Was Edwin Jackson The Most Valuable Free Agent Signing During The Offseason? Smart Move By The Nationals

Wednesday September 12th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: During all the chaos that surrounded Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder during the offseason, the Washington Nationals made a very sneaky addition to their pitching staff by adding Edwin Jackson. The deal was signed in early February, which made it the final piece to their rotation, as Gio Gonzalez was added before Jackson. But this move flew under the radar as Pujols and Fielder garnered most of the media. Obviously that didn’t come as a surprise. Now, Jackson looks like the most valuable offseason signing.

The thing about Jackson, is that he didn’t break the Nationals’ bank. He came at a reasonable $11 million price tag, and compared to the contracts that Pujols (10 Year, $254 Million) and Fielder (10 Year $214 Million) brought in, Jackson’s contract is practically nothing. Simply, he’s a value player. Talent-wise, he clearly isn’t as respected and accomplished as Pujols and Fielder. But that’s not the point.

However, Jackson won’t be flying under the radar for much longer now that Stephen Strasburg is out of the equation. He will have to play a much bigger role in a starting pitching staff that leads the National League in ERA (3.32). Yes, the Nationals have decent alternatives to fill Strasburg’s void. Those alternatives being Ross Detwiler and John Lannan, but Jackson takes an immense step up depth chart pyramid. Gio Gonzalez now assumes the “ace” role, Jordan Zimmerman follows him, and now Edwin Jackson is third option which means higher expectations. It also means that Jackson’s production can’t be taken as a bonus anymore. His production is now crucial for the Nationals to continue to find success on the pitching area of the game. If he depletes, the Nats are suddenly down to two consistent arms— Gonzalez and Zimmerman. That’s no longer intimidating.

Can he thrive under the pressure?

Most would answer that question with a heck no. And that type of answer isn’t out of left field either. Jackson has been known to be inconsistent throughout his career. He has known to experience collapses. And more importantly, he has known to frail under the spotlight.

In short, he either dominates or is absolutely atrocious. On Sunday, he fell in the former category when he surrendered six runs to the reeling Marlins. Those types of starts can be a common occurrence with Jackson. However, he’s limited those types of outings this year. Just four times has he allowed five or more runs. Last year he did that five times. So the improvement is marginal, but he’s clearly a different pitcher. In the Nationals perspective, all they can hope is that these blow-ups aren’t a common occurrence with him in the stretch drive and postseason.

Speaking of the postseason, Jackson has a decent amount of experience when it comes to that facet of the equation. Granted, most of the experience he has collected came last year with the Cardinals, but it’s still far more than any of his fellow rotation mates. Plus, experience is always good to have around the clubhouse. It gives someone the young pups can turn to when the postseason rolls around. Now, Jackson’s career postseason ERA of 4.91 isn’t stifling, but he’s been in the moment where the world is watching.

Jackson is on pace to have one of his best season’s as a pro. His 3.85 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but as a third and fourth starter, it’s excellent. Much of his success is thanks to a low walk rate. Walks are generally a huge part in Jackson’s “blowups” as you may call it. In fact, he has walked five or more batters in a game 16 times in his eight year career. Two of those 16 games were eight walk games. However, inflated walk numbers haven’t been much of a concern this year for Jackson. His BB/9 rate of 2.8/9 is a career-best, or low. Minimal walks lead to a lower pitch count which leads to more innings. Simple.

To put things into perspective—-Jackson was a steal. He might not be the biggest name in the league, but he’s effective and can continue to be effective with the Nationals. The media world likes to say that Strasburg is irreplaceable and his loss will dent the Nationals’ World Series chances. But, that isn’t the case because Edwin Jackson can fill his gap quite easily.

Was he the best value free agent signing during this past offseason?

Value, yes. Talent, probably not. But nevertheless, the Nationals pulled off quite a nifty signing.

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

Jake Dal Porto is a student from the Bay Area. He is a big time Giants fan and his favorite players are Matt CainTim LincecumBuster Posey, and Sergio Romo. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter:

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About Jake Dal Porto

Jake Dal Porto is a student from the Bay Area. He has followed Bay Area sports for years, and enjoys writing about the various Bay Area teams. He is an assistant editor at Golden Gate Sports, and the editor of Blue Man Hoop. If you need to contact Jake, email him: jakedalporto@gmail.com

Posted on September 12, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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