When the Tigers acquired Austin Jackson back in 2010 they knew they were acquiring a project type player with immense upside. Jackson broke camp that year in the starting lineup on Opening Day and has never looked back. He had a breakout season hitting a cool .293, with a .396 BABIP, 103 runs, and 27 stolen bases. He added a decent .345 OBP and .745 OPS to what was considered a quality rookie season. An underlying concern however, was the 25.2% K rate which equated to 170 strikeouts on the season with only 47 walks, not exactly what you want from the top of the order. When all was said and done in 2010 he did more good than harm for the Tigers and there was great optimism going forward for the free swinger.
The hope in 2011 was that Jackson would build off his successes and improve on his shortcomings. However, the opposite outcome took effect. He took a nose dive in virtually every category. His average dipped to a pedestrian .249, while his BABIP fell to a still robust .340. He scored less runs (90) and had fewer stolen bases (22) than he had the previous campaign. Also, his new career high of 181 strikeouts (27.1% K rate) was a major cause for concern, as was his OBP (.317) and OPS (.690) all career lows. He did show some more power, as he muscled out 6 more homers, increasing his ISO power to .125 in 2011 vs .107 in 2010. He also made small strides in patience and took 9 more walks than he did in 2010. However, his overall value dipped, his WAR dropping from 4.1 to 2.8. There has been quite a bit of Jekyll and Hyde going on with his bat and his approach. At times he looks locked in and confident, and other times he looks dazed and confused. I suppose that is expected in such a young player with quite a bit of pressure as the man at the top of the order.
But enough about 2011, that is over and done with.
Now let’s talk about what we can look forward to in 2012. With one good season and one not so good, at least offensively, maybe the 3rd time (year) is the charm? As he enters his junior season in the Motor City, things are looking as prosperous as ever for A-Jax. He has committed to a new found batting approach and reportedly is working diligently with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. The pair have lowered Jackson’s leg kick and also have worked on his mental approach of “two-strike” hitting on each pitch, no matter the actual count. Repeating that process over and over is the key in hopes to acquire consistency, maturity, confidence and most of all results . At this point, going into his 3rd season, there is an expectation that his career should be on the upswing. I am excited to see what Jackson brings to the Tigers with his bat in 2012. I believe he has learned from both his successes and failures so far and will put it together in one phenomenal package this season to post his best numbers yet.
Part of the debate about Jackson has been where he should bat in the lineup. Should he bat lead off or slide down further down, potentially all the way to the 9 hole? The fact is there is no other lead off hitter the Tigers can rely upon at this time, so he is likely to get that opportunity again. Jackson has been in that spot for two years, and that is more than likely where he feels the most comfortable. Personally, I feel he should remain in that slot. He certainly has the speed and has shown a smidgen more patience at the plate, working the counts deeper. Let’s hope the 3rd time around is the charm for A-Jax, and he brings a more quality approach at the plate with him in 2012, and becomes what we all want him to be…..
A budding All-Star player.