Monday, May 3, 2010

A Troika of Thoughts on the Big Winter Swap

1. The baseball season is officially about a month old. Most teams have played about 25 games. And Tigers' rookie center fielder Austin Jackson still has more hits than anybody in the big leagues. The freshman phenom rapped Angels pitching around the yard all weekend, collecting nine safeties in leading the Tigers to a statement-making three-game sweep.

Jackson's fearlessness as a first-year player has brought life to the top of the order. Coupled with the old warhorse, Johnny Damon (.326 BA), they present what is quite possibly the most dangerous 1-2 combination in all of baseball.

The only troubling stat with young Mr. Jackson is his climbing strikeout total. His 34 punchouts top the American League, and trail only Justin Upton of Arizona for the MLB lead. It is impossible to imagine his production continuing at this level unless he finds a way to start putting the ball in play more often. A player like Jackson, with limited power (1 HR) and tremendous speed, should never be in fear of whiffing 100 times in a season. At this rate, he'll be lucky to stay under two hundred.

But all told, it has been a truly memorable first month for Jackson, and one that could prove crucial later in the season when the Tigers are duking it out with the Twinkies and Chisox for a place in the postseason.

2. While Jackson leads the bigs in hits right now, whether or not he stays there will likely depend on one player: Ichiro. The fleet-footed Mariner has led all of baseball in that category in each of the last four seasons, and he is off to his typically strong start in 2010 (33 hits, .317 BA).

But unlike the free-swinging Jackson, Ichiro forces you to make a play in order to record an out. In virtually the same number of ABs, he has fanned just eight times, less than a fourth of Jackson's staggering 'K' number.

3. People have been buzzing about the stellar play of Austin Jackson for the Bengals, the immense struggles of Curtis Granderson for the Bombers, and the brilliance of Dave Dombrowski in pulling off such a mid-winter heist. But take a moment to look at the second tier of players involved in the deal, and you realize this trade might actually be even better than the previous sentence would lead you to believe.

Edwin Jackson, who fell off miserably down the stretch in 2009, has picked up right where that season left off. He was absolutely torched by the Cubs at Wrigley yesterday afternoon, allowing eight runs in just four innings, including a 400-foot bomb off the bat of Alfonso Soriano. Amazingly, it was an improvement from his last time out when he surrendered 10 runs in just 2.1 innings of work against the Rockies. The Diamondbacks are now 1 and 5 in his starts, with his ERA soaring to a Nate Robertson-esque 8.07.

The most disturbing trend of all, perhaps, has been Jackson's diminishing strikeout figures. He picked up just two in the start at Coors, and then failed to strike out a single Cub hitter on Sunday. 22 batters faced, 12 outs recorded, and a big, fat goose-egg in the K department. Not once did Jackson suffer that fate last year in any of his 33 starts. When you lose the ability to miss bats as a major league pitcher, unless your name is Jamie Moyer, you are going to be in some serious trouble. And before you say, "Hey HSL, take it easy...the season is only a month old!", remember that Jackson is now sporting a near-six ERA (5.85) since his perfect inning of work at last year's All-Star game.

In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, "Good luck with allll that."

Oh, and don't forget Phil Coke. The lefty-tossing Soft Drink has vultured a trio of wins (3-0) and has yet to serve up a long ball in his 14 carbonated innings out of the pen. A couple more weeks of Austin's heroics, Granderson's aches and pains, Edwin's meatball sandwiches, and Coke Zero's southpaw reliability, we might have to declare this the "Greatest Trade in Baseball History."

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1 comment:

Corey E. said...

Not quite sold that this has a chance at qualifying for Greatest Trade In History, but the early results are good and I expect them to continue to be good.