfieldFly% at the same time, Jackson is very likely to repeat the 3.5 win season he had in 2010. Also, Jackson’s pitch mix in 2012 matches up closely to what he threw in 2010 (mid-50% four seam fastballs, below 30% sliders, and roughly 5% cutters) when he posted a FIP of 3.86, and that leads me to believe he will be able to repeat his 3.85 FIP from last season.

Jackson’s slider is easily his best pitch, as it has rated at 1.26 runs above average per 100 pitches for his career. The NL Central is particularly vulnerable to slider pitchers, as only the Brewers rated top 10 against sliders last season. The Reds and Pirates ranked in the bottom 4 against sliders last season, with the Reds in dead last at -1.28 runs above average per 100 sliders. Jackson should be able to eat those two lineups alive. Facing those teams multiple times should help him keep his K/9 in the range it was last season.

One thing to watch tonight as Jackson takes the hill is his fastball velocity. He saw his average fastball velocity tumble from the ranks of the elite last season, but his 93.4 MPH mark last season is still very strong. It’s early in the year, so it may be a while before Edwin is loose enough to sit 93-94 mph, but look to see if he’s at least able to top out in the mid-90’s tonight.

In the cold weather tonight, I expect the strikeout-prone and slider-vulnerable Pirates to have serious issues with Edwin Jackson, and hopefully we see him take home his first W as a Cub.

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