Cubs @ Dodgers August 3, 2014: Josh Beckett, Edwin Jackson and the Death of ERA

Here’s me on Twitter, a few days ago:

I said that not realizing that Edwin Jackson and Josh Beckett were actually scheduled to face off this afternoon in Los Angeles, but that they are is even better.

Cubs
Dodgers
1:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
LF
Coghlan
2B
Turner
2B
Alcantara
CF
Puig
1B
Rizzo
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Valbuena
SS
Ramirez
CF
Sweeney
RF
Kemp
SS
Valaika
LF
Ethier
RF
Schierholtz
3B
Uribe
C
Baker
C
Butera
P
Jackson (R)
P
Beckett (R)

Jackson hasn’t been good this year — even I’m not going to dismiss ERA to the point where I can pretend that a 5.79 ERA is something to be happy about — but were you just to look at that 5.79 against Beckett’s 2.74, you’d think that this was one of the biggest mismatches of the day.

And yet… they get the same amount of strikeouts (8.12 for Jackson, 8.14 for Beckett). They get a similar number of grounders (41.2%, 44.0%). They have nearly identical FIP (4.26, 4.30). They have nearly identical xFIP (3.99, 3.75). Jackson absolutely walks too many — a 3.99 BB/9 is poor, more than one per game higher than Beckett’s 2.90/9 — but he’s also allowed fewer homers than Beckett to somewhat make up for it.

So other than walks, where’s the difference in ERA coming from? Two things: Beckett’s ridiculous 85.6 left on base percentage, which is wildly out of line with both his own career (72.5%) and the MLB average (70.2%), and is not a repeatable skill. That’s going to come down, and hard. Now take that entire sentence and plug in “BABIP,” because Beckett’s is unsustainable and already in the process of regressing. Jackson has had the opposite problem; again, he hasn’t been good, but both of those numbers have been out of whack since he arrived in Chicago last year, which is partially owed to the fact that the Cubs’ defense has been only okay and their bullpen worse. Jackson has allowed his share of hard-hit balls, so it’s not entirely out of his control, and he’s riding out a tough stretch of his own, but let’s not pretend these two pitchers are very different.

With Dan Haren exploding, Brim named Jackson as a possibility for a pitcher the Dodgers could target, and with $22m over the next two years left on his deal, it’s not unrealistic; though Jackson never lived up to the star expectations we all had when the Dodgers rushed him to the big leagues more than a decade ago, he’s been a league-average to slightly above pitcher for a long time. Don’t let ERA tell you otherwise.

* * *

Andre Ethier lives! For the first time since Nixon was in office (probably), he’s back in the lineup, hitting sixth and playing left. Dee Gordon gets a day, so Justin Turner leads off; Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez both return to the lineup after sitting yesterday. A.J. Ellis, as expected, does not, so Drew Butera gets the joy of a day game after an extra-inning night game.

ThrowsRelieverSat 10/15Sun 10/16Mon 10/17Tue 10/18Wed 10/19Thur 10/20Fri 10/21
LAvilan--OFF-2421OFF
RBaez34-OFF-2727OFF
RBlanton28-OFF13-19OFF
LDayton3-OFF16-12OFF
RFields--OFF-910OFF
RJansen-18OFF21--OFF
RStripling10-OFF-2018OFF
LWood--OFF-32-OFF

 

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.