Mastersball

The New Mike Morgan?
Thursday, 03 January 2013 09:44

At 29 years of age, 1268.2 innings thrown and 204 starts, Edwin Jackson is already with his ninth organization. It is quite possible that he could top Mike Morgan, who holds the record for most teams pitched for with 12 (Kenny Lofton holds the overall record with 13). This four-year deal will keep him in Chicago, barring trades, through age 33, meaning the odds of breaking that record are actually pretty good.

Jackson has several strengths. First off, the righty is durable. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2007, he has made no fewer than 31 starts and thrown no fewer than 161 innings. On the other hand, Jackson has not topped 200 innings since 2010, though in two of those years we are talking about a start or two shy in his most recent years.

Jackson has become a more complete pitcher over the years, showing far better command than in his early days, and has posted a sub 3.0 BB/9 in three of the past four seasons and has not gone over 3.5 since 2008. The former Dodger's strikeout rates have remained solid, fluctuating between 6+ to nearly 8.0 K/9. 2012 was actually a career high.

Despite these skills and an arm blessed with at least two plus pitches, Jackson still owns a career 4.40 ERA. Last season, despite having a career year in the strikeout and walk rate departments, he still posted 4.03 ERA. This was due in part to a career high HR/FB rate, which speaks to command issues within the zone. While this factor is likely to regress, it needs to also be noted that Jackson produced one of the lowest batting average on balls in play (.278) of his career, and as a predominately ground ball pitcher, is likely to see some regression in that area too.

So what does this mean? Well, while Jackson is capable of producing a sub-4.00 ERA as he has accomplished in the past, an ERA in the high 3’s to low 4’s is a more realistic expectation.

From a rotation as a whole perspective, the Cubs now feature Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Jackson, Scott Feldman, and possibly Carlos Villanueva. Travis Wood could challenge for a spot as well as Scott Baker when he is ready to return after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

Perchance to Start

Brett Myers has moved between roles effectively multiple times over an eleven-year career. On two separate occasions the righty has gone from almost 200 innings of work to 65 to 70 inning seasons in relief and back to a 190 or more inning season with success. At 32 years of age, this will be Myers' third attempt. 2013, however, will be Myers' second season in the American League and first in a starting capacity.

Given the former Phillies’ proven durability and role flexibility, it is difficult to nay say his ability to once again reach the 200+ innings, 30+ start plateaus. From a skills standpoint, Myers has become a better strike thrower with age with four straight seasons of improving walk rates. However, that has been coupled with three straight seasons of declining strikeout rates. Myers' 5.7 K/9 as a reliever last season was a particular surprise. As a short-reliever, one would’ve thought the trend would have reversed itself given an opportunity to max out his stuff over a single inning. It is even more surprising considering the trend was indeed reversed in the velocity department with Myers’ pitches gaining over 3 mph from the previous season.

Going forward, it is hard to see a bright future for Myers. If he remains in the rotation, he could very well eat 200 innings and make 30 or more starts. However, it is clear he is more of a mid-to-high eighties pitcher when used as a starter and has long had an acute case of gopheritis. Even though his new park in Cleveland is considered to be more pitcher-friendly than Chicago, it is hard to expect a sub-4.00 (let alone a sub 4.50) ERA from Myers in 2013.

Roster wise, the move places Myers as the #3 or #4 starter alongside Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, and Zach McAllister. The fifth spot will mainly be a competition between Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Corey Kluber.

Is There Anything Left in the Tank?

The Royals signed a pair of veterans to minor league contracts. Endy Chavez will compete for a back-up outfield spot. Miguel Tejada will compete for a back-up infield position. Neither of these players will get much opportunity to play unless there is an injury or profound ineffectiveness on the part of one of the Royals’ youngsters. Tejada, 38, saw only minor league action last season. The righty continues to show an ability to make contact and potentially has the ability to hit for average, but his power has dwindled away over the years. In 2011 with the Giants, he managed just four homers in 343 plate appearances or a 4.4% HR/FB compared to his career 12.2 mark. Like Tejada, Chavez also played for the Orioles in 2012, but received 169 MLB plate appearances. He hit just .203 while struggling with a hamstring strain. The nearly 35-year-old will figure as a fourth or fifth outfielder, seeing occasional starts against right-handers, but his days of being a somewhat valuable outfielder in deep leagues are now well behind him.

 

Comments  

 
# Captain Hook 2013-01-03 13:34
On production both these guys seem like a step backwards but I wonder if the Royals management thinks they "need" a veteran presence for their young roster?
 

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