The Case Against Austin Jackson

I’m sure some people will be upset over my 2011 projection for Austin Jackson. Detroit’s rookie Outfielder finished second to Neftali Feliz in the Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .293, scoring 103 Runs and stealing 27 bases. Jackson hit .300 in AAA and .285 in AA, so why am I going all Grumpy Old Men on the 23-year old? There are conspiracy theorists who say that I am a closet Boston Red Sox homer who hates all Yankees past and present, but they couldn’t be more wrong. I’ll tell you why I’m hating on Austin Jackson, all you have to do is make the jump.

Jackson is a leadoff hitter who doesn’t have much power (duh) so his value derives from maintaining a high Batting Average, scoring Runs and stealing bases. Alright, enough small talk. Let’s just get to the point. Austin Jackson will be lucky to hit .270 this coming season. Bam! This is what I have projected for the soon-to-be 24-year old: .265 AVG, 88 Runs, 41 RBI, 25 SB. This isn’t a stab in the dark, my Batting Averages are computed using a gas powered calculator.

[At Bats (620) – K (160) – HR (6)] × BABIP (.348) + HR(6)
At Bats (620)

The numbers plugged into the equation are projections. The 160 strikeouts come from a 25.9% K%. Last season Jackson posted a 27.5% K% so I’m giving him some credit for improvement. The six Home Runs come from him hitting a few more Fly Balls (lower LD%) and posting a slightly improved HR/FB% (4.3%). Now comes the Batting Average of Balls In Play. Austin Jackson WILL NEVER post a .396 BABIP again. Not happening. If you think Jackson will put up another 24.2% LD% and .396 BABIP, I have some real estate on the planet Mars that I want to sell you. It’s cheap, don’t worry, and you can save money if you buy in bulk.

Month-to-Month BABIP from 2010 (LD%)

.530 (37.5%) March/April
.395 (28.0%) May
.345 (14.3%) June
.422 (25.7%) July
.372 (20.9%) August
.322 (19.5%) Sept./Oct.

You see that 37.5% LD% from April? Yeah, that’s not happening again. That .530 BABIP was probably the highest monthly BABIP ever produced. You won’t find me paying for a repeat of that. I’m not paying for the 28% LD% in May or a .345 BABIP tied to a 14.3% LD% either. Just giving Jackson credit for a .348 BABIP is putting him among the league’s best. I’m OK with that considering he is fast and hits a good share of line drives (22% in AAA) and ground balls. However, you will never find me projecting a .383 BABIP (for anyone) like Bill James has done for Jackson. So basically, I credited Jackson with an improved K%, HR/FB% and good BABIP and he’s still hitting only .265.

With a significantly lowered Batting Average comes less Runs, RBI and Stolen Base attempts. I cannot and will not buy into a repeat performance from Austin Jackson in 2011. If the young Outfielder has trouble hitting Line Drives like he did in AA (13%) and A (11%), people who bought into the hype will be calling for his head. I pretty much disrespected Jackson with a .265 AVG, but I felt like me and my Boston Red Sox jersey were being nice. Whoops.