Edwin Jackson vs. Mark Redman

Edwin Jackson vs. Mark Redman

Each year, BaseballEvolution.com doles out Mark Redman Awards for both leagues, recognizing pitchers who began the season surprisingly well but crashed back to earth in the second half of the season. New Arizona Diamondback Edwin Jackson won the 2009 AL Award. Does that have any predicative value for Jackson's 2010 season and beyond?

Baseball Evolution first created the Mark Redman Award in 2006, so we only have follow-up data for a half dozen pitchers.  Let's see what we can glean from it:

Jose Contreras 2006: 13-9, 4.27 in 196 IP
Jose Contreras 2007: 10-17, 5.57 in 189 IP
Jose Contreras  2008: 7-6, 4.54 in 121 IP
Jose Contreras 2009: 6-13, 4.92 in 131.2 IP

The inaugural AL winner certainly continued to tumble after a poor end to the 2006 season.  In fairness, Contreras was listed as a 34-year old in 2006 and may in fact have been much older.   His decline may not be relevant Jackson, who won his award during a season in which he was primarily 25 years old.

Jeremy Bonderman 2007: 11-9, 5.01 in 174.1 IP
Jeremy Bonderman  2008: 3-4, 4.29 in 71.1 IP
Jeremy Bonderman  2009: 0-1, 8.71 in 10.1 IP

Here is a far better comparison, since Bonderman was 24 when he won his award and is a fellow Tiger to boot.  The record and ERA here are misleading, as the former 1st-round pick struck out 145 batters while walking 48 in 2007 before fanning just 44 and walking 36 in fewer than half as many innings the following year.  Bonderman's record and ERA weren't far worse in 2008 only because of a fluke of small sample size.

And with Bonderman, the lack of a meaningful sample size is the real story.  He certainly lost effectiveness after his Redman win, but he more starkly lost his health.  After averaging 30 starts per season in his first five big league seasons, Bonderman has made only 13 over the past two years.

Garrett Olson 2008: 9-10, 6.65 in 132.2 IP
Garrett Olson  2009: 3-5, 5.60 in 80.1 IP

Olson, too, lost playing time in the season following his Redman Award, but in his case, it was not due to injury.  The Seattle Mariners were in contention last season, and could not afford to put up with bad Olson outings the way that perennial cellar-dwellers like the Baltimore Orioles could in 2008.  So even though Olson's 2009 numbers were a substantial improvement over what he managed in 2008, the M's put him in Triple-A for two stints totaling nearly two months and shuttled him between the rotation and the bullpen while he was in the majors  And actually, in his 11 starts, Olson went 3-5 with a 6.49 ERA, which isn't an improvement on his 2008 numbers.  

Like Bonderman, Olson was 24 in his Redman season, so his failure to recapture the success he had in the first half of 2008 is applicable to Edwin Jackson.

Derrick Turnbow 2006: 4-9, 6.87 in 56.1 IP
Derrick Turnbow 2007: 4-5, 4.63 in 68 IP
Derrick Turnbow 2008: 0-1 15.63 in 6.1 IP

Relievers are notoriously fickle.  That said, Derrick Turnbow had one of the most drastic turnarounds of any reliever in history.  Turnbow was one of the most effective closers in baseball in 2005.  Four years later at the age of 31, he was out of baseball.  Clearly, the turning point was the summer of 2006, although Turnbow was at least serviceable in 2007.  His situation is certainly different from Edwin Jackson's as a starter, but there's no denying that his disastrous second half in 2006 was a bad omen of things to come.

John Maine 2007: 15-10, 3.91 in 191 IP
John Maine 2008: 10-8, 4.18 in 140 IP
John Maine 2009: 7-6, 4.43 in 81.1 IP

Not much to analyze here.  Maine has seen his effectiveness and durability steadily decline in two years since winning a very tight Redman Award over Jason Marquis.  It is worth noting that Marquis has been pretty solid over the past two seasons (although he still falters in the second half).  Had he gotten the Redman nod over Maine, this analysis would look a bit better for Jackson an d the D-backs.

Jonathan Sanchez 2008: 9-12, 5.01 ERA in 158 IP
Jonathan Sanchez 2009: 8-12, 4.24 ERA in 163.1 IP

Finally, we found a Redman winner who was legitimately better the following season.  Sanchez and Jackson won their awards at the exact same age.  The difference was in their component ERAs.  Sanchez had a Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) of 3.90 in 2008, over a full run lower than his actual ERA of 5.01.  Jackson had a FIP of 4.34 last season, nearly three-quarters of a run higher than his actual 3.62 ERA.  Redman issues aside, we would expect Sanchez to improve on his 2008 ERA and Jackson to decline from his 2009 ERA based on the ratios of strikeouts, walks, and homers for each pitcher.  Sanchez was unlucky in 2008 while Jackson was fortunate in 2009.

Conclusions

Looking solely at the season following a Redman Award, we total the following:

The Redman Year: 61-59, 4.97 in 908.2 IP
Year After Redman: 38-51, 4.78 in 712 IP

This isn't at all what I expected.  I figured that with the first part of a Redman season being so uncharacteristically dominant, the following season would necessarily be a letdown.  It turns out that the second half of Redman seasons tend to be uncharacteristically bad as well, so the following season tends to feature some evening out.  The win-loss record of Redman winners tends to get a little worse while their earned run averages improve a bit.  Neither trend is very statistically significant.

But there is something to be gleaned here.  Check out those innings pitched totals.  After averaging 151 innings per season during their Redman years, these six pitchers averaged just 119 the following season.  Remove the one reliever from the group and we see a decline from 170 to 129.  When we move one more year past the Redman season, things get even worse.  A disastrous second half could be indicative of an injury for starting pitchers - injuries that recur in subsequent seasons and become career-threatening in some instances.

This is particularly bad news for Edwin Jackson, who already had so many injury red flags surrounding him that you might think a swarm of NFL coaches were watching instant replays near him.  Jackson surpassed his 2008 innings pitched total by just over 30 last season, which is the point at which we can expect injury trouble in the subsequent season due to the sharp increase in workload.  Furthermore, Jackson had 18 starts in which he threw over 100 pitches, three in which he surpassed 120, and one dubious start in which he was asked to throw 132 pitches.  Since Jackson regularly throws his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, these high pitch counts take their toll on him more so than they would for a soft-tosser.   

The ironic part of all this is that the D-backs purportedly traded the younger, cheaper, and more-talented Max Scherzer for Jackson because they believed that Scherzer was an injury waiting to happen.  On the contrary, Jackson is unlikely to reach 150 innings in 2010 and I will go on record as saying that he will not reach 200.  Things could get even worse beyond 2010, but focusing just on this upcoming season, Edwin Jackson is extremely unlikely to spend the entire season healthy and effective.

With the lack of depth in their starting rotation, the Diamondbacks can ill-afford to have that happen.


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