The box score will tell you that Austin Jackson had an RBI in Oakland last night, but don’t let that fool you. It was another poor showing at the plate, and he’s still hitless since Tuesday. Worse still, he looked tentative to me, taking strikes you would expect him to slash into the gap. His batting average is down to .170 and his OPS to .537. Should we be getting (more) worried about our leadoff hitter?
Before the season, I and everyone else in the universe analyzed Jackson’s chances for regression to death. Specifically I outlined four things to keep an eye on that would define Jackson’s 2011 campaign – so how’s he doing so far?
1. How far will his BABIP fall? None of us expected him to keep up .396, but right now he’s sitting at .222. That might include some terrible luck, but really anything lower than .350 is more of a drop than we can live with.
2. Will he cut down on his strikeouts? Last year he struck out 170 times in 675 plate appearances, a 25.2% rate – which is terrible. So far this year he has struck out 17 times in 61 plate appearances, which is worse.
3. Will his power develop? Extremely early to look at something like this, but his 1 home run so far puts him on pace to hit something like 11 – much better than the 4 he hit in 2010.
4. Will he show more patience at the plate? This is a yes, but with a qualifier. Last year he walked in 6.9% of his plate appearances, so far this year it’s up to 9.8%. That’s a significant improvement – but is it because he’s taking the pitches he should be hitting?
Obviously we’re not satisfied with the end result at this point, but Jackson does seem to be making improvements in some of the areas we’ve been hoping for. Still, unless that average starts to climb pretty soon we may not be able to afford to keep Jackson in the leadoff spot. It may be that if Will Rhymes had been hitting any better it would happen today.