Our 2019 report card series continues with a relief pitcher who started the year in the minors, but pitched some important innings for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch.
The Milwaukee Brewers took a flier when they signed Jay Jackson last offseason. It was a low risk signing, just a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, but considering his only brief Major League action was in 2015 prior to three solid years playing in Japan, it was hard to know just what to expect.
The results weren’t bad, all things considered. Though Jackson did get optioned back down once after his initial call up, he would end up pitching in 28 games in the big leagues in 2019 and help bring at least a little bit of stability to a bullpen that would need it in order to help the team finish the drive to a Wild Card berth.
This is a Major League report card, but Jackson’s minor league stats should be pointed out to show just why the Brewers had to give him the call this year. In 34 games, Jackson gave up six whole earned runs which was good for a 1.33 ERA. He had a 0.93 WHIP and 54 strikeouts to just 10 walks to go with it.
His debut with the Brewers last year started with a bang. On April 29th, Jackson was brought in to face Brewer killer Nolan Arenado with the Crew up four and one out in the eighth inning. All he did was sit Arenado right back down with a strikeout for the only batter that Jackson would face that day.
His second stint with the Brewers was relatively solid. From his first appearance back in the majors on July 14th through the end of the year, Jackson compiled a respectable 3.21 ERA and 3.86 FIP. He also racked up a 1.25 WHIP and .184 opponents’ batting average. His K/9 of 14.1 over that time period was fourth on the team behind Josh Hader, Drew Pomeranz, and Freddy Peralta.
While Jackson’s debut with the Milwaukee Brewers came with a bang, his second appearance came with a thud. On May 1st in the same Colorado series with the Brewers down just two, Jackson was summoned in the eighth inning and proceeded to give up four earned over just an inning. He gave up another earned run the next day and would be optioned to back to the minors on May 3rd.
Though Jackson returned to the Brewers in July, it took awhile for him to build trust with manager Craig Counsell. In his first 14 games after rejoining the team, 11 of those appearances came when the team was already losing a game. That trend did change in September, though, as he began pitching much more when the Brewers held the lead.
While Jackson didn’t give up runs in too many of his outings – 20 of his 28 appearances were scoreless – when he did the outings were often loud. In the eight games that he did give up runs, four of them were multi-run appearances.
Final grade: B-
It would be easy to grade lower looking at numbers on the surface. A 4.45 ERA for the entire 2019 season and a 0.0 fWAR don’t exactly scream high-profile reliever. And a 4.66 FIP insinuates that the stats were entirely deserved.
But remember that so much of that was skewed by two of three poor outings to start the year. In the end, Jackson pitched so well at Triple-A that the Brewers just couldn’t keep him off the big league roster. And his stats during his second stint show that a majority of the time he was more than serviceable.
Jackson was a nice surprise for a pitching staff that was volatile at times in 2019. It’s hard to know whether he’ll begin the 2020 season in the majors or in the minors like he did this year, but based on his 2019 performance, the Milwaukee Brewers should feel comfort that they have a solid option at their disposal whenever he’s needed.
Jackson will still be under team control for years to come.