OT: Austin Jackson early returns

Submitted by Maximinus Thrax on April 28th, 2010 at 12:34 PM
I am interested to hear other Tiger fans opinions on the Jackson/Granderson trade as we can now look at it somewhat in retrospect. Considering only on-field performance for the time being (as Granderson was deservedly praised by many for his numerous off-field contributions to his community), I think it looks pretty good so far. I accept that Jackson's average will most likely fall as the season goes on. But as of now, Jackson is hitting .314 with 1 homer and 6 RBI, while Curtis is hitting .231 with 2 hr and 7 RBI. Curtis has provided some timely hitting for the Yanks, while Jackson has been holding his own in center. Then comes their salaries: Jackson pulls in $400,000/yr., while Curtis makes I believe $5.5 million or so. My opinion is that so far, this trade looks like a genius move so far.



April 28th, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

Jackson has made this deal much easier to take.  Leading all rookies in hitting is just plain exciting.  For all the hype Heyward get in Atlanta, Jackson is doing work in Detroit.  I'm going to the game tonight, can't wait!


April 28th, 2010 at 12:44 PM ^

I think you're right on...I don't know about "genius," necessarily, but a good one so far, for sure.

Jackson looks good, very athletic in center, I think he'll be a standout defender that will gain increasing recognition as his career progresses.

At the plate, the strikeouts look bad, yes.  He looks a little bit like a kid who got candy taken away from him every time he takes a called third (which seems like a lot).  I think he'll learn to protect the plate a little better, and start pickup up some hits here and there where the strikeouts are happening.  

To be honest, though, at this point in his development, I'd rather see him taking some called thirds every once in a while if he keeps drawing a decent amount of walks.  Developing good plate discipline is huge at this point in his career.


April 28th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

As a business decision, it does seem like it will work out well.  You upgrade you speed on the bases a bit, slightly downgrade your defense (in the shorterm, longterm Jackson will become a good/great defender), stay about same with your offense.  Except that Jackson can actually hit both righties and lefties.  With Granderson you had to have an "Oh crap they're throwing a lefty today" guy to plug in to the lineup sometimes.

Plus there's the money saved over the next few seasons.

On the field, sound business move.  In the clubhouse and off the field, it's impossible to replace an ambassador like Granderson.


April 28th, 2010 at 1:09 PM ^

the younger you are, the better your expected defense.  His CF defense is more than likely to only get worse (albeit not by that much... half a run per season is the expected aging effect).

And I haven't read, like the dude above, that Jackson is expected to be any better than average in center.

Blue boy johnson

April 28th, 2010 at 6:17 PM ^

I have never heard of the aging curve for defense before. When do you peak? Jackson is only 23, I have a hard time believing his defense is not going to improve as he enters his prime baseball years.

Brandon Inge is a much better 3rd sacker in 2010 as opposed to 2006,  Miguel Cabrera is  a better defensively than a year ago, and I suppose it is to be expected since last year was his first full season at first.


EDIT just saw the aging curve you refereced (thank you), if I am reading it correctly, Jackson is going to be at or above his current level for the next 8 seasons.


April 28th, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

I was curious as to how his batting average was so damn high, when he has 30 strikeouts (which is a record pace).

This year, he has 86 Plate appearances, and 79 ABs, 30 of which were strike outs. That said, his BAbip (Batting Average on balls in play) is .500!!! Of his 49 balls that were put in play, 25 were for hits. There is absolutely no way that he can sustain that...the league average is .293. .

Had he been hitting closer to the league average, let's say .350 (which would still be very good, and given his speed, I'll give that to him) instead of the insane .500 clip, his batting average would be .218!!!!!!!

He better slow down that strike out rate, or he is destined for some really bad numbers soon


April 28th, 2010 at 12:53 PM ^

I can't speak for how the other teams came out in this trade because I don't know what they needed/were looking for etc. However, This trade greatly improved our team. We added a strikingly similar Granderson replacement in Austin Jackson. He's fast, athletic, covers center field very very well, and has swung the bat well so far. If he can get his strikeouts under control he will be at least an equal replacement for Granderson.  The biggest additions in the trade I think were the pitchers. Phil Coke added stability to what looked to be a fairly shaky pen. Max Scherzer is also a very hard working pitcher who could win about 13-14 games for us this season. Overall, I was sad to see Grandy go, but the team looks much better.


April 28th, 2010 at 1:07 PM ^

is worth like a win and a half, while Grandy's gonna be worth 4.  So unless Jackson is worth 2.5, Dombrowski loses on that particular part of his offseason.

And I expect Jackson to come crashing back to Earth.  His walk rate is average and his K rate is astronomical.  He's got talent, but neither CHONE or ZiPS like him a ton.  Both have him in the neighborhood of replacement level since neither loves his defense.  

Which is why I never got and still don't get the Granderson deal.  Jackson wasn't a top ten type of position player prospect and Grandy signed a team friendly contract.  He's getting paid like a 2 win arb guy but he's closer to 4.  There was plenty of value in just keeping the contract, so why in the world would you trade him for anything less than a Super 'Spect?  You don't give up on lots of surplus value unless you get blown away.  I fail to see how a guy like Austin Jackson, good but not great with plenty of time to flame out, qualifies.


April 28th, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

I think you have to look at the rest of the deal.  Granderson and Edwin Jackson in exchange for Phil Coke, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, and Daniel Schlereth.


Obviously a straight up AJ for Granderson trade is highway robbery for the Yankees, but its balanced out by 3 young pitchers.  Then the Tigers flipped the money they would have spent on Granderson and got Johnny Damon.

Looking at it that way, it wasn't a terrible deal.  The Tigers traded a productive young CF and a peak value 3/4 AL pitcher (who AZ apparently thought was a #2 guy), for a young, unproven CF, a young 3/4 pitcher, an ML level RP, and a prospect RP.  Then they added a noodle armed LF that can push Guillen to DH so we wouldn't be facing a Raburn/Guillen platoon at LF.

That being said, there's still plenty of time for this to blow up spectacularly.


April 28th, 2010 at 1:39 PM ^

to look at it in isolation for sure, but I still think the analysis holds for Grandy.  The key bit for my thinking is "You don't give up on lots of surplus value unless you get blown away."

The end result was probably okay, but I think they basically just lopped off 2ish wins, got the savings and then transferred it to Damon for his 2ish wins.  Why move laterally in order to move your very best trading piece?  To me it looks like Dombrowski was getting out of the Curtis Granderson business.  I don't get that.


April 28th, 2010 at 2:04 PM ^

But Colin - the analysis may hold for Granderson, but ignores the fact that they got Scherzer - a very good pitcher, and an upgrade on Jackson.

Just remember - Jackson is 22. At this age, Granderson had 3 more years in the minors. He's far from being the player he will end up being - things like power and, yes, plate judgement, are still developing.

Granderson, it should be noted, is older than most (I'm not saying you) people realize due to the fact that he was 25 or 26 year old rookie. His defense is declining - and what is he, really, when he can't play CF? A LF who hits .270/.340/.470? Doesn't that make him Rick Ankiel at that point?


April 28th, 2010 at 2:18 PM ^

and gave up Jackson.  I prefer Scherzer of course, but he's not so much better than Edwin Jackson that the MS + AJax - EJax - Grandy is positive number of wins.  I'm guessing that's about 2 fewer wins in fact and the money saved is worth about those 2 million wins.  Then they got Damon.  So it's a wash.

As for Granderson's defense, he's been +30 in CF for his career if you average UZR and Dewan using BIS data.  That's about +8 per 150 games.  If we dock him based on age, we would expect him to be something like +6 this season losing half a run per season going forward.  Even if you just use UZR for some reason, he's still +4/150.  An average corner OF plays CF defense at a -10/150 rate.  So I'm not really worried about his defense.  


April 28th, 2010 at 2:54 PM ^

I think you overestimate Jackson. The guy has had 1 OK year (2 years ago) and one good year (last year, in which he was rather hit lucky). Scherzer is younger, cheaper, and better than the best year Jackson has ever posted, aided by luck.

And my point with age and defense is this: Granderson, in 2-3 years, will likely no longer be a CF, and if he is, he won't be a good one. Jackson will still be be a CF, at least a better one than Granderson. Also, at the age of 25, some of his power will have grown in, and his plate judgement, likely, will have improved. You're talking about the impact of the trade this year, but the trade was made with the future in mind, not just this year. They got a guy who can play CF for the next 9-10 years for a guy that may be able to do it for another 2.


April 28th, 2010 at 6:12 PM ^

that Grandy's defense has been exceptional and he won't have to leave CF any time soon assuming he experiences normal aging.  You lose half a run every year due to aging.*  If he's a +6 now, at age 29, you can do the math.  So unless he's judged to have less shelf-life because he got to the bigs late (definitely has merit), there's just not much to dislike there.  And it's certainly not likely that he won't be capable of playing a good CF.  His average plus an an applied aging effect says definitely otherwise.

Meanwhile, the attrition rates for prospects remains very high.  Jackson was rated by Kevin Goldstein of BP as the 49th best prospect.  I assume he isn't a top 10er for BA.  So:  top 50 prospects** establish themselves as average or better at something like a 30% clip.  Top 10 guys get around 40%.  26-50?  20%.

Even if Jackson's upside is Curtis Granderson, he's still worth far less than Granderson.  We can see from that those attrition rates that Jackson is very likely to never be as good a defender or hitter as Granderson was or likely will be.

*mgl's aging curves here (pdf)

**Victor Wang's article here (pdf)


April 28th, 2010 at 9:15 PM ^

all that matters is whether or not AJax works out.  I was working under the assumption that he doesn't because that's what the odds suggest.  The average value provided is what he'll be if he makes it times the chance he makes it.  So if his ceiling is as good as Grandy has been, that's like a .8 WAR* per season expectation over his 6 seasons.  And that's pretty good for a prospect, but it's not that valuable to a team like the Tigers.  Illitch doesn't seem to be ratcheting down despite the fact that I'm pretty sure the revenues don't match or exceed the payroll.  So this may in fact be Illitch telling Dombrowski that he needs to lighten the future load of the team's commitments.  That's not something I really want to see if I'm a Tigers fan.

*4 WAR times .2 chance of making it.  you could certainly see that as optimistic since Granderson as your upside is an awfully high upside.  that's probably overstating what i've read of his scouting reports.


April 28th, 2010 at 6:29 PM ^

and Jackson a 2-3.  Jackson's been worth 1.5, 1.5, and 3.5 wins over the past three seasons and got over the hump because he finally found his command, something typical of pitchers as they age. And because he's older, his injury risk is likely less than Scherzer's.  In any case, that means the difference between EJax and Scherzer is two wins, which is more than a fair evaluation for the Tigers.  If I think AJax is an average CF and a fairly poor hitter, that's a 0-1 WAR player.  So let's say that's 5 wins for the incoming pair.  Jackson is a 2.5 win pitcher and Grandy's at 4.  That's a 1.5 win difference, 2 if AJax is replacement level.  Johnny Damon is projected to be worth 2 wins and get $8MM, the approximate difference between what the former and current Tigers in that trade were to be paid.  5.5 + 6 = 11.5.  11.5 - 2.5 = 8.

In 2010 that makes for a lateral move.  In 2011, Dombrowski will have plenty of financial freedom, but he will probably not be able to buy 4 wins on the market for what he had left from Granderson, so it's imperative that AJax not bust or Scherzer turn into another ace for the deal to work out.  Since projecting someone to become an ace is probably a little much, I focused on Granderson and AJax in my initial response.


April 29th, 2010 at 12:40 AM ^

You are looking WAY to deep into these stats. Sometimes you just have to watch a player play the game and you can get a feel for how good he will be. Granted, Jackson stats will probably decline throughout the season but in his FIRST month in the big leagues he looks pretty damn good to me.

Also, this stuff about his defense being bad? No way. Every game I have watched him in shows Jackson covering tons of ground out there and getting to almost every ball.

So moral of the story, dont look to far into these half a run per year stats and trust your own judgement a little more.


April 29th, 2010 at 3:23 AM ^

who are way better at watching games than you or me in addition to the stats. The stuff Im referencing was devised by folks who've consulted for the Cardinals, Mariners and Blue Jays. So if you don't think I rate, keep in mind that the teams you watch are taking this stuff seriously.


April 29th, 2010 at 3:23 PM ^

I'm not a good enough baseball scout to watch everybody on the field and make evaluations.  What I do know is that statistics can explain why people thought EJack was the next Tigers ace last year, and why he had such a huge dropoff in the second half.  Just using my eyes, Edwin Jackson looked like he could have been the next Felix Hernandez.

Steve Lorenz

April 28th, 2010 at 4:16 PM ^

 I prefer Scherzer of course, but he's not so much better than Edwin Jackson that the MS + AJax - EJax - Grandy is positive number of wins


This can only really pertain to two seasons at the most, and I don't think the trade was necessarily made with a "win-now" motive. I trust you know this though. 


April 28th, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

Because we needed pitching. Jackson wasn't the only player we got in the deal. I agree with your analysis of Granderson and Jackson, but we also picked up a quality starter and reliever in the process.


April 28th, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

I like Jackson, and obviously want to see him do well, but there's no way that he sustains his average while striking out in 1/3 of his at bats.  He needs to get his SO:W ratio to something like 1.0 if he's ever going to be a decent leadoff hitter.  Currently I think its around 4 (32 K, 8 BB).  He's on pace to break the major leage strikeotus record by something like 50 Ks.  He's currently a huge statistical anomaly, but then again, his AAA BABIP was also an outlier at .384, so there's some hope of sustaining something in the .350 range.


On the bright side, if he does falter, we have Johnny Damon as a proven #1 guy.  We'd then have to find a new #2 guy (Sizemore?) and probably move Jackson back to be the #7/8 hitter.

Steve Lorenz

April 28th, 2010 at 4:25 PM ^

Sizemore is not prone to the BA dive that Jackson is most certainly about to take. Solid K/BB numbers and he hasn't started showing the power that he's capable of either. That being said, I am not really sure I would even be in favor of that type of move because a Laird/Jackson/Everett 7-8-9 (in any combo) is potentially brutal. 


April 28th, 2010 at 4:45 PM ^

Yeah, I'd agree that at least at this point in their more respective careers, Sizemore seems like the more "ready" offensive player than Jackson. Going into the year, I was sort of expecting a worse-fielding Mark DeRosa or something - .270/.340 15 bombs or so.

mercury messner

April 28th, 2010 at 1:37 PM ^

I loved Granderson during his time with the Tigers.  That being said, he still can't hit LH Pitching.  Jackson is an exciting young player and it never hurts to get younger. 


mercury messner

April 28th, 2010 at 5:15 PM ^

We know what Granderson can do, It's fair to say there isn't much more upside.  (At Best a few more HR's at the expense of 2B's, 3B's and SB's)  Like ChiTown said earlier, Granderson was 25/26 his rookie year in the league.  AJax is 22, leaving much more room for growth.  Also, Granderson had nearly 170 K's his rookie year.   Austin played full seasons in AA and AAA and has shown he can hit, hopefully his eye will improve. 

Steve Lorenz

April 28th, 2010 at 5:37 PM ^

He's on pace to shatter the K record and as a previous poster rightfully noted, HALF of his balls in play are base hits right now. That is an absolutely unsustainable combination and as long as something crazy doesn't happen he is in line for a monster slump sooner than later. Yes, his walk rate is slightly higher than it was in the minors, but it doesn't offset what I've already mentioned. 


April 28th, 2010 at 6:28 PM ^

Obviously, Jackson isn't a .300 hitter, right now, not with his K-rate.

But, 2 things:

1. What we're seeing from him right now is an historically aberrant K performance. If I w ere to wager, I would bet that he will not shatter the K record by something like 50 strikeouts, merely because that's a hard thing to do. If I were to bet, I'd say that he will acclimate somewhat, and he'll post a lot of K's, but the pace will slacken.

2. More relevantly: We need to remember his age. He is 2 years ahead of Granderson, breaking in at age 23, and not age 25. If we look at their age 22 seasons:

Jackson struck out in 20% of his plate appearances in Scranton - AAA.

Granderson struck out in 17.3% of his plate appearances in Lakeland - A ball.

So, on a cursory level, Jackson struck out slightly more often at age 22, but did so against vastly superior competition. When Jackson was in A ball he struck out....17.4% his plate appearances - a mirror image of Granderson.

My point is that I agree that 2010 Austin Jackson will be an inferior player to 2010 Curtis Granderson - there's no question. But the trade wasn't made for this year - it was made for the 6 years between now and when Jackson is eligible for free agency. Granderson, at 29, is getting worse from this point forward if he follows a traditional career arc. Jackson is 5 years off of his peak. That means his patience, eye, and power should all improve. At his peak, he may not reach the levels of Granderson - but the Tigers smartly realized that what they were getting from here forward, likely, wasn't Granderson's peak.


April 28th, 2010 at 6:36 PM ^

contact rate normalizes very quickly relative to things like BABIP, ISO, etc.  like 100 PA.  and since you just can't practice hitting major league stuff in the minors, a lot of things are hid at the lower levels are found at the MLB level.  it wouldn't be at all unique for his K rate to collapse his value as a hitter despite a fairly moderate K rate in the minors.  

mercury messner

April 28th, 2010 at 10:19 PM ^


Look at Granderson's lifetime LH v RH Pitcher splits and tell me he isn't a flawed established major leaguer. 

It's not fair to call a 22 year old major league rookie starting centerfielding leadoff hitter an out machine after one month.  i would think you (one obviously versed in sabremetrics) would have some trust in MLE's especially since AJax spent entire seasons in AA and AAA.  The kid has some skills.  He is not another roger cedeno or wendell magee...


April 28th, 2010 at 11:04 PM ^

We've had this conversation already. You need to regress platoon splits heavily. And you regress toward the total PA production, heavily weighted by his dominant performance against RHP. He's fine given his defense. It's not at all a bad bet to take Granderson vs LHP over Jackson overall.


April 28th, 2010 at 11:21 PM ^

Colin, I think most of us on this thread read BP as well, but you're speaking with an awful amount of certainty about a guy for which there is little Major League statistical backup. You say that odds are that he doesn't pan out - but he was a top 100 prospect last year. That is something. He's also one who has hit to a decent degree at every level - lots of his loss of power last year has to do with the fact that hitting for power at Trenton is impossible - he slugged nearly .500 on the road. He's shown a reasonable amount of patience, and a prediliction to strikeout.

You see his first 60 major league at-bats, and you're talking about an "out machine". Yes, he has struck out a lot. For someone so enraptured with sabermetrics, you're missing the single most vital lesson:

Sample Size. It's 60 at-bats. A record strikeout pace over 60 at-bats isn't the same as a record strikeout pace over 600.  I understand that sabermetricians try to be predictive, and things like rising/falling K rates do fluctuate less with development (though Granderson's fell). But you want to throw out a 4 year minor league track record of, at the very least, solid offensive performance for less than 1/5th of a year of major league AB's. Hang on, bro.