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Monday, September 03, 2012

Baseball Analytics: Brett Jackson: Whiff Machine

But they were frightened of his power
Lord, Lord, so they cut Brett Jackson down…

Gloves are optional when Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson steps to the plate. Jackson has been a Three True Outcomes hero since getting called up in early August, walking, homering or whiffing in 61% of his plate appearances. That’s more than double the big league average (30.3%).

So far, Jackson has rapped enough extra-base hits and drawn enough walks to be an asset for the run-starved North Siders (a 114 OPS+ in 92 plate appearances). But the last part of that Three True Outcomes equation—Ks—could quash his success in the long run. Jackson has struck out in 40.2% of his plate appearances so far. Brett Hayes and Brooks Conrad are the only hitters who have punched out more often while getting at least as many PAs as Jackson.

The farther away the pitch, the less often Jackson connects.

...Strikeouts hardly condemn a player to the prospect graveyard if he can take and rake, but Jackson’s contact woes are so amplified that he simply can’t keep his head above water in the majors without monster secondary skills. Jackson’s whiff rate at the Triple-A level (32.6% over the past two seasons) makes Pedro Alvarez (25.8% K rate at Triple-A) look like Ichiro (the good version) by comparison. And while Jackson has some power, no one’s projecting the 30-plus bombs that Pedro is on pace to hit this season. Short of turning into Adam Dunn with wheels, Jackson has to connect more often to succeed.

Repoz Posted: September 03, 2012 at 12:56 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, sabermetrics

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   1. valuearbitrageur Posted: September 03, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4225521)
Well, he did just turn 24. He should have some improvement left, though that's a pretty big gulf to cross.
   2. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 03, 2012 at 04:22 PM (#4225630)
Josh Vitters has been pretty shitty, too.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: September 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM (#4225666)
Jackson's upside is looking like Drew Stubbs.

What kind of odds will Vegas give me on there being a game where Jackson doesn't strike out and Vitters does walk? (both in the lineup obviously, Vegas isn't dumb.)
   4. SteveM. Posted: September 03, 2012 at 10:06 PM (#4225829)
Actually, I think Jackson has turned a corner since his horrendous start. While I will never like his strikeout rate, he seems to be drawing more walks as he gets use to major league pitching. I think he will be okay. Vitters on the other hand.....
   5. Cooper Teenoh Posted: September 03, 2012 at 10:28 PM (#4225846)
The only hope for Vitters would be that he's got a long history of really struggling the first time he gets to a level, then making adjustments and improvements. Of course, this isn't just any level, is it? Considering that he seemed really solid at Iowa this year, Vitters complete awfulness is pretty dramatic.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: September 04, 2012 at 12:34 AM (#4225921)
Actually, I think Jackson has turned a corner since his horrendous start.

Me, not so much. Let's have fun parsing 26 games ... :-)

In his first 5 games he did have 11 Ks but 3 walks. His BA was at its low point of 118.

He then went through a stretch of 7 games where he didn't walk at all. But he did hit a whopping 222 while K'ing 12 times.

Since then 52 PA with 19 Ks and 14 BB but still hitting just 200. Granted, 200/385/525 "plays" but I think wee can safely say that's outlier production.

It is better in that he's walking more (OBP over 300!) and he's gone from 23 Ks in 47 PA to 19 Ks in 52 PA but it's still nearly 1 per 2 AB. You just can't K in 40% of your PA and hope to make it. On contact he's hitting a bit under 400/800 and slugging 1000 on-contact in his hot streak and he's not going to sustain that.
   7. MM1f Posted: September 04, 2012 at 12:40 AM (#4225923)
Jackson's upside is looking like Drew Stubbs.

And he doesn't have that kind of crazy natural athleticism and glove either, though he might be a somewhat more polished hitter than Stubbs (that ain't saying much)

I had no idea Vitters was struggling like he is. Sample size blah blah blah but 5 for 59 is 5 for 59. He has been half as good a hitter as the typical pitcher is.
   8. rickey steals third person Posted: September 04, 2012 at 01:45 AM (#4225940)
The graph in the full article makes me wonder if his biggest problem is the gigantic hole in his swing middle-up and away. I wonder if this is something that could be fixed?
   9. salviaman Posted: September 04, 2012 at 06:46 AM (#4225972)
But 43% of Jackson's Ks have been looking, as opposed tp the lg avg of 24%. And this is in spite of the fact that overall he is swinging at strikes at higher than lg avg rate. This looks easily correctable and will significantly cut his whiffs. Then all he has to do is be even more aggressive on hitter's strikes earlier in the count. He will likely always K a lot, but I think he can, and probably will, get it down to "acceptable" levels. And he does seem to have a lot of pop when he does connect.

I should also point out that Jackson is much more disciplined than his teflon teammate A Rizzo. Jackson has swung at only 19% of pitches outside the zone as opposed to Rizzo's 39%. Rizzo has good pop in his bat, but he really needs to work on pitch selection.

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