South Side Morning 5: Why isn’t Austin Jackson hitting?

1. All the hullabaloo about Avisail Garcia being bad again has covered up that Austin Jackson has quietly been the worst hitter in the White Sox lineup early on. His ninth inning deep fly to the left field warning track dropped his batting line to .170/.204/.191 on the young season. Between this blast, a grand slam he missed by inches in Minnesota, and the three deep flies he clubbed in the freezing cold the Saturday before last, there’s a general sense that he’s hitting the ball well and getting jobbed.

Data on that obviously is pretty unstable at this point. Jackson has a .200 BABIP, and his hard-hit percentage so far (37.8%) is at career-high levels while his fly ball percentage is spiking. There seem to be all of the basic indicators of bad luck, or at least rate stats that should stabilize in a positive way, and this is while Jackson, owner of a career 23.4% strikeout rate, has whiffed in just seven of his first 50 trips to the plate.

Really, it feels silly to be lamenting being cheated out of the power output of Austin Jackson at all. The man has 55 career home runs in his seventh year in the majors. He’s here to provide defense, speed, and if he can’t stay in the neighborhood of league average, it’d be nice if he was within a 15-minute drive. Craving extra power would be something that could be done with the new outfielder if his name was Justin Upton. A quick, rough, inexact speculation is that Jackson is hitting too much for power, and coming up short because it isn’t his game, and those fly balls need to transition to drives to the gap.

2. To wash that out with some positivity, Melky Cabrera has not struck out since last Friday, constituting 22 plate appearances. He’s struck out three times total on the year, and started the season with 29 consecutive plate appearances without a whiff.

He’s also only had three extra-base hits, but when you make this much contact in this kind of offensive era, it doesn’t really matter. Cabrera has been the bat-handling, put-the-ball-in-play type that has been fetishized and desired for so long that I wonder if he’s being kept out of No. 2 slot for fear of throwing him off. Stashing Jimmy Rollins and Jackson’s previously described troubles up there hardly seems worth it, though.

3. Early returns on Jose Abreu having the big MVP-caliber season to drag this offense beyond its projections are very not good. The worst month of play he’s ever had was still a .274/.336/.406  line in May of last year, and he’s currently sitting at .190/.284/.362 while striking out in over a fourth of his plate appearances.

He looks like he’s getting fooled more, but he’s actually swinging at everything less than ever so far, there just isn’t the contrast of him stinging the ball with authority to balance it out. We’re not at a full month yet, and a full week of Abreu as a full-blown volcano would wipe all this away, but we’ve never seen him get suck into the vortex of the Sox group over-pressing before.

4. John Danks averaged 88 mph on his fastball Thursday afternoon, in another shaky-looking day for his declining stuff. After good reports from Spring, it’s disappointing to see these kinds of bad days for his velocity, since his changeup is his last average pitch at this point in his career and he needs the velocity separation to make it work.

5. Flawed but alluring trade targets Josh Reddick and Jay Bruce are off to hot starts. Reddick is hitting .218/.323/.436, which constitutes a .290 TAv in the Oakland offensive environment. Nine walks and strikeouts apiece with good power are encouraging signs from him despite the BABIP chaos early on, and much of Reddick’s appeal is the superlative outfield defense the Sox would be able to trot out with him in the fold. Reddick is supposed to be a deadline mover due to the lack of a contract beyond this season but Oakland is stubbornly off to a decent start.

Bruce is crushing the ball early, even if he’s barely getting on base at .283/.312/.550. He would be better as a platoon DH than someone regularly in the field, and is more readily available since the Reds were disbanded as a franchise Thursday night by FEMA, and their players will be available at the local Sheriff’s auction.

Lead Photo Image Credit: David Banks // USA Today Sports Images

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1 comment on “South Side Morning 5: Why isn’t Austin Jackson hitting?”


Sure, A-Jax has been hitting terribly (BABIP issue probably) and he has worse line than Avi, but at least Jackson can catch the ball competitively. Jackson is responsible to the migration of Eaton to RF, and giving the White Sox a significant defensive boost that seems to be paying off when looking at the pitching stats early on. Avi, well, he doesn’t do anything well unless hitting groundouts and Ks are a quantifiable good skill. I hope the FO is convinced by now that Avi is just not a major league player, and should let him go (to Korea).

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