Here we are in 2012, and Jackson is once again defying the prognosticators with a big season. If he hadn’t missed three weeks with an abdominal strain, he’d be right there in the MVP runner-up discussion with his teammate Cabrera and a few others (behind Mike Trout). Jackson is once again producing a high BABIP—up to .405 after his four-hit day on Sunday.
Maybe that .405 mark is unsustainable, but Jackson has shown growth at the plate in many areas. His strikeout rate, while still high, is down 5 percent from 2011; his walk rate is up more than 4 percent; after chasing after 27 percent of pitches outside the strike zone his first two seasons, that’s down to less than 22 percent in 2012; with 11 home runs, he has already topped the 10 he hit in 2011.
There’s real growth here. Plus, it’s important to point out that it’s unusual for a hitter to have multiple seasons with a BABIP around .390. Derek Jeter has had seasons of .386, .391 and .396; Bobby Abreu had two seasons of .391 and .393; Rod Carew had seasons of .381, .391 and .408; Ichiro Suzuki is a bit of a unique hitter, but had seasons of .384, .389 and .399. Like those players, Jackson has good speed; infielders have to respect that and maybe play a step more shallow, which helps a few more grounders to sneak into the outfield. He has enough power that the outfielders have to respect that, so they can’t cut off boopers and shallow fly balls.
It’s time for number crunchers to admit: Austin Jackson has become one of the best all-around players in the American League. And he looks pretty good as a leadoff hitter.