Friday, August 15, 2008

Jackson Makes Latest Coffee Run for Tribe

Zach Jackson became the first player from the C.C. Sabathia trade to appear in Cleveland. Jackson was called up from Buffalo to fill in for Paul Byrd’s scheduled start on Thursday against Baltimore. Jackson matched opposing pitcher Daniel Cabrera in his Cleveland debut, scattering 8 hits, 1 BB, and 3 ER over five innings for a no-decision.

Considering the context of his first start for the Tribe, I thought Jackson threw the ball well enough. Jackson had been having a tough year in the minors with Milwaukee (7.85 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 1.88 K/BB ratio in 57.1 IP), but to be traded and have to pitch in the majors again so soon probably didn’t help the young southpaws’ nerves any.

This post is just meant to get a feel for how Jackson tends to operate, but I don’t think we even saw an accurate picture of how Jackson normally takes the mound. If you missed the game, trust me, he seemed really nervous the first few innings.

As a result, his pitches were all over the place. Jackson did manage to throw over 60% of his 97 pitches for strikes, but he was constantly working from behind and had a hard time fooling many batters. Jackson threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of the 25 batters he faced (64%) and had to deal with at least one runner in scoring position in four of his five innings.

Jackson has a typical fastball-changeup combination with the occasional curveball thrown in. According to FanGraphs, Jackson uses a standard fastball 59.6% of the time, averaging 88.6 MPH. His 85.9 MPH cutter and 80.9 MPH change appear 27.2% and 8.2% of the time, respectively. A slider (4.3%, 80.3 MPH) and curve (0.7%, 73.8) round out the lefties arsenal (the sample is small, but Jackson seems to be using his curveball more and cutter much less in 2008).

Since Jackson has spent the majority of his time in the minors and I’ve only seen him pitch once with questionable control, it’s difficult to get a read on what his pitch movement is right now.

Despite laying the groundwork for a potentially ugly start, Jackson did a good job of hanging in there and getting some timely outs in the air and on the ground. Jackson also had to work around a rare error by Cabrera and what should have been an error when Sizemore and Choo lost a flyball in the hazy, evening sky (resulting in the tying run). Considering Jackson would have handed the bullpen the lead after 5 IP, he earned himself another start next week.

Like I said earlier, Cleveland is merely looking at where Jackson and company will fit into the organizational depth chart for 2009. Jackson has a lot of competition for that last starting slot behind Laffey and I don’t think he’ll be in consideration for it anytime soon. Despite signs of improvement in Buffalo (4.05 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 4.00 K/BB ratio in 26.2 IP), Jackson’s career minor league line of 4.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 2.10 K/BB over 536.1 IP at age 25 shows he still has some kinks to work out.

Speaking of Laffey, he seemed to be the favorite to replace Byrd in the rotation, but Laffey is still working through some minor mechanical problems he developed recently. The only reason Laffey was passed over this time is because the team wants him to get his delivery straightened out in a low-pressure environment; he’s definitely not being punished because of a few poor outings (8.53 ERA in his last five starts).

[EDIT: Since this was a quick post, I had completely forgotten about MLB service time being a deciding factor for Laffey here, even though that appears to be the primary reason Laffey is still in Buffalo. Oops. A hat tip to reader davemannddd for pointing this out with an explanation in the comments section. For a detailed and current explanation of managing the service time clock and how it relates to current Tribe players, check out this article by Jay at LGT.]

There’s a strong chance Laffey will finish the year in Buffalo since the team already knows what he’s capable of in the Majors. Guys like Reyes, Jackson, and other starters in AAA should receive the bulk of the innings at the back of the rotation as the team’s extended Spring Training continues.


Anonymous said...

i had to laugh when you said "the only reason laffey was passed over this time is because the team wants him to get his delivery straightened out in a low-pressure environment" when nothing could be further from the truth. the only real reason laffey was passed over was because if they don't promote him until after september 5th, he won't be eligible for free agency based upon his service time in the majors until after the year 2014, as opposed to 2013 if they would have called him back up now. make no mistake, the tribe "braintrust" are first and foremost a bunch of beancounters who are much more interested in the business side of the game while the product that they actually put out on the field is obviously secondary to their ultimate business interests. sad but true and as long as they have this sort of mentality, there will never be another world series championship in this town. give me an owner along the lines of a george steinbrenner who places a higher value on winning over just making money and then the indians might actually win a title. we can only hope.

Brian said...


Thank you for clarifying Laffey's service time, I really appreciate your input on that. Since this was kind of a quick post, I honestly hadn't thought to check on Laffey's service time, but I will make a note to do so in the future. Thanks for the feedback.