The Pittsburgh Pirates need to move Andre Jackson to a different role for him to ever succeed
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Andre Jackson from the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this year via purchasing his contract. Jackson hasn’t been terrible for the Pirates, but he hasn’t been good either. The Pirates have mostly been utilizing him in a traditional starting pitcher role. But they should be trying to figure out another role to put him in.
With the Pirates, Jackson has a 4.91 ERA, but a solid 4.28 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, and .203 opponent batting average. The right-hander has a 10.4% walk rate, 22.2% strikeout rate, as well as a 1.09 HR/9 through 33 innings with the Pirates. Jackson has held batters at bay in terms of hits, but he has an average FIP and hasn’t struck out enough batters to offset a mediocre walk rate.
So far, Jackson has made five starts with the Pirates. But of those five, only one was good enough to warrant a second consecutive start. That was on August 30th when he went 5.2 innings against the Kansas City Royals where he held them to just a single run while striking out seven. But do keep in mind, the Royals have just one player with 300+ plate appearances and a wRC+ above 100. As a team, they have the second lowest wRC+, the fifth worst wOBA, and the sixth worst OPS.
His other starts have amounted to 16.1 innings, 15 earned runs, 14 strikeouts, but also three home runs allowed and 12 free passes. That’s not necessarily too impressive. Most would say that’s pretty bad. So why even keep Jackson around? Why not just DFA him and bring up someone else?
Well, first of all, it’s not as if Jackson doesn’t have an ability or talent that requires the Pirates to DFA him. He’s a prime example of a pitcher who would probably do better in a multi-inning bullpen role over a starting pitcher role. As a member of the Pirates, Jackson has pitched 18.2 innings and has faced 69 batters for the first time through the opponent’s batting order.
In those 18.2 innings, Jackson has allowed just four earned runs, which amounts to a 1.93 ERA. His other peripherals are very strong. He has struck out 30.4% of opponents faced, has a microscopic 5.8% walk rate, and has yet to allow a home run. Of the 69 opponents who have faced off against him, only 11 have gotten hits. That amounts to a .169 opponent batting average. His WHIP is just 0.80. Keep in mind the lowest single-season WHIP in at least 30 innings since MLB lowered the mound in 1969 is 0.77, held by Bowden Francis this year actually.
After the first time facing an opponent, Jackson just falls apart. In 14.1 innings and 65 opponents faced, Jackson has allowed 14 earned runs on 13 hits and 10 walks. His WHIP doubles, jumping all the way to 1.60. While opponents can barely manage to get hits (let alone extra base hits) off of Jackson the first time he faces them, he’s allowed four home runs, a double, as well as a triple in less than 20 innings. In total, he’s allowed 13 hits.
It would be beneficial for everyone, the Pirates and Jackson (as well as for his development) if they just let him pitch out of the bullpen, or as a two-inning opener. He could open games for Bailey Falter, who has done great as the bulk man out of the bullpen. He could be the bulk man himself, and have his games opened for the first inning or two. Heck, recall Quinn Priester or Roansy Contreras and let Jackson open for one of them.
Making Jackson try and pitch like a traditional starting pitcher is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I know the Pirates are bare bones thin on pitching depth, and at this point of the season, it does not matter. But you have to imagine that this isn’t good for Jackson or his confidence.