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Friday, June 25, 2010
The meaning of Edwin Jackson


Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by anything in the Year of the Pitcher (21st century edition). Maybe we shouldn't be surprised, after a season -- no, make that less than half a season -- that's already seen the first no-hitter in Rockies history and not one but (almost!) three perfect games. A season that's already seen that same Rockies pitcher win 13 games against just one loss, and a Mariner on track for the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the game's long, long history.

What does it all mean?

For the Tampa Bay Rays, it means they've now been no-hit three times in their last 140 games. Which would be freakish enough if the Rays were the Indians or the Pirates. Since they're most decidedly not one of those hitting-starved teams, it's downright impossible (granted, Carlos Pena is now under the Mendoza Line and Carl Crawford didn't bat in tonight's game).

For Edwin Jackson, it means a game he'll never forget. Which would be true even if this wasn't one of the most unlikely no-hitters in the history of no-hitters. In his previous 125 starts in the majors -- his whole career -- Jackson had thrown two complete games and one shutout (a four-hitter three years ago). Jackson gets his share of strikeouts but he's never been particularly hard to hit, giving up nearly 10 hits per nine innings in his career. Tonight he issued seven walks and threw 68 pitches in the first three innings. This simply wasn't supposed to happen.

For A.J. Hinch, it means this season hasn't been a complete disaster. Some managers, and perhaps most managers, wouldn't have allowed Jackson to throw 149 pitches. But Hinch must have figured he'd just go for it. If Jackson is limited to 80 pitches in his next start or just skips his next start, nobody is going to mind. Now, if Jackson strains his elbow and winds up on the disabled list for a few months, that's different. But tonight, nobody was worrying about that. Not seriously, anyway. With the Diamondbacks in last place and Jackson sitting on a 4-6 record, Hinch didn't throw caution to the wind. He grabbed caution by the neck, spit in its face, and then he strangled it.

For baseball, it means another chance to trumpet the effectiveness of its drug policy. Hitting isn't down nearly as much this season as you might think (or as you've been told) ... but it's down some, and last year it was down from the year before. We've seen four no-hitters already this season and while we might not see another, this does seem to be a new era, an era in which pitchers will somewhat regularly do incredible things. Even pitchers like Dallas Braden and Jackson.