Austin Jackson racking up hits, strikeouts

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
2:47
AM ET
The American League's top Rookie of the Year candidate? That's easy: Austin Jackson. Any plain fool could see that. But Steven Goldman is nobody's fool and I think would counsel a bit of caution:

    Austin Jackson has had a strong opening to the season, batting .316/.372/.468 in 18 games. He picked up his first home run Sunday. It’s not going to last -- he’s benefiting from something between good luck and a swing so accurate it can’t possibly last. Jackson is making very poor contact, leading the AL in strikeouts and whiffing at a rate that would work out to over 220 strikeouts in 600 at-bats. Simultaneously, he’s hitting .500 on balls in play, which is to say that half of everything he actually makes contact with falls in. The reason for that, in turn, is a line-drive rate of 33 percent. The line drive rate for all batters this year is about 18 percent. Last year it was 19 percent. We have no way of knowing what the average line-drive rate was in, say, 1912, but I very much doubt even Ty Cobb hit one-third of balls solidly over a full season. As such, don’t put Jackson down for Rookie of the Year just yet…

Not a lot I can add. Two more strikeouts for Jackson Monday night, which makes 32 in 19 games. He also picked up a couple of singles, so now he's batting .325/.385/.470.

Is it impossible to be a productive hitter while striking out 200 times? Nope. Ryan Howard and Mark Reynolds have proved that quite convincingly. Before them, Adam Dunn.

Those guys all had something in common, though: they were (and still are) big strong guys who hit scads of home runs. Jackson has one home run this season; last year he hit four homers in 132 games. The bottom line is that Jackson will not, cannot continue hitting .500 on balls in play, and that if he does keep striking out once or twice in every game, his numbers are going to drop like an anvil in the Detroit River.

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