EJax Lacks Wins...But Why?
Edwin Jackson - 2009 All Star, member of the No Hitter Club, master of Kung Fu, and a model American, even if he was born in Germany*. A man of many pitches, and many, uh, outcomes to those pitches. As many a writer has eloqently put it, our man EJax can be a bit statistically absurd.
One of the more absurd stats coming out of Jackson's maiden Nats voyage this year is the overall record of the club while Jackson is toeing the rubber - 2-8. Overall, he has a 1-3 record after 10 solid starts, one of which was his complete game win over the Cincinnatti Reds back in April. This little stat got Nats-centric Twitter feeds in a bit of a frenzy, with supporters and detractors of EJax coming out in equal numbers. While the season is still young, I think there's no better time to have a peek under the statistics 'hood' of Edwin's car, to see how he's faring, and see if some of the virtriol towards him for a subpar team record in his starts is warranted.
My first impression of Jackson's year is this: unlucky. Some of it self inflicted unluckiness, some not - to say the bullpen has come in and taken a huge turd on the mound is putting it nicely. We have another cohort of his just a tick above him in the starting rotation that has also fallen prey to some bad luck over the last couple of years, especially in terms of run support - our old buddy and Jason Aldean lover, Jordan Zimmermann. So far this season, Jordan too has fallen into some bad luck, but not to the level of EJax; in games #27 pitches, the Nationals are 5-5. Not terrible, but also not indicative of how well Znn is pitching.
So whaddya say we have a look at their numbers, and see if we can garner anything from them to help us determine if EJax is unlucky, or his own worst enemy, using Jordan's season as a control of some sorts? Yes?
Here's a brief look at what both EJax and Znn are doing thus far in 2012, and how it stacks up to their career numbers:
Thus far, record aside, both are enjoying better than average seasons, as evidenced by their ERA+ numbers. If you consider 100 is the average pitcher (and also EJax's career ERA+, or there about), both are surpassing expectations. Jackson in particular is having a career year statistically, with his walks/9 innings pitched the lowest of his career, with his K/9 also at a higher than average rate. Both are also enjoying BABIPs (Batting Average on Balls In Play) that are lower than their usual rates, and are below you average MLBer (usually around .300), which means they aren't getting too many unlucky bounces or bloops that are becoming hits instead of outs.
So overall, both are having great years. So why the discrepancy in won-loss record? What is EJax doing or not doing that is causing such a low win percentage when he's in the game?
Let's take at those games a little more closely. For EJax's 10 games, we have 1 win, 3 losses, and 6 no decisions:
Not really much to go on here; in general, Jackson has been pitching relatively well enough to win. However, if you recall from our first graph, he's only getting about 3 runs of support per game from the Nationals hitters. Ick. Let's see how that compares to Znn in 2012:
Not much jumping out here, either, aside from maybe the fact that Znn walks fewer batters, and gets hit a little harder in losses, as evidenced by his H/9 and HR/9. However, each guy has numbers- win, lose or draw- that aren't too different from each other, generally.
Let's look at this conundrum one other way- within game stats for each. Is there something during the course of the game that could possiblly explain or predict the poor W-L record for EJax?
Well, now we have something. Compared to a similar pitcher in the rotation, both in pitch repertoire and statistics, Edwin appears to have a slightly harder time of it in the first at bats of the game. The first time through an opposing team's order gives him slight fits, as the batting average against (BAA), on base plus slugging (OPS), H/9, BB/9, and BABIP attest. Looking at Znn's numbers, he's a much stronger pitcher in the first couple of innings, but does run into some bad luck in later innings; his tendency to give up more hits and walk more batters is probably at the root of that problem.
So what to interpret from this? Well, Jackson seems to dig himself a bit of a hole the first time through a lineup. There are a number of reasons why this is - poor location of pitches, not having a secondary pitch (in his case, a slider) working, so hitters are sitting dead red on his fastball, even not being fully loose can be a possible reason. Whatever it is, runs are given up, and this automatically puts pressure on the offense to produce, and put a crooked number up on the board. As we have seen, this has been a tough order all season, but in particular during Jackson starts.
In the end, for Jackson's troubles, he really has only himself to blame, but we do come away with one piece of advice that will do him wonders for the rest of the season:
Get ahead, and stay ahead.
*On a US military installation, much like your humble reporter