On Edwin Jackson's 'luck' and some minor matters
Cubs manager Dale Sveum might have raised a few eyebrows Sunday when he said part of pitcher Edwin Jackson’s problem in Sunday’s 8-4 loss to the Diamondbacks was bad luck.
It’s a tough sell, to be sure and one that Cubs TV man Len Kasper also discussed on this morning Mully and Hanley show on the Score (670-AM in Chicago). Jackson has had his obvious problems, as his 1-8 record and 6.29 ERA attest. But Sveum isn’t entirely wrong, and one stat backs him up to a degree. Jackson has a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .358. Most of you who read this blog are familiar with BABIP. It essentially takes home runs, strikeouts and walks out of the equation, because those outcomes do not put the ball into play.
The theory goes that the pitcher has little or no control over what happens when a ball is put into play. A hard line drive might be caught. A jam shot off the fist might fall into right field for a bloop double. Or the D’Backs’ Jason Kubel might hit a ball through the Cubs’ well-intentioned shift, as he did for a single on Sunday.
The average for BABIP usually settles in at about .300 for a season, which means Jackson could be due for a correction, and some better luck. When you look at Jackson’s fielding-independent pitching, which is scaled to ERA, it reads a respectable 3.65.
No doubt Jackson needs to pitch better and throw with more “conviction” as Sveum puts it. But he could be unlucky, too.
According to fangraphs.com, Jackson’s groundball/flyball ratio has gone from 1.32 last year with Washington to 2.04 with the Cubs. The line-drive percentage has gone from 16.8 to 22. The groundball rate has gone from 47.3 to 52.4. The flyball rate has gone from 35.8 to 25.7.
More groundballs mean more chances for baseballs to find holes. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the season.
Here are the BABIPs and FIPs for other Cubs starters:
Jeff Samardzija: .269 BABIP and 3.06 FIP
Travis Wood: .218 BABIP and 3.63 FIP
Scott Feldman: .254 BABIP and 3.93 FIP
In the minor leagues, Dustin Geiger and Kyle Hendricks are the Cubs’ player and pitcher of the month, respectively, for May.
Geiger, 21, batted .307 (31-for-101) with 8 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs and 23 RBI in 27 May games for Class A Daytona. He drew 11 walks that contributed to a .368 on-base percentage He had a .495 slugging percentage. His 23 RBI ranked tied for third-most in the Florida State League while his 8 doubles ranked sixth and his 31 hits were tied for seventh. He was named the league’s player of the week for May 13-19, hitting .469 (15-for-32) with 7 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs and 7 RBI in eight games.
Currently, Geiger has a hitting line of .303/.370/.478 with 6 homers and 47 RBI. He was a 24th-round draft choice in 2010 out of Merritt Island (Fla.) High School. Scout Lukas McKnight is credited in the Cubs media guide. Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ scouting and player-development boss, called Geiger one of the system’s pleasant surprises.
Hendricks, 23, went 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA (7 ER/32.1 IP) in 5 May starts for Class AA Tennessee, striking out 25 compared to just 5 walks. He surrendered 1 home run in 32.1 innings pitched and limited the opposition to a .230 batting average (28-for-122). Hendricks’ 4 May victories tied for the Southern League lead while his 1.02 WHIP ranked tied for fifth, and his 1.95 ERA was seventh.
Acquired from Texas with infielder Christian Villanueva for pitcher Ryan Dempster last July 31, Hendricks is in his first year at the Double-A level. Eight of his 11 outings have been quality starts, and he has pitched into the seventh inning in 6 starts.
Hendricks was the winner for Tennessee Monday, throwing a 7-inning complete-game shutout in a 2-0 victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Jackson. Hendricks is 6-2 with a 2.20 ERA. He gave up 7 hits while walking one and striking out seven.
Elsewhere in the minors, Steve Clevenger began his rehab at Class AAA Iowa Monday, going 1-for-3, with a double and 3 RBI in a 10-5 loss to New Orleans. Brett Jackson had his first 4-hit game of the year, going 4-for-6 with a homer, his fourth.