There are few players in baseball who are as exciting to watch on a daily basis as Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson. Though Franklin Gutierrez is the consensus best defender in center the American League has to offer, Jackson isn’t far behind.
The way he’s able to glide through the spacious Comerica Park outfield and make tremendous catches — without diving most of the time — is simply breathtaking.
Though he’s not necessarily a burner on the base paths, Jackson has 30-steal potential and stole 27 bases last year. He’s one of the best athletes the game has to offer.
Still, almost three months into his second full big league season, Jackson leaves much to be desired at the plate. Coming into the year, many pegged Jackson as a candidate for regression offensively as last season he led the game (the world, the galaxy) in BAbip with a .396 mark.
With as many strikeouts as he’s racked up in his short career (251 K’s in 222 games, earning him the derisive moniker “K-Jax”) and as few home runs as he’s hit (7), his offensive value is going to be directly linked to his BAbip.
That’s how Jackson was able to hit .293. I mean, how else is a slap hitter who strikes out nearly 28% of the time going to hit almost .300?
So far this year, its safe to say that Jackson has come back to earth. He has a track record of high BAbips (the lowest BAbip he’s had in professional baseball was .331 while at A-ball in 2006), and this year his BAbip is .342, which is still fairly high. Normally, it isn’t a problem for a player to have a .342 BAbip, but it’s extremely unusual for that number to represent a 54 point drop off from the previous year.
Seeing that Jackson’s overall batting average is suffering a similar major drop off as he’s down to .252 entering Sunday, its fair to say that the Tigers should keep looking for a leadoff man.
Look, we all know why Jackson bats leadoff. He’s the fastest guy on the (slowest) team (in the majors) and there’s really nobody else to put there. Still, he’s not an ideal fit there because of not only his reliance on BAbip and his strikeout fetish, but also he doesn’t walk that much.
For his career, he walks in 7.3% of his plate appearances. Not terrible, but it could certainly be better. The point here is that even when Jackson is getting his hits, his on-base isn’t optimal for a first division leadoff man.
Last year he had just a .345 on-base and his year he’s hitting .252 with an on base of .315, which is optimal if your name is Francisco Cervelli.
If the Tigers ever acquire a top of the order player with plus on-base skills, the difference at the top of the order would be apparent quickly.
Maybe I’ll have something on who they should target besides Jose Reyes (cough, cough, never going to happen, cough) next week, but now it’s time for a rant.
As you may have heard, the Tigers had two runners thrown out at home plate in a one run loss Saturday night.
The first happened in the top of the 4th, when with runners at first and third Andy Dirks hit a double play ball to first. Instead of a GIDP and a run scoring, Rockies first basemen Todd Helton tagged the bag before throwing down to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Alertly, Tulo saw Miguel Cabrera lumbering toward home plate (you know, running) and fired home to nail the Tigers first basemen dead to rights.
This isn’t the first out Cabrera has run himself into this season, so I will safely assume that he ran home on his own volition. However, the other instance was most certainly another in a, frankly, long line of inexplicable decisions by Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont.
With nobody out, Lamont elected to send the tying run in Jhonny Peralta from first base. Peralta, one of the slowest players alive, was not safe by a mile. Magglio Ordonez promptly pinch hit and struck out, and Jackson followed with a strikeout of his own. There might be an argument for sending Peralta with two outs as the tying run, but there were no outs and the play wasn’t particularly close.
As much flak as Jim Leyland gets from the fan base in general, there is no question that Lamont is worse at his job and quite often he has a lot more impact on the game.
One-run losses are tough, but it’s beyond maddening when you inexplicably give up two base runners at home.