Edwin Jackson had a start similar to his shutout of Detroit Saturday earlier this season -- but the Sox were no-hit in it.
Eight innings, one run (a home run), six hits, two strikeouts, one walk, 13 ground balls...and a loss. That was Jackson's line against the Minnesota Twins May 3, although his fine outing was hardly the story of the game. Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter that day, sending the White Sox tumbling to what seemed like rock bottom.
Two months and two weeks later, Jackson threw nine innings, allowing no runs on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Jackson induced 18 ground balls, 16 of which went for outs. And he got the win, if you care about that.
The similarities between the two starts are fairly apparent. Jackson was efficient in both -- he threw 107 pitches May 3 and 101 July 17 -- thanks to inducing a ton of ground balls with few strikeouts and walks while keeping runs off the board.
Despite Jackson's shutout Saturday, his best start of the year remains his April 7 outing in which he fanned 13 Rays with just one walk and no home runs allowed over eight innings. That's a start that'll be tough to top -- and maybe it's a lesson to Jackson that he shouldn't try to top it.
For the better part of the last two months, Jackson has struggled with efficiency and effectiveness. In Jackson's last start against Detroit, for example, he threw 124 pitches in six innings June 4. He allowed only two runs in that start.
It was a good start, results-wise, but 124 pitches should get a starter through eight innings, not six.
In Jackson's last start -- July 6 against Kansas City -- he threw 122 pitches in seven innings, allowing four runs.
An explanation for that inefficiency is that Jackson could've been trying to strike everybody out -- as he pretty much did April 7 against Tampa Bay. While pitching to contact is a dangerous game, at some point, a pitcher has to trust himself to get outs on balls in play rather than throwing his hands up and saying "oh hell, I'll do it myself."
Jackson has had a few isolated starts in which he's had low strikeout and high ground ball totals -- of his five games with 10 or more ground ball outs, he had three or fewer strikeouts in four of them. In the one in which he had more than three strikeouts -- seven against Los Angeles May 22 -- he only threw 5.2 innings.
In most cases, my sabermetric sense would cry out for Jackson to keep trying to rack up strikeouts instead of trying to pitch to contact. While the BABIP gods could smite Jackson for pitching to more contact, that's a risk I'm willing to take if it means more of the efficiency Jackson showed on Saturday.