The Emergence of Edwin Jackson
It took Edwin Jackson longer to develop than your typical top pitching prospect, but this year he’s finally emerged as the front of the rotation starter many scouts projected him to be four years ago.
So I thought it would be a good idea to explore Edwin Jackson’s mechanics, find things that help him produce mid – upper 90′s heat as well as look for any mechanical changes he’s made over the years.
Let’s look at the current version of Jackson. The pitch below is a 96 mph rising fastball…
*Credit to MLB Advanced Media
Jackson’s tempo is pretty average, coming out around 24 or 25 frames. Tempo is typically correlated with better velocity, but a fast tempo is not always needed.
I want you to notice how Jackson’s positions his body toward the hitter. Not that you can tell in the clip above, but the back foot is positioned inward, which allows him to better lead with his hips.
Jackson’s left shoulder is turned slightly inward, which serves a couple purposes. One, it helps hide the ball, making it tougher for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand. Second, it’s an extra twist, a little more torque to his body and leads to a more explosive rotation of the hips.
Jackson uses what I call a “kick-out”. He extends that front leg out and then around, leading to a forceful hip rotation. The timing of this kick out is extremely important.
Jackson breaks his hands relatively late. Notice how the torso bends as the hands break. This is Jackson pre-loading the thorax (the chest).
Now, the arm progresses through its arm circle and is timed with the action of the lower body. As the front leg sweeps around into foot plant, Jackson’s torso pops back up, with the chest puffed out and the back arched. This is a result of the process of keeping the front shoulder closed as the hips open and a result of scap loading — which is the pinching together of the shoulder blades.
The below clip gives you a really good illustration of what scap loading is. The arm is loaded toward first base and the shoulder blades are pinched together. The arch I believe provides for a greater range of motion and as a result the muscles and tendons in the shoulder region are stretched. Around the time the front foot plants, the torso is uncoiled forward, bringing the arm with it.
*Credit to jamessutherland23
I pause the clip just to give you an idea of the kind of torque Jackson is able to generate as well as a clear shot of Jackson scap loading. Notice how Jackson doesn’t pause his arm action when he reaches that L position. He throws through it. Some will note that Jackson’s arm is a little late to the party. But he isn’t much different from other hard throwers throughout baseball. Guys like Jackson have the arm speed to make up for any problems with timing. In reality, good timing is subjective and based on the individual talent at hand.
Given the type of velocity Jackson produces, of course there is a higher risk of injury. He’s pushing his arm to the max, but for a guy that throws as hard as he does, his mechanics are very smooth.
Lastly, watch how Jackson unpinches the shoulder blades and firms up his front side, keeping the front shoulder from flying open as the arm rotates into release.
Jackson’s front side mechanics are something I’ve suspected he’s changed over the years, but I wasn’t able to confirm it until I got a hold of a couple of necessary clips. On the left is Jackson in 2008 and on the right is Jackson in 2009.
Notice how the glove is a bit higher in 2009, while it hovers down by the side of his knee in 2008. I think this has contributed to Jackson’s improved control this year.
The other changes made by Jackson over the years have been subtle and aren’t really worth showing tape of. We’re talking about better consistency, better timing. The biggest thing was probably the compactness of his delivery. He’s more compact and together in 2009 with everything centered around his core. His delivery looks a little more athletic than the delivery he had in 2005.
Jackson has gradually improved over the course of his career and it has finally culminated into this year’s breakout season. The stuff has always been there, but the consistency has not. As Jackson has become more consistent and experienced over time, the numbers have reflected his progress and because of this, it’s hard to classify Jackson’s year as anything but real.
*Edited on 12-8-09 – I do want to point out that Jackson is due for some regression. Why? His BABIP was .281. Expect that to increase. His LOB (left on base) percentage was 76.7%. Expect that to decrease (average is typically around 70%). He’s become much more of a fly ball pitcher the past couple years, which has led to an increase in his HR-rate. He’s not a No. 1 starter, but I think he can be a weak No. 2 or a strong No. 3, posting around a 4.00 – 4.30 ERA next year. That for me constitutes a breakout.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed for updates on when new content is posted. You can also get updates in your inbox and receive extra prospect reports, article extensions, the reader mailbag, and more by using the form below to sign up for the free Baseball-Intellect Newsletter. Your e-mail will never be shared or sold.
For readers already using an RSS feed for site updates, you can skip the updates and sign up for just the Newsletter content by clicking here.
What to Do Next