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Monday, August 06, 2012

Schoenfield: Austin Jackson now one of AL’s elite

Or how did Austin Jackson turn into Austin McHenry (for a year…sorta)?

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.


Repoz Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:06 AM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, tigers

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   1. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:27 AM (#4201313)
jackson is about to walk as much as he did last year in almost half the number of games. control of the strike zone is a good foundation for doing good things at the plate. this is not complex
   2. Walt Davis Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:56 AM (#4201329)
When looking at Jackson's b-ref I noticed something interesting -- his career BABIP (377) is higher than his career OBP (349). That's obviously possible -- just be a hacker with minimal power -- but I wondered how many guys had careers like that. Since 1990 there were plenty of seasons like that (125) so I looked at careers of 3000+ PA since integration.

There are only 17. Some current examples are Howie Kendrick, Delmon Young and Michael Bourn. In this group, the highest career ISO belongs to Bill Hall at 188. Cory Snyder, Miguel Olivo and Jose Herandez are in the 165-180 range. There are some pretty good players here but mainly of the wicked fast variety (Willie Wilson, Willie McGee, Mookie Wilson and Ron LeFlore who should have been a Willie or a Wilson). Three of those 17 played extensively for the Cubs (Dunston, Patterson and Jose Hernandez).

I have no idea if that's predictive of anything, just found it odd. If Jackson maintains a walk rate close to this year's it will be a moot point for him soon enough.
   3. Bug Selig Posted: August 06, 2012 at 11:28 AM (#4201440)
I remember a preseason discussion on these boards in which I defended the notion that Austin Jackson was a major league baseball player. Good thing for the Tigers that they agreed with me.
   4. RMc is Fairly Irrefutable Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:07 PM (#4201526)
Maybe that .405 mark is unsustainable


Or is Jackson just the type of player who has high BABIPs year in and year out? Is there such a player?
   5. Tripon Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:08 PM (#4201529)
Sure, and they're usually elite. Kemp, Cano, to name a few.
   6. John DiFool2 Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:11 PM (#4201531)
Or Ty Cobb (.378). Jackson is 3rd, at .377 (some late 19th century player named Tom McCreery is #1, but that's only because they only have data for 2 of his years-Cobb almost certainly is #1).
   7. Greg K Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4201539)
I remember a preseason discussion on these boards in which I defended the notion that Austin Jackson was a major league baseball player. Good thing for the Tigers that they agreed with me.

I remember one about Cameron Maybin's extension in which someone said the Tigers would be far better off if they still had him. (I assume as a straight, "he's better than Jackson" line rather than not doing the Cabrera trade)
   8. ASmitty Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4201564)
Jackson's always had a very good eye at the plate, his strikeouts were the result of swinging through pitches in the strike zone as opposed to flailing at pitches outside the strike zone. This year he ditched the Danny Tartabull-style legkick for a quieter approach and he's not swinging through nearly as many pitches. You can get a lot more walks if you can foul off a few two-strike pitches.
   9. NJ in DC (Now with Baby!) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:46 PM (#4201565)
NYY-Curtis Granderson, 12.5 fWAR
DET-Austin Jackson, 11.6 fWAR
ARI-Ian Kennedy, 9.7 fWAR
ARI-Edwin Jackson, 8.9 fWAR (most of this was not with ARI)
DET-Max Scherzer, 8.8 fWAR
DET-Phil Coke, 3.7 fWAR
DET-Daniel Schlereth, -0.6

DET>ARI/NYY at this point, right? IIRC, at the time the thought was good deal for the Yankees, good deal for Detroit and WTF is ARI thinking.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: August 06, 2012 at 02:00 PM (#4201577)
DET>ARI/NYY at this point, right? IIRC, at the time the thought was good deal for the Yankees, good deal for Detroit and WTF is ARI thinking.

What a great deal. The returns for all three teams likely exceeded expectations. That can't happen very often.

   11. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: August 06, 2012 at 03:04 PM (#4201646)
Or is Jackson just the type of player who has high BABIPs year in and year out? Is there such a player?

Yeah. Just not .405 high. .360 seems to be the upper limit on a 'true talent level' basis these days, though I suppose it could go higher with someone who was a master at bunting for hits.

My thoughts on Jackson was that I thought that at his age, it was possible for him to cut his strikeouts and increase his power (Abreu did the same thing early in his career), and he's done both. Amazingly, he's combined that with another huge BABIP year.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: August 06, 2012 at 06:16 PM (#4201851)
Fast guys (with some pop but genearlly GB hitters) can put up high BABIPs for a while. As Schoenfield himself kinda shows with his comps, pretty much nobody can top 380 on a regular basis -- although I honestly am not sure what point he was trying to make with his Jeter, Carew, Ichiro and Abreu comps. Abreu's the name I wouldn't have expected to see in that list.

Since 1990, there have been 16 qualifying seasons with a BABIP over 390, headed of course by Jose Hernandez's 404. David Wright had his crazy year as did BJ Upton. Roger Cedeno had a season at 393 and Chone Figgins tossed in a 391. The only repeats on the list are Jeter and Abreu -- if Jackson keeps it up, this will be his second.

Post-integration, min 3000 PA, only 17 players have managed a BABIP of 340 or better, led by Carew at 359 then Jeter at 355. There are a LOT of current players on this list -- including Abreu and Ichiro in their swan songs, 9 of the 17 are currently active. John Kruk is probably the most surprising name here.

And you can ignore my earlier speedy comment -- a lot of these guys aren't that fast. It helps but Miguel Cabrera ain't beating out a lot of infield singles.

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