Brett Jackson: Whiff Machine
Gloves are optional when Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson steps to the plate. Jackson has been a Three True Outcomes hero since getting called up in early August, walking, homering or whiffing in 61% of his plate appearances. That's more than double the big league average (30.3%).
So far, Jackson has rapped enough extra-base hits and drawn enough walks to be an asset for the run-starved North Siders (a 114 OPS+ in 92 plate appearances). But the last part of that Three True Outcomes equation -- Ks -- could quash his success in the long run. Jackson has struck out in 40.2% of his plate appearances so far. Brett Hayes and Brooks Conrad are the only hitters who have punched out more often while getting at least as many PAs as Jackson.
The farther away the pitch, the less often Jackson connects. Here's his contact rate by pitch location, compared to the league average for left-handed hitters:
Jackson's contact rate by pitch location
Average contact rate by pitch location for left-handed hitters
Jackson has a 20% miss rate on inside pitches, which is actually below the 22.6% average for lefty hitters. But he's swinging and missing twice as often as the average lefty batter on middle-of-the plate pitches (38.5%, 18.9% average) and comes close to doubling the average miss rate on outside pitches (40.2%, 22.6% average).
Strikeouts hardly condemn a player to the prospect graveyard if he can take and rake, but Jackson's contact woes are so amplified that he simply can't keep his head above water in the majors without monster secondary skills. Jackson's whiff rate at the Triple-A level (32.6% over the past two seasons) makes Pedro Alvarez (25.8% K rate at Triple-A) look like Ichiro (the good version) by comparison. And while Jackson has some power, no one's projecting the 30-plus bombs that Pedro is on pace to hit this season. Short of turning into Adam Dunn with wheels, Jackson has to connect more often to succeed.