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Entries in four years (2)

Wednesday
Jan022013

Edwin Jackson, Slider Specialist

At long last, Edwin Jackson can unpack -- we think. While his four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs doesn't include a no-trade clause, Jackson should at least call Wrigley Field home for the next couple of years. Considering that the 29-year-old righty was on pace to obliterate Octavio Dotel's record for most teams played for in a career -- Jackson has been a Dodger, Devil Ray, Tiger, Diamondback, White Sock, Cardinal and National, and was technically a Blue Jay for a brief moment (though he never suited up) -- that's a step in the right direction.

It's surprising that it has taken Jackson this long to settle down in one city. He might not be the Cy Young contender that people envisioned when he celebrated his 20th birthday by outdueling Randy Johnson during his MLB debut, but Jackson has been above-average since he reached Detroit (106 ERA+ from 2009-12) while tossing slightly over 200 innings pitched per season. That combination of quality and quantity has made Jackson the 29th-most valuable starter over that time frame, judging by Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement.

Jackson's slider is the main reason that he has evolved from a perceived bust to a solid starter making serious bank. Here's a closer look at his mid-to-high-80s breaker, which ranks among the game's best out pitches.

  • Jackson threw his slider 29.3% of the time in 2012, the ninth-highest clip among MLB starters. Ryan Dempster (39.5%), Madison Bumgarner (35.6%), Bud Norris (36.3%), Ervin Santana (36.3%), Francisco Liriano (32.5%), Jason Marquis (32.1%), CC Sabathia (31.8%) and Bruce Chen (29.9%) were the only starters to rely on the slide-piece more often.
  • With a miss rate approaching 50%, Jackson got swings and misses with his slider more frequently than any other starter in the game:

Highest slider whiff rate among MLB starters, 2012 (minimum 300 thrown)

PitcherMiss Pct.
Edwin Jackson 48.5%
Zack Greinke 44.7%
Yu Darvish 44.2%
James McDonald 43.9%
Francisco Liriano 43.3%
CC Sabathia 43.0%
Colby Lewis 42.5%
Clayton Kershaw 42.3%
Derek Holland 41.8%
Max Scherzer 41.7%
MLB Avg. for SP 30.9%

 

  • Jackson uses his slider as a chase pitch, placing just 37.3% of them within the strike zone. The average for starters, by contrast, is about 47%. Hitters can't seem to lay off those off-the-plate-sliders. Check out Jackson's swing rate by pitch location with his slider, and then the league average for right-handed starting pitchers:

        Jackson's slider swing rate             Avg. slider swing rate for SP

 

Jackson boasted the highest slider chase rate (44.1%) among NL starters last year. In the AL, only Colby Lewis (50.7% slider chase rate), Brian Matusz (48.3%), Yu Darvish (44.6%) and Liriano (44.6%) made batters hack at more would-be balls.

  • Fanning 111 hitters with his out pitch, Jackson led NL starters in slider strikeouts and trailed just Sabathia (138 slider Ks) among all starters.
  • While the slider is usually more effective against same-handed hitters, Jackson actually got better results with the pitch against lefties. He held left-handers to a .299 slugging percentage against his slider, compared to .361 against righties. For comparison's sake, righty starters surrendered a collective .386 slugging percentage with sliders against lefty batters last season, and a .350 slugging percentage against righties.
Wednesday
Jan022013

Swisher Has Multiple Personalities at the Plate

In Nick Swisher, the Cleveland Indians signed one of the game's better blends of patience and power. The former Ohio State Buckeye, signed to a four-year, $56 million deal in December, ranks in the top ten among outfielders in on-base percentage (.366) and places in the top twenty in slugging (.478) and OPS+ (125) since the beginning of the 2010 season. The switch-hitting Swisher is a threat from both sides of the plate, posting a near-identical OPS from the left side (.830) and the right (.834), but his approach couldn't be more different. Swish is a pure slugger as a lefty, swinging freely and posting lofty power and punchout totals. He's a doubles hitters as a righty, but his more patient and contact-oriented style  makes him an on-base machine.

Here's a look at Swisher's swing rate by pitch location from both sides of the plate over the past three seasons. He's much more aggressive as a lefty batter, taking a cut at about 69% of pitches thrown over the plate (57% as a righty) and chasing about a quarter of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (16% as a righty). Swinging more frequently from the left side, Swisher has drawn a walk in 10.5% of his plate appearances. As a righty, he has walked 15.4% of the time.

        Swisher as a LHB, 2010-12                  Swisher as a RHB, 2010-12

 

 

Swisher's lefty swing puts more pitches in the cheap seats (more on that in a moment), but it also leads to more whiffs. He has a 26% miss rate as a lefty hitter, compared to 15% as a righty. Not surprisingly, Swisher's K rate is far higher as a lefty (24.7%) than as a righty (14.9%).

         Swisher as a LHB, 2010-12                  Swisher as a RHB, 2010-12

    

 

When Swisher does make contact, though, it's louder from the left side. He slugged .495 as a lefty from 2010-12, going deep about 18% of the time that he hit a fly ball. Swisher slugged .443 and had a home run per fly ball rate of under 9% as a righty. 

          Swisher as LHB, 2010-12                       Swisher as RHB, 2010-12

 

Swisher has been more valuable as a righty hitter overall, with his huge on-base advantage from that side (.411 OBP as a righty, .343 as a lefty) outweighing his slugging feats as a lefty. While Progressive Field doesn't boost home run totals near as much as Yankee Stadium, Swisher's multiple personalities at the dish appear well-suited for his new home. According to StatCorner, Progressive Field increases home runs for left-handed hitters by 21% and decreases them by 26% for right-handed hitters. Swisher can let er' rip as a lefty, taking aim at the nine-foot tall fences in center and right field, and draw bushels of walks as a righty, knowing that the 19-foot "Little Green Monster" in left field puts a serious crimp on power numbers.