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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Lowe: Austin Jackson center of off-season talk

On Monday, manager Jim Leyland gave his diagnosis of why Jackson hit 44 points lower than in 2010:

“I believe that he got caught in between a few things,” Leyland said: ‘Am I a leadoff hitter? Am I supposed to hit home runs? Am I supposed to get on base? Am I supposed to walk? I’ve got to make this adjustment and that adjustment.’

“I hope that’s the answer. I’m not down on Austin Jackson. I know everybody is making a big deal about the leadoff spot. We all know that’s a thing he’d like to get better at if he stays in that position.”

The Tigers don’t have a visible alternative at leadoff. Perhaps they thirst for Cespedes to fill that role. He is said to have plenty of speed.

But what was true of Maybin and Jackson also will be true of Cespedes: No matter how much talent a player appears to have, no one can be sure what kind of major leaguer he’ll be until he plays in the majors.

Thanks to HY.

Repoz Posted: December 06, 2011 at 10:36 AM | 79 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: projections, sabermetrics, tigers

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   1. bobm Posted: December 06, 2011 at 12:21 PM (#4007906)
Maybe the fact that his BAbip dropped precipitously from .396 to .340 has something to do with the drop in BA.
   2. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: December 06, 2011 at 12:27 PM (#4007908)
Jackson can't control the strike zone. As "the book" on him goes out to pitchers, he'll be out of baseball by 2015.
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 12:36 PM (#4007912)
I don't know which is most ridiculous: The thought of Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter; the thought of Austin Jackson in a Major League uniform; or the thought of Jim Leyland buying into either of those propositions. This guy's ability to lay off bad pitches makes Alfonso Soriano look like Barry Bonds.
   4. Bug Selig Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:02 PM (#4007920)
I don't know which is most ridiculous: The thought of Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter; the thought of Austin Jackson in a Major League uniform; or the thought of Jim Leyland buying into either of those propositions. This guy's ability to lay off bad pitches makes Alfonso Soriano look like Barry Bonds.


Yeah, that guy with 5.2 WAR should never, EVER be allowed near a stadium.

I just deleted a post in another thread for sheer stupidity. You have that option as well.
   5. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:25 PM (#4007931)
No thanks. That WAR went from 3.5 in 2010 to 1.7 last year, and I'll be glad to take the under going forward. What about you?

And I'll say it straight: Austin Jackson is a marginal Major League baseball player, with little or no power, no knowledge of the strike zone, and exactly one positive attribute: foot speed, which doesn't do you all that much good if you can't steal first base.
   6. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:28 PM (#4007933)
I just deleted a post in another thread for sheer stupidity. You have that option as well.


Eh, it's a bit strong, but pretty near the mark. The guy has a 3.5:1 K/BB ratio. That's worse than Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, and even Mark Reynolds. It would not be sustainable for a guy hitting 40 HR/yr, and Jackson has 14 in his career.
   7. ??'s Biggest Fan! Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:29 PM (#4007935)
A-Jax is a cautionary tale about falling in love with prospects. 3 years ago, I would have sworn up and down that he was going to be the heir apparent to Bernie Williams, despite his horrible OBP as a minor leaguer. I was a bit crushed he got traded to Detroit. I do think strike zone judgement can be taught and Jackson may still prove to be a valuable major league starter.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:34 PM (#4007939)
And I'll say it straight: Austin Jackson is a marginal Major League baseball player, with little or no power, no knowledge of the strike zone, and exactly one positive attribute: foot speed, which doesn't do you all that much good if you can't steal first base.

Not quite fair.

By all accounts he's a good defensive CF. That means he can provide a lot of value, even with marginal O.

But, his K-rate is crazy. The fact that he has only a 97 wRC+ for his career, despite a .369 BABIP, demonstrates the massive holes in his game.

He needs to make some adjustments, or 4th OF land is calling.
   9. Palm Beach Pollworker Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:37 PM (#4007941)
The thought of Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter; the thought of Austin Jackson in a Major League uniform; or the thought of Jim Leyland buying into either of those propositions. This guy's ability to lay off bad pitches makes Alfonso Soriano look like Barry Bonds.

In descending order from most to least ridiculous:

AJax as leadoff hitter
Leyland buying into either of those propositions
AJax in a major league uniform

AJax is definitely a poor choice as a leadoff hitter, and if Leyland seriously thinks AJax belongs at the very top of the order, that would rank high on the ridiculous list along with such notions as Frank Robinson's use of Endy Chavez as a leadoff hitter with the Expos.

But AJax for the moment looks good enough in a major-league uniform, if one recalls Juan Samuel's 16-season career.
   10. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:47 PM (#4007950)
"Jackson can't control the strike zone. As "the book" on him goes out to pitchers, he'll be out of baseball by 2015."

Jackson has been a major league regular for two seasons. How long does it take "the book" to get out, anyways? Must be some real clowns in that mailroom.

"The thought of Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter; the thought of Austin Jackson in a Major League uniform; or the thought of Jim Leyland buying into either of those propositions. "

As a Tigers fan I have to live and watch Austin's strikeout factory ways, and I have been hoping that DD gets an effective leadoff hitter this winter.
But the notion that a 24 year old who has put up OPS+ of 102 and 89 in two big league seasons, coupled with very good defence at a premium position and effective basestealing, is somehow not worthy of being in the majors is absurd.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:49 PM (#4007952)

Jackson has been a major league regular for two seasons. How long does it take "the book" to get out, anyways? Must be some real clowns in that mailroom.


No snark: several years.

There are a lot of pitchers, and a lot of turnover, and teams outside the division don't play you that much anymore.
   12. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:50 PM (#4007955)
"I do think strike zone judgement can be taught and Jackson may still prove to be a valuable major league starter."

If it can, I don't think Detroit is one of the Ivies.
   13. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:52 PM (#4007958)
No snark: several years.

There are a lot of pitchers, and a lot of turnover, and teams outside the division don't play you that much anymore.


Teams meet to go over the hitters before every single series, don't they? I'm sure "this guy can't lay off the breaking pitch in the dirt, or seems unable to recognize an inside fastball with two strikes" would be discussed at every meeting.
   14. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:56 PM (#4007959)
The guy has a 3.5:1 K/BB ratio. That's worse than Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, and even Mark Reynolds. It would not be sustainable for a guy hitting 40 HR/yr, and Jackson has 14 in his career.

he's the sole member of the >170, <10 club
   15. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: December 06, 2011 at 01:58 PM (#4007960)
If we assume that some hitters are more "vulnerable" to a scouting report and familiarity (like Jackson, or like Mariano and the Red Sox), will the incoming "every day is interleague" schedule be better for these types of players?
   16. . Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:01 PM (#4007963)
Andy's getting hysterical again. A couple years ago, it was to the upside over Phil Hughes after about 8 starts; now, it's to the downside on A-Jax after a meh year.(**)

Guess which touted prospect the Yanks kept and which one they traded?

He's good enough to maintain his floor as a Gold Glove caliber CF who can hit 8th or 9th in a well-constructed lineup in an expansive ballpark. He's likely not ever going to be an MLB caliber leadoff hitter.

(**) Not that there's anything wrong with Fan's Notes style evaluations, so long as they aren't dressed up as something else.
   17. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:14 PM (#4007968)
He's good enough to maintain his floor as a Gold Glove caliber CF who can hit 8th or 9th in a well-constructed lineup in an expansive ballpark. He's likely not ever going to be an MLB caliber leadoff hitter.
Given all the conditions that have to be fulfilled there (four, by my count) for Jackson to be a starter, that sounds like a fourth OF to me.
   18. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:15 PM (#4007970)
He's good enough to maintain his floor as a Gold Glove caliber CF who can hit 8th or 9th in a well-constructed lineup in an expansive ballpark. He's likely not ever going to be an MLB caliber leadoff hitter.
Jackson's now got two full seasons with crazy BABIP (.396, .340). It's starting to look like part of the trade-off for his strikouting ways is that when he does hit the ball, he hits it hard enough to maintain a competent batting average.

His rookie season was probably a fluke (no one BABIPs 400), but a 90 OPS+ with good defense and baserunning is a league average player. And he's just 25.

EDIT: League average, ain't no 4th OF. Jackson's 2011 rated 1.7 CHONE WAR and 2.8 Fangraphs WAR - he looks like a perfectly cromulent ballplayer miscast as a leadoff hitter.
   19. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:25 PM (#4007975)
It's starting to look like part of the trade-off for his strikouting ways is that when he does hit the ball, he hits it hard enough to maintain a competent batting average.


Are you saying that BABIP is a repeatable skill?
   20. BrianBrianson Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:33 PM (#4007981)
Are you saying that BABIP is a repeatable skill?


It is for hitters, yes. It's mostly not for pitchers.
   21. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:40 PM (#4007986)
EDIT: League average, ain't no 4th OF. Jackson's 2011 rated 1.7 CHONE WAR and 2.8 Fangraphs WAR - he looks like a perfectly cromulent ballplayer miscast as a leadoff hitter.
Aren't we giving Jackson double-credit here? The last two years, he's averaged 2.6 oWAR in 671 PA, or roughly . Now, if you say he's miscast as a leadoff hitter--he is--and should be batting ninth--he should--then you have to deduct the PAs he loses moving from first to ninth in the batting order. I think you lose roughly 20 PAs for every spot you drop in the order, so if Jackson is batting ninth his PA would drop to somewhere in the 500-525 range. That makes him a below 2 WAR offensive player, which means his defense has to carry even more of a load.
   22. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:43 PM (#4007991)
And we're assuming that after two wildly inconsistent seasons, we can project what is to come with some confidence. I think he's as likely to hit .190 as he is to hit .280 in 2012.
   23. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:45 PM (#4007995)
Aren't we giving Jackson double-credit here? The last two years, he's averaged 2.6 oWAR in 671 PA, or roughly . Now, if you say he's miscast as a leadoff hitter--he is--and should be batting ninth--he should--then you have to deduct the PAs he loses moving from first to ninth in the batting order. I think you lose roughly 20 PAs for every spot you drop in the order, so if Jackson is batting ninth his PA would drop to somewhere in the 500-525 range. That makes him a below 2 WAR offensive player, which means his defense has to carry even more of a load.
Your double-counting effect is (525 / 675) * 2.6 = 2.0, then (2.6 - 2.0) / 2 = 0.3 WAR per season. He's still league average even if the PA drop you suggest is correct.

EDIT: I misread the "per year" thing. Anyway, you're saying he gets about 5 runs per year in value above replacement from batting first instead of ninth. If you drop 5 runs off his 2011 season value, he comes in at about 1.9 chone WAR and 2.3 fangraphs WAR. Still league average.
   24. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:48 PM (#4007998)
Andy's getting hysterical again. A couple years ago, it was to the upside over Phil Hughes after about 8 starts; now, it's to the downside on A-Jax after a meh year.(**)

Guess which touted prospect the Yanks kept and which one they traded?


Er, did you notice me voicing any complaints about getting rid of Jackson back then? As a general rule I'd rather the Yanks hold onto their prospects (Hughes, Joba, Kennedy, Montero), and I admittedly blew it in my comments at the time about Granderson, but I never saw Austin Jackson as having any real future in a Yankee uniform. I just don't see any great upside to a player with his almost comical SO/BB ratio and little or no power. At best he's a stopgap 8th or 9th place hitter for a team that can't do any better.

Seriously, what do the Tigers get out of Austin Jackson? Maybe 10 or 15 home runs, a few warning track catches of balls that might have gone over another CF's head, nearly 200 strikeouts, a few dozen SB's, and an OBP that negates his one real asset of foot speed. Big Whoops.

And keeping him in the ####### leadoff spot? The only charitable explanation for that is that Leyland's just biding his time for someone who doesn't swing at the peanut bags being thrown by the vendors. Jackson's best strategy would be to buy a suit of full body armor and start diving into pitches. It's about the only way he'll ever be able to get on base consistently.
   25. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:56 PM (#4008006)
And we're assuming that after two wildly inconsistent seasons, we can project what is to come with some confidence. I think he's as likely to hit .190 as he is to hit .280 in 2012.

Dan has him basically repeating this season in 2012. That's manageable if he's hitting 9th and playing good defence.
   26. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 02:57 PM (#4008007)
And we're assuming that after two wildly inconsistent seasons, we can project what is to come with some confidence.
He wasn't wildly inconsistent, he just had a BABIP fluke his first season.

BB%: 7.0% 2010, 8.4% 2011
K%: 25.2% 2010, 27.1% 2011
Iso: .107 2010, .125 2011

Jackson's BABIP went from .400 to .340. His year-to-year inconsistency is almost entirely a function of BABIP. There is a question as to whether Jackson's 2011 was also hit-lucky, and perhaps Jackson could have a bad or fluky bad BABIP year next year. But it seems pretty clear what kind of hitter he is, and I don't think "inconsistent" really describes him - he's been mostly the same hitter who had one great and one good BABIP season.
   27. . Posted: December 06, 2011 at 03:00 PM (#4008009)
Seriously, what do the Tigers get out of Austin Jackson?

Gold Glove caliber defense in a big park, a little pop, and good speed.

And keeping him in the ####### leadoff spot?

No one serious is going to argue that he's a leadoff hitter. As noted upthread, my opinion is that he'll never develop into one.

He's good enough to hit 8th or 9th for a good team. The Tigers won 95 games with him hitting leadoff.
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 03:16 PM (#4008015)
He's good enough to hit 8th or 9th for a good team. The Tigers won 95 games with him hitting leadoff.

Yeah, and the 2009 Yankees won 103 games and a World Championship with Melky Cabrera playing 154 games in center. I'm not sure what either of those observations is supposed to say beyond "a good team can sometimes get away with carrying a bad player".
   29. The Good Face Posted: December 06, 2011 at 03:41 PM (#4008035)
Seriously, what do the Tigers get out of Austin Jackson?


Approximately 2 WAR/year from a cost controlled player. That's a useful thing to have. Jackson's no star and is unlikely to ever become one unless he somehow dramatically improves his plate discipline in his mid 20s, but he's not a bad player. Not yet anyway. Plenty of teams would be happy to have a league average OF who costs $440k/year.
   30. Bug Selig Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:00 PM (#4008057)
No thanks. That WAR went from 3.5 in 2010 to 1.7 last year, and I'll be glad to take the under going forward. What about you?

And I'll say it straight: Austin Jackson is a marginal Major League baseball player, with little or no power, no knowledge of the strike zone, and exactly one positive attribute: foot speed, which doesn't do you all that much good if you can't steal first base.


The bar for being a major league baseball player is nowhere near 1.7 WAR per year (if you want to play the big brother vs. little sister game and only consider his "bad" season.) Neifi Perez had a long career. Jeff Mathis is having a long career. Gerald Laird is a major league baseball player.

He is not, and is not close to being, a marginal MLB player - no matter how many times you say it. He is a marginal starter. He is a poor leadoff hitter - not that the Tigers have anyone who does fit the role. However, being a marginal starter is nowhere near being at the bottom of the league.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:06 PM (#4008063)
Seriously, what do the Tigers get out of Austin Jackson?

Approximately 2 WAR/year from a cost controlled player. That's a useful thing to have. Jackson's no star and is unlikely to ever become one unless he somehow dramatically improves his plate discipline in his mid 20s, but he's not a bad player. Not yet anyway. Plenty of teams would be happy to have a league average OF who costs $440k/year.


The point about Jackson's salary is worth bringing up, but if you were Dombrowski, and assuming you were looking to keep the Tigers on the top of the ALC, would this be your final answer?

AFAIC the only serious rebuttal to what I've been saying about Jackson is this: What other centerfielders are currently available? If he's the best out there, that's one thing, but if** you can do a significant upgrade for an extra $7-$8 million a year, I'd say you'd have to go for it. Hell, right now he's not even as good as ####### Melky himself.

**admittedly the operative word in that sentence
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:08 PM (#4008069)
Teams meet to go over the hitters before every single series, don't they? I'm sure "this guy can't lay off the breaking pitch in the dirt, or seems unable to recognize an inside fastball with two strikes" would be discussed at every meeting.

Yeah, but it takes a while to develop a firm scouting report, and I'm sure every pitcher doesn't absorb these things at the same speed.

Also, his absurd BABIP in his first year probably camouflaged some weaknesses. i.e. he was getting fluke hits on good pitches.
   33. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:14 PM (#4008074)
If he's the best out there, that's one thing, but if** you can do a significant upgrade for an extra $7-$8 million a year, I'd say you'd have to go for it.
Jackson's an average player. If there's an all-star avaiable for $7-8M per year, obviously you go get him and figure out what to do afterward. $7-8M doesn't buy you an all-star, it buys you Mike Cuddyer (maybe), and I certainly wouldn't pay $7-8M for the upgrade to Mike Cuddyer's CF-playing equivalent from Austin Jackson.
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:15 PM (#4008075)
AFAIC the only serious rebuttal to what I've been saying about Jackson is this: What other centerfielders are currently available? If he's the best out there, that's one thing, but if** you can do a significant upgrade for an extra $7-$8 million a year, I'd say you'd have to go for it. Hell, right now he's not even as good as ####### Melky himself.

Depends where else you can upgrade, doesn't it?

You probably shouldn't pay $8M for a 3 WAR CF to replace him, unless you feel you have no other places to upgrade. If you can get an elite CF at a good price, sure, upgrade and trade Jackson.
   35. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:16 PM (#4008078)
He is not, and is not close to being, a marginal MLB player - no matter how many times you say it. He is a marginal starter. He is a poor leadoff hitter - not that the Tigers have anyone who does fit the role. However, being a marginal starter is nowhere near being at the bottom of the league.

I hope that if someday I'm on trial for my life, my lawyer produces a more stirring defense of my existence than that.**

Yes, you're right that my language was a bit hyperbolic, but if the Tigers are satisfied with Austin Jackson as anything other than a late inning defensive replacement and an occasional pinch runner, they're ####### nuts. He has no other real baseball skills even worth mentioning, and the proof for that is right there on his BB-Ref page.

**Kind of reminds me of when my college roommate was "defending" me at a Judi Board meeting, where I was on trial for illegal parking [sic]. I was listening in through the door, and heard him say "Andy's the most honest person you'd ever want to meet---though you wouldn't think so".

Be that as it may, my BB to SO rate was still a hell of a lot better than Austin Jackson's.
   36. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:20 PM (#4008081)
You probably shouldn't pay $8M for a 3 WAR CF to replace him
If you can buy 3 WAR for $8M, you should do it and plan to play one of your CFs in a corner. That's a very good deal in $$/win terms. Mike Cuddyer is a 2-WAR player (maybe), and he's looking for $10M. Free agents generally cost a little less than $5M per 1 WAR, though it gets fuzzy it the range of the 2-WAR players we're talking about. 3-4 WAR guys, though, they cost more than $10M almost every time. If you can get one for under $10M, especially an outfielder with flexibility to play different positions (as in the CF example), you should do it regardless.
   37. . Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:22 PM (#4008083)
Yes, you're right that my language was a bit hyperbolic, but if the Tigers are satisfied with Austin Jackson as anything other than a late inning defensive replacement and an occasional pinch runner, they're ####### nuts. He has no other real baseball skills even worth mentioning, and the proof for that is right there on his BB-Ref page.

Jesus, Andy, did someone find a copy of Fountainhead in the guy's locker or something? He's cheap, 25, and a great defensive centerfielder. He's averaging 2.6 WAR in two full seasons.

He's not Mickey Mantle, but you're talking as if he's Alex Cole's crippled brother.
   38. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:22 PM (#4008085)
Jackson's an average player. If there's an all-star avaiable for $7-8M per year, obviously you go get him and figure out what to do afterward. $7-8M doesn't buy you an all-star, it buys you Mike Cuddyer (maybe), and I certainly wouldn't pay $7-8M for the upgrade to Mike Cuddyer's CF-playing equivalent from Austin Jackson.

Perhaps here's a way to estimate Jackson's true value: What do you think that, given his salary and everything else, the Tigers could get for him in a trade?

EDIT: I'll pose the above question specifically to SugarBear. What do you think that all things taken into consideration (salary included), the Tigers could get for him?
   39. The Good Face Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:23 PM (#4008088)
The point about Jackson's salary is worth bringing up, but if you were Dombrowski, and assuming you were looking to keep the Tigers on the top of the ALC, would this be your final answer?

AFAIC the only serious rebuttal to what I've been saying about Jackson is this: What other centerfielders are currently available? If he's the best out there, that's one thing, but if** you can do a significant upgrade for an extra $7-$8 million a year, I'd say you'd have to go for it. Hell, right now he's not even as good as ####### Melky himself.

**admittedly the operative word in that sentence


Where exactly do you think you're going to find a 4 WAR CF who costs $8M/year? Not on the FA market, that's for sure. So now you're looking at a trade. Assuming such a player exists and his team is willing to trade him (and why would they do such a thing?), what are you willing to give up for him?

There is nothing wrong with league average players, even on a team with playoff ambitions. So much the better if they're cheap and young. Getting a few stars and surrounding them with average performers is a perfectly sensible way to build a playoff team.
   40. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:30 PM (#4008100)
a great defensive centerfielder

By that I have to assume you must be referring to something other than his 0.0 career dWaR. OTOH that's the one statistic where he's actually shown some improvement, but if you're going to average his offense for purposes of inflation, you have to do the same thing with his glove.

In fact, numbers aside, I'll grant that given his foot speed, Jackson may turn into a fine defensive CFer, and in Comerica that's a useful thing. But if he doesn't do something about his offense, that's not going to be much of a consolation. The occasional warning track caught fly ball isn't going to make up for that sickly OBP.
   41. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:31 PM (#4008102)
Basically, Austin Jackson 2011 = Melky Cabrera 2007. What would you have wanted the Yankees to get in return for Melky after 2007?

My guess is that you'd want either a couple solid prospects, or a star on a reasonably favorable contract.
   42. . Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#4008104)
I'll pose the above question specifically to SugarBear. What do you think that all things taken into consideration (salary included), the Tigers could get for him?

Impossible to answer, given the realities of the trade market and baseball economics. There are few if any comps because teams rarely trade regular-caliber cost-controlled young guys by themselves. I assume you aren't suggesting he has no value in a trade, because that's silly.

I generally agree with your view of him -- hypothetically medicated -- and his future. The Tigers should look to move him or upgrade CF, and there is every indication they're doing precisely that. If they don't, he's good enough to play every day in CF, and it isn't remotely inconceivable that he'll surprise to the upside.
   43. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#4008106)
The only way that this is going to be resolved is to say "Same time, next year". And I'll still take the under on that 1.7 WaR.
   44. Bug Selig Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:34 PM (#4008108)
if the Tigers are satisfied with Austin Jackson as anything other than a late inning defensive replacement and an occasional pinch runner, they're ####### nuts.


This where you're going off the deep end a little bit. His "poor" season is 3 runs below average, not below replacement - below average. The average of his two seasons is better than the average starter in MLB, per BBRef's definitions. Is he so good that you absolutely cover your ears if another team mentions another centerfielder - no. But, for a team that doesn't own its own cable network, a guy who covers a position at or above average for cheap, replacing him shouldn't be a priority. They are planning to start Delmon Young in left field, for the love of all that is useless! Their 2B is some kind of unholy union of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. They currently have Brandon Inge and Don Kelly at third. Their 5th starter is undecided, but probably has zero wins in his career (Andy Oliver or Jacob Turner). Somebody besides Valverde and Benoit is almost certain to be needed to pitch out of the 'pen at some point during the season. Replacing Austin Jackson shouldn't be one of their top 10 priorities.
   45. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:35 PM (#4008110)
The occasional warning track caught fly ball isn't going to make up for that sickly OBP.
You're living in the past, man. The offensive context in MLB has shifted dramatically.

AL center fielders last year hit for a .317 OBP, exactly equivalent to Jackson's.

The MLB average OBP for all hitters was .321. Baseball has changed - .317 is no longer the "sickly" number it was back in the boom years of 1999-2000. (League average OBPs .345 both years.)
   46. Danny Posted: December 06, 2011 at 04:53 PM (#4008137)
This guy's ability to lay off bad pitches makes Alfonso Soriano look like Barry Bonds.

Jackson's swung at 28% of pitches out of the strike zone. The league average over the past two years is 30%.

Jackson's Ks aren't high because he chases pitches out of the zone. Rather, they're high because 1) he has a bad contact rate when he does swing, and 2) pitchers pound the zone against him.
No thanks. That WAR went from 3.5 in 2010 to 1.7 last year, and I'll be glad to take the under going forward.

Beyond the problems of relying on "trends," you've mistaken oWAR for WAR.
   47. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 06, 2011 at 05:01 PM (#4008146)
Are you saying that BABIP is a repeatable skill?
Just to return to this, I would think that Yankee fans of all people would know this. You've watched the greatest BABIP hitter of his era play every day for closing in on two decades.

(Ichiro's BABIP is slightly better, but he's getting a lot more infield hits. With Jeter it's all about his incredible ability to hit the ball hard where they ain't.)

EDIT: Well, turns out Jeter passed Ichiro again last year. Jeter's .355 BABIP is the second best of any player in the integration era, behind only Rod Carew (who admittedly played in a significantly lower BABIP era). The only players ahead of Jeter and Carew (5000 PA minimum) are Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Shoeless Joe.
   48. Jim Wisinski Posted: December 06, 2011 at 05:02 PM (#4008147)
#44 hits on the important point: With Young in LF Jackson may not even be the OF they'd get the biggest upgrade from replacing
   49. . Posted: December 06, 2011 at 05:06 PM (#4008152)
Jackson's Ks aren't high because he chases pitches out of the zone. Rather, they're high because 1) he has a bad contact rate when he does swing, and 2) pitchers pound the zone against him.

His big problem is being late or early on hittable balls in the strike zone. He doesn't regularly swing at garbage, and when his timing's right, he hits the ball solidly.

He uses a toe raise/leg kick as a timing mechanism, and it hasn't worked very well at the major league level. That's the kind of thing that, at least IMHO, seems easy to fix but hasn't actually been fixed. He regressed in that area in 2011 and spent a lot of the season tinkering.
   50. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 06, 2011 at 05:20 PM (#4008166)
#44 hits on the important point: With Young in LF Jackson may not even be the OF they'd get the biggest upgrade from replacing


According to BB-Ref, Jackson was 5th among position players on the 2011 Tigers in WAR, better than their starting 2B, 3B, LF, or RF. To the extent Austin Jackson was a problem for the 95-win ALCS-reaching 2011 Tigers, it was because Leyland batted him leadoff, but that's on Leyland, not Jackson.
   51. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 06, 2011 at 05:42 PM (#4008195)
While he may not be a leadoff hitter, Jackson is only 24. Plenty of players have improved at that age. If Jackson does, he'll have considerable value.
   52. SJC in A2 Posted: December 06, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#4008242)
I'm with SBB on this one. Defensively, he covers a lot of ground, which is important in Comerica, especially when the LF and RF don't move well -- although he does seem to drop routine balls every so often and doesn't look the ball into the glove well. Offensively, he has way too many moving parts, with the leg kick and a loopy swing. McClendon had him making changes throughout the year, some of which seemed to help for some time but most just seemed to fill his head with more swing thoughts. His bunting for hits is OK but he otherwise gets very few infield hits because he's slow out of the box. Many of those issues are correctible and there's some hope that he's young enough that he'll make the changes -- but he was supposed to be working on all that twelve months ago too. And yes, it would be better if he were working on those issues while batting 8th or 9th, not 1st. The Tigers have bigger issues.
   53. beefshower Posted: December 06, 2011 at 06:24 PM (#4008274)
#49 hits the nail right on the head.

I am no expert on the mechanics of swinging a bat as I insisted on batting like Mickey Tettleton during my Little League playing days much to the frustration of my coaches, but I have watched enough baseball to know that Austin Jackson is doing it wrong. He has the loooooooongest swing I have ever seen from a major league player. Not only is it long through the zone but he screws himself in the ground so much with his follow through that he can't take advantage of his foot speed. Despite being the fastest guy on the team I can't think of one infield hit he has had in the past two seasons outside of the occasional drag bunt. I even watched Chris Shelton lug out a swinging bunt once so for Jackson not to be able to beat out a slow roller to third or a deep in the hole ground ball is ridiculous. It's not that he misses curveballs by a foot or has some sort of visual spatial issues its more that his long swing makes him so late on good fastballs. For exhibit A look at his ALCS Game 2 9th inning at bat against Ogando where Ogando put him away by pumping non stop 98 mph belt high heaters by him. (I am trying to remember this off hand, if it wasn't Ogando than it was one of the other several hundred strikeouts Jackson had during the playoffs.)

I agree with SugarBear that the flaws in his swing seem like they should be correctable and for the love of god if someone could convince him to shorten his stroke and not load up like hes trying to crush a slow pitch softball I think he could turn into a valuable offensive player. Just this past season Jackson suffered a wrist injury that lingered for most of the second half of the season and when he was playing through the discomfort and not being able to swing his hardest he performed better than when healthy, including one torrid stretch of batting around .500 for a couple of weeks. I know that's a small sample and is likely be a coincidence, but I think it might be useful for him to swing at about 80 percent of the effort of his current swing. Preferably he would work on those things at the bottom of the lineup but the Tigers do not really have a good in-house candidate to replace Jackson at the top of the order and knowing Leyland's tendencies he would probably bat Don Kelly or Delmon Young there instead.

Finally I have to ask ere there any good leadoff hitters on the free agent market or available for trade right now? I have looked over the list and nobody really jumps out but I am probably missing someone.
   54. Srul Itza Posted: December 06, 2011 at 06:36 PM (#4008303)
Teams meet to go over the hitters before every single series, don't they?


Smoke him inside.

Smoke him inside.
   55. Walt Davis Posted: December 06, 2011 at 07:58 PM (#4008430)
I'm more with Andy than the others. I think Jackson will be lucky to have Corey Patterson's career (4500 PA). Somebody mentioned Alex Cole. Cole had a 91 OPS+ career and 2000 PA. He didn't K and he did reach base (360 career OBP) and had a 332 career BABIP. He amassed 5 WAR (7 oWAR) in about 3 seasons worth of PA. Yep, that all seems pretty Jacksonish overall. Gary Pettis used amazing defense and a willingness to take a walk to get to 4200 PA despite a horrible K-rate and crappy power so he too is Jackson's upside.

It all depends on what you think that K-rate is gonna do to him and I think it's going to eat him alive. He doesn't have power (this could improve). He doesn't seem to hit the ball particularly hard -- above-average GB/FB, low LD% last year (very high in 2010), well below-average HR/FB (not too bad last year). The high BABIP seems mainly speed-related (lots of IF hits), not smacking the ball hard related. That's OK -- lots of the high BABIP hitters are speed-related and he might be one -- but I don't expect an offensive break-out anytime soon.

That said, he did generally improve as a hitter last year with a better walk rate and a better ISO. But even last year's BABIP of 340 is about as high as can realistically be sustained and that still added up to just an 89 OPS+. He could add some power and maybe get that up to 95 but that looks to me like an absolute ceiling for the guy's true offensive talent unless he greatly reduces the K-rate. And if his true BABIP is more like 320 or 300 and the K-rate stays the same, then he's toast.

A big part of the difference among Patterson, Cole and Pettis is defense. Pettis was great (and Chone puts him +80 in that 7 seasons of PA); Patterson was above-average; Cole was (by Chone) a bit below-average. Jackson (small sample) so far is average.
   56. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 08:29 PM (#4008463)
It all depends on what you think that K-rate is gonna do to him and I think it's going to eat him alive.

Concur.

Per Fangraphs, since 1990 there have been 998 players with >1000 PAs. Jackson is #30 in K-rate at 26.1% career.

Of the 29 worse than him, only 11 had a wRC+ >100, and almost all of those were big time power hitters (Mark Reynolds, Cust, Branyan, Deer, Bo Jackson, Dunn, Ryan Howard, Carlos Pena). The others are Drew Stubbs, Craig Wilson and Johnny Gomes. Except for Stubbs, every one has an ISO near or over .200. Every single one had a better BB-% than him.

To suceed at his K-rate Jackson needs to get his BB-rate over 10% and his ISO well above .150.
   57. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 08:44 PM (#4008484)
Given the direction that Curtis Granderson was headed before Kevin Long worked on his swing in mid-2010, maybe the best investment the Tigers could make would be to hire Kevin Long.

OTOH at least with Granderson you might have known it was a matter of adjustments, since he'd previously shown that he could hit in the Bigs. But Jackson has yet to establish that.
   58. Bug Selig Posted: December 06, 2011 at 09:25 PM (#4008520)
He amassed 5 WAR (7 oWAR) in about 3 seasons worth of PA. Yep, that all seems pretty Jacksonish overall.


For Jackson to have that career, he'd have to have a below-replacement season and then get hit by a bus.
   59. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: December 06, 2011 at 09:29 PM (#4008525)
Given that when he isn't hitting a good number of singles he isn't contributing offensively, I would actually expect that if he throws in a below-replacement season along with a noticeable gaffe or two in the field he would lose his everyday player status. No bus required.
   60. Bug Selig Posted: December 06, 2011 at 09:37 PM (#4008531)
I would actually expect that if he throws in a below-replacement season along with a noticeable gaffe or two in the field he would lose his everyday player status. No bus required.


History is full of guys who have 1300+ PA of 95 OPS+, 5+ WAR in their first two years and then don't make it significantly past 2000 PA's. Oh, wait - no, it isn't
   61. Bug Selig Posted: December 06, 2011 at 09:49 PM (#4008547)
To suceed at his K-rate Jackson needs to get his BB-rate over 10% and his ISO well above .150.


He is succeeding now. If he does those things, he's an all-star.
   62. Bug Selig Posted: December 06, 2011 at 09:52 PM (#4008551)
That said, he did generally improve as a hitter last year with a better walk rate and a better ISO. But even last year's BABIP of 340 is about as high as can realistically be sustained and that still added up to just an 89 OPS+. He could add some power and maybe get that up to 95 but that looks to me like an absolute ceiling for the guy's true offensive talent unless he greatly reduces the K-rate.


You just argued that a 25 year old player with 2 seasons under his belt has an "absolute ceiling" of 95 OPS+ that he can "maybe get to". That's also his career average, so I'd say you're being a little pessimistic, if you're really claiming that he has little shot of getting to the level he's already at.
   63. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2011 at 10:00 PM (#4008562)
He is succeeding now. If he does those things, he's an all-star.

He put up a 90 wRC+ last season, with a .340 BABIP that likely well above his true talent level (16.8% LD-%).

Give him a more normal .310 BABIP, and he's in trouble unless the plate discipline or power increases a bunch.
   64. nick swisher hygiene Posted: December 06, 2011 at 10:09 PM (#4008577)
Austin Jackson is.....not as bad as Andy thinks.

If I offer Austin Jackson and X for Brett Gardner, what does X need to be to make the deal work?

As Cashman, should I deal Gardner for AJ and a decent pitching prospect? (Well, obviously not, because the Yankees can't develop pitching prospects, but you know what I mean....)
   65. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: December 06, 2011 at 10:37 PM (#4008607)
History is full of guys who have 1300+ PA of 95 OPS+, 5+ WAR in their first two years and then don't make it significantly past 2000 PA's. Oh, wait - no, it isn't


He's an odd duck, that's for sure. Just did a PI query, players in the ir first 2 years, 1300+ PA, 95+ OPS+, 5+ WAR, 200+ SO. Only 4 players. here are the 4 players, in decreasing order of OPS+:

Jeff Bagwell - 137
Eddie Murray - 131
John Mayberry - 122
Austin Jackson - 95

Somehow I don't think he's going to be as good as the first 3.

Players with 200+ K's and fewer than 20 HR in their first 2 years, in descending order of OPS+:

Delino DeShields
Robby Thompson
Akinori Iwamura
Austin Jackson
Bobby Knoop
Julio Lugo
Jake Wood
Vince Coleman

That's a more reasonable comp list, and most of those guys had reasonable careers. Iwamura didn't make 2000 PA, and Wood just barely. But Jackson had over 100 more K's that the #2 guy above.

Players with 300K in their first 2 years, in decreasing order of HR:

Pete Incaviglia - 57
Mark Reynolds - 45
Pat Burrell - 45
Austin Jackson - 14

Now, using the first 2 years may cut out similar players who had a cup of coffee their first year, so now

Players in their first 4 years, 300+K, 1500 or fewer PA:

There's 38 such players on that list.

Jackson is dead last in HR, 3 behind Carlos Gomez, and fewer than half as many as #36 Larry Hisle.

Jackson is 30th in OPS+, but 11th in WAR. Players close to him on the lsit in career WAR:

Mack Jones - developed some power, improved his K:BB ratio, and had a decent career, 20 WAR in 3600 PA

Will Venable - Current CF for the Padres. Better rate stats than Jackson, better defensive numbers, better power, but fairly similar.

Donn Clendenon (does he hold the record for most N's in a name? or at least highest percentage?) - Had a bunch of decent years, but again, with much more power. 16.5 career WAR.

Jack Howell - Had some power, 3 years as a regular, 3000 PA, 8.6 WAR

Bottom line is, every one of these players who had any kind of career, with the lone exception of Vince Coleman, had or eventually developed a lot more power than Jackson.
   66. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: December 06, 2011 at 10:46 PM (#4008618)
He is succeeding now. If he does those things, he's an all-star.


No, he has succeeded. History shows that to continue succeeding, he needs to either get control of the K's, or develop more power without adding more K's.

The only young players I have found that had Jackson's power/strikeout profile as young players and had longish (4000+ PA) careers without either adding power or decreasing strikeouts, were Vince Coleman and Ron LeFlore.

Get back to me when Jackson hits 30 HR or steals 100 bases.
   67. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 06, 2011 at 11:25 PM (#4008651)
Austin Jackson is.....not as bad as Andy thinks.

If I offer Austin Jackson and X for Brett Gardner, what does X need to be to make the deal work?


X would need to be a player on Gardner's level, because you'd need someone besides Jackson to replace Gardner in the Yankee lineup. On a team like the Yankees, Jackson would be best used as a pinch-runner and a late inning defensive replacement for Swisher, two fairly limited roles. You sure as hell wouldn't want to trade Gardner for Jackson with the idea of making Jackson into an everyday player, unless you're crazy.
   68. Tim D Posted: December 06, 2011 at 11:37 PM (#4008663)
Am I missing something? Didn't the Tigers just beat "a team like the Yankees" in the playoffs with Austin Jackson leading off?

Jackson has been at lead off because Leyland is old school and wants speed at the top. He is their sole source of speed. A major off-season priority is to get some speed; code for getting Jackson the hell out of the lead-off spot. The Tigers also got three pretty good pitchers in that deal so I'm not ready to pronounce it a dud yet. Jackson certainly has his issues but if he can hit 7th or lower they become a lot more manageable. And he just completed his age 24 season, at which point Granderson was still in Toledo. Jackson is rough, but if he can cut his strikeouts to 140 or 150, up his walk rate a little, hit 12-15 HR and play good CF he is a serviceable ML regular. He is young enough to make some changes to his swing that will stick. I don't know if he will do it but I think he can. And if he doesn't he will have a short career. Depending on how well those pitchers turn out it could still be a plus trade for Detroit if Jackson flames out.
   69. Tim D Posted: December 06, 2011 at 11:54 PM (#4008671)
PS: Jackson hit .181 .252 .257 in April and .263 .352 .399 the rest of the way. That's comparable to 2010. A .750 OPS for a good defensive CF is not all that bad. Chris Young with a better BA and less power.
   70. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 07, 2011 at 12:41 AM (#4008707)
Am I missing something? Didn't the Tigers just beat "a team like the Yankees" in the playoffs with Austin Jackson leading off?

Yes, and they've also won a World's Championship with a starting shortstop who put up an OPS+ of 20. It's not that it can't be done, but smart teams don't always want to press their luck.
   71. Tim D Posted: December 07, 2011 at 12:49 AM (#4008714)
Yes, and teams "like the Yankees" sometimes have crappy players as well, and sometimes lose even though they have "stars" at every position. With the Yankees current OF Jackson would be on the bench. But if they traded Gardner to get him (and with Gardner 3 years older with a monstrous .721 OPS Detroit would be fools to give the Yanks anything else), Jackson would start in CF and Granderson would move to LF.
   72. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 07, 2011 at 01:00 AM (#4008729)
But if they traded Gardner to get him (and with Gardner 3 years older with a monstrous .721 OPS Detroit would be fools to give the Yanks anything else),

Why don't we just park this for about oh, nine and a half or ten months, and compare Gardner to Jackson at that point?
   73. Tim D Posted: December 07, 2011 at 01:22 AM (#4008746)
Fine.
   74. Walt Davis Posted: December 07, 2011 at 05:01 AM (#4008950)
You just argued that a 25 year old player with 2 seasons under his belt has an "absolute ceiling" of 95 OPS+ that he can "maybe get to". That's also his career average, so I'd say you're being a little pessimistic, if you're really claiming that he has little shot of getting to the level he's already at.

Because he's only "at that level" because of a 400 BABIP in his rookie year. Give him a 340 BABIP in 2010 and he hits about 250/305/343. That would have been an OPS+ of about 76. That was much closer to his true talent in 2010, he seems to have improved a little last year (in BB% and ISO), ZiPS projects him to be about the same as last year (with a 351 BABIP).

Anyway, you can conclude what you like. I conclude that Austin Jackson's true talent as a hitter is an OPS+ somewhere around 85 which would make a 95 OPS+ a realistic upside for him at this K-rate (if he adds power and/or walks).
   75. Bug Selig Posted: December 07, 2011 at 07:31 PM (#4009472)
X would need to be a player on Gardner's level, because you'd need someone besides Jackson to replace Gardner in the Yankee lineup. On a team like the Yankees, Jackson would be best used as a pinch-runner and a late inning defensive replacement for Swisher, two fairly limited roles. You sure as hell wouldn't want to trade Gardner for Jackson with the idea of making Jackson into an everyday player, unless you're crazy.


This I absolutely agree with. Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young, and I dunno - Ryan Raburn, maybe - is a hell of a long way from Gardner, Granderson, and Swisher. The question of "Should the Tigers be trying to replace him?" is barely related to "What would the Yankees do with him if they had him?"
   76. Bug Selig Posted: December 07, 2011 at 07:36 PM (#4009480)
Why don't we just park this for about oh, nine and a half or ten months, and compare Gardner to Jackson at that point?


I'd rather have Gardner, but let's not forget that this started with someone (who shall remain nameless) claiming that Jackson isn't an MLB-caliber player. Warts and all, he was better than 8 of the 13 other American League starting CF's last year.
   77. Bug Selig Posted: December 07, 2011 at 07:46 PM (#4009490)
Anyway, you can conclude what you like. I conclude that Austin Jackson's true talent as a hitter is an OPS+ somewhere around 85 which would make a 95 OPS+ a realistic upside for him at this K-rate (if he adds power and/or walks).


I think you're looking at him as if he were a prospect with no MLB track record. The hits (and runs, and wins) really happened. Nobody stops the game and says "Your K-rate and LD% don't sustain the idea that you just reached base. You're out." He's a guy who has held down a regular job in the majors for two years and has helped his team win more than he has helped them lose. The strange shape of his numbers (and nobody denies that they are unique in a way that is probably more bad than good) doesn't change that.

Looking forward, even if you are correct and that he was lucky even in his "bad" year, 85-90 OPS+ with all the kickers he brings is a good player.
   78. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 07, 2011 at 08:11 PM (#4009508)
Looking forward, even if you are correct and that he was lucky even in his "bad" year, 85-90 OPS+ with all the kickers he brings is a good player.

No, he was a good player. That's all we know.

What the skeptics are saying, is that there's a good chance his BABIP in the future is more like .300-.310 than .340-.360, in which case, he won't be a good player.
   79. . Posted: December 07, 2011 at 08:33 PM (#4009529)
What the skeptics are saying, is that there's a good chance his BABIP in the future is more like .300-.310 than .340-.360,

Except there isn't, really. He misses balls other guys hit poorly, and has a good line drive percentage. He also has speed. Everything about what he does as a hitter screams better than average BABIP.

Like I said, I lean toward pessimism. 68 hit on it, as well, but the raw (non-numerical, if you insist) materials are there for him to be a very useful player. If I'm Dave Dombrowski, going into the season with Austin Jackson as my starting CF doesn't keep me up at night.

Nor am I certain when 25 year olds began to have the past tense applied -- insistently -- to their career paths. That's a new one.

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