On Jackson and tipping pitches
One of the things pitching coach Rick Knapp mentioned Sunday that he and bullpen coach Jeff Jones were working on with Edwin Jackson in his morning side session was a quirk that they believed was tipping his slider, letting hitters know it was coming. But the thing is, it’s still a good enough pitch that hitters haven’t been pounding it. Really, they haven’t been swinging at it, and Knapp’s belief was that by knowing it was coming, hitters were taking it so that Jackson would fall behind in counts, or just not finish off hitters with two strikes.
It’s an interesting little twist on the pitch-tipping saga. A lot of times, you hear about it allowing hitters to attack a pitch. Alfredo Figaro went from a decent Major League debut against the Brewers in June to a pounding from Astros hitters a week later, some Tigers believed, because he was tipping pitches. In that case, the Gameday app showed Astros hitters pummeled Figaro’s breaking balls and offspeed pitches while laying off the fastball. A few years ago, the White Sox found something in Verlander’s mannerisms that tipped his pitches, and pounded his changeup.
In Jackson’s case, Royals and Blue Jays hitters generally went after his fastball his last two starts. Yet if you look at his pitch data, his ball-strike ratio wasn’t any different than usual, and he still got a high number of swings and misses, 12 of them from the Royals. However, it didn’t take looking at Gameday to notice Jackson was throwing fewer sliders. Leyland complained about it after the Royals outing. Jackson is throwing 25 percent sliders this year, according to fangraphs.com, compared with about 20 percent last season.
I don’t know what Jackson was doing to tip his slider; Knapp obviously isn’t going to say it. But I do know he had Jackson working on his mannerisms over and over leading into his delivery during his side session Sunday morning in the Metrodome. Will it make a difference? We’ll find out, but the question will be whether hitters swing more at his slider, not less.