CHICAGO – Forget about any other pitching statistic. There’s only one that can completely tell Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson's Saturday afternoon performance against the first place Milwaukee Brewers:
According to the Inside Edge Scouting Service, Jackson gave up no hard-hit balls in his seven innings of shutout work. Zero. The Cubs won 3-0 and Jackson struck out a season-high 11 batters while giving up just four singles – all lightly-batted balls.
“Just got in a groove,” Jackson said afterward. “Welly (catcher Welington Castillo ) and myself, was able to make pitches and let the defense play behind us.”
But the defense didn’t have to do much. There were no spectacular plays to be had, when the ball was hit at all. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Jackson had the most swings and misses on his pitches – 18 – in almost a calendar year. It was his fastball that set everything else up.
“Think (his) fastball got up to 96 mph a couple times,” manager Rick Renteria stated.
His slider was no slouch either. Talk about mixing it up: He struck out six Brewers on fastballs, five with sliders.
“You pitch off your fastball,” Jackson said. “I wanted to keep them off-balance. That’s the name of the game…Felt good today. Past few starts feeling better and better.”
Jackson is looking better and better as well. After producing a 5.24 ERA in April, it looked like the Cubs had the same pitcher that produced a 4.98 mark in all of 2013. But May has been a different story. He has a 2.77 ERA through three starts where he’s given up just 16 hits and three walks in 20 innings.
Castillo thought the $52 million free agent signing before last season was simply settling into his new environment, but Jackson was having none of that. After all, the Cubs are his eighth team. He’s used to moving around.
“(Last season) I felt comfortable, but I just didn’t get the job done,” he said. “I started off slow this year, but I felt good. So you go off that feeling and continue to work hard and continue to battle. It’s a long season.”
What does a resurgence of Jackson mean? Normally we would simply be talking about trade value for a 30-year-old pitcher on the rebuilding Cubs, but with Jackson under contract for two more years after this one, there’s no foregone conclusion he’ll be moved. In fact, as the Cubs hope to start to turn the corner by 2015 or at least 2016, Jackson could still be a key member. At this moment he’s still a fourth starter on a contending type team. Or at least one that wants to see .500. The Cubs might need some wins to create a buzz in the coming years – or maybe even to contend – if that’s even possible.
“It’s always easy to say what’s what when things are going bad and when things are going good you think positive,” Jackson said.
In other words, hindsight is 20/20. He simply doesn’t know why he had such a bad season last year and wants to stay positive about what’s happening this month. Invariably, so do Cubs fans and Jackson’s bosses.
“He’s seemingly gotten better a little more every time out,” Renteria said. “And today (Saturday) was certainly his best outing of the season.”