Edwin Jackson ends rough first season

ST. LOUIS -- It might go down as the worst first season of any Chicago Cubs free agent in history. Pitcher Edwin Jackson barely finished the year with a below-5.00 (4.98) ERA in losing his 18th game of the season on Saturday to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Started off shaky, ended shaky,” Jackson said of his season. “S----y year, to sum it up.”

Cubs fans were probably cursing most days Jackson took the mound after he signed a four-year, $52 million deal last winter. He’s the first -- and basically only -- big-money guy signed in the Theo Epstein era.

“I got three more years here to look forward to,” Jackson said. “I’m definitely looking to changing everything around.”

Jackson might have an excuse for Saturday’s game, as he felt tightness in his right lat and never could get the “extension” he said he needed on his pitches. But that doesn’t explain the rest of the season, during which he gave up more hits than innings pitched and struck out the fewest batters since 2008. His stuff just wasn’t very good.

“There’s a lot of people that want to throw one season away in their career,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s over. Now it’s time to start from scratch in spring training.”

It’s probably too soon to worry about the Cubs front office in terms of scouting major league talent; they’ve had success spending on lesser talent. But with so few dollars to spend right now in free agency, they can’t have many misses. Jackson was supposed to be durably consistent. In this case, one out of two isn’t very good. He just didn’t keep his team in the game often enough.

“Just a crazy year,” Jackson lamented. “If I had the answer, I would have changed it a long time ago.”

And that brings us back to first-year, free-agent seasons with the Cubs. Forgetting the money, Jackson had easily the worst year of anyone signed last winter. Add the $52 million guaranteed, and it hurts even worse.

Carlos Pena in 2011 made $10 million while hitting .225. But he hit 28 home runs and drove in 80. That’s something at least. Former bad boy Milton Bradley’s 2009 season might be comparable to Jackson's season. He was making $10 million that year while producing 12 home runs and 40 RBIs before injuries and a season-ending suspension curtailed his Cubs career.

They were one-and-done in Chicago. Unless he’s traded, Jackson has a chance to redeem himself.

“I don’t feel like I pressed,” Jackson said of his season. “There may have been times where I overanalyzed things and was thinking too much and not allowing myself to go out and do what I’m capable of doing athletically.”

Take 2 comes in 2014.