Monday, August 6, 2007

E-Jax has Turned Corner Since Almost Being Demoted

Edwin Jackson battled JP Howell during Spring Training for the 5th spot in the rotation and it ended in a tie, but since Jackson was out of options the Rays kept Jackson on to be the 5th starter. Jackson had great numbers in spring training going 0-1 with a 1.74 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP. It looked like Jackson had finally turned the corner and became the pitcher that the Rays traded for and scouts predicted, but it did not continue into the regular season.

Jackson had a rough go of it for the first half of the season, as did most of the Rays pitchers, and many fans and media were calling for him to be demoted or moved into the bullpen. What many people either did not know, or just ignored, was the fact that Jackson could not be demoted without clearing waivers, and he had been in the bullpen last year and it was a disaster. He has talent, but just has not been able to harness that talent.

Jackson, who was converted to pitching from the outfield by the Dodgers, is only 23 and was pitching in the big leagues since he was 19. He has not been given the chance to learn and because of that he has been developing at the major league level.

The Rays almost gave up on him, but Jackson turned it on just in time. The Rays called up JP Howell, Andy Sonnanstine, and Jason Hammel to try and fix the rotation and the bullpen. Although Hammel was there to pitch out of the pen, he had been a starter before and Jackson had to feel the pressure after Casey Fossum and Jae Seo were replaced in the rotation. All of the pressure came to a head in a game against San Diego. Jackson was pulled after giving up 5 runs on two home runs and only getting one out. Hammel went on to pitch 6 great innings in that game and there were whispers of Jackson being replaced in the rotation by Hammel. Something must have clicked inside of Jackson at point because he has been a different pitcher since that day.

Before the horrible outing against the Padres Jackson had an 8.30 ERA with a 2.00 WHIP in 52 innings. Jackson's numbers were the worst of any major league pitcher that was still in a starting rotation and it didn't look good. Since that game Jackson has a 5.14 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP over 49 innings. These numbers do not looking great, but when you take out 2 horrible outings over that span his numbers are exceptional. Without those two horrible outings, Jackson has pitched 41 innings with a 2.46 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Those numbers have been better than James Shields who was the Rays ace for most of the year.

Jackson is still struggling with his stuff and needs to work on his walks, but he is learning and getting better. Jackson seems to get himself in trouble, but also is able to get himself out of it with good pitches. He needs to trust his stuff and stop trying to pitch around people after getting up in the count. Jackson also happens to be one of a few guys that gets better as the game goes on. Jackson's best numbers come after he has thrown many pitches and has gotten into the groove. The more Jackson pitches the more he learns and the better he looks. You can tell the talent is there and its only a matter of time before he becomes unhittable.

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