Rush defense: Nationals’ Jackson focusing on stopping the run

One issue Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson may want to concentrate on is how easy it was for opposing hitters to steal second base on him last season.

According to “The Fielding Bible, Volume III,” Jackson struggled holding runners at first base in 2011. It is a problem that has plagued Jackson for the past few seasons.

“The Fielding Bible” has formulated the term defensive runs saved, or DRS, to show how valuable a player can be by preventing runs from scoring while he is in the game. With pitchers, the measure has always been ERA, but DRS is more a plus/minus system like in hockey. It is not just about the runs a pitcher gives up because of his pitching, but also because of good plays or misplays.

Using the DRS system, “The Fielding Bible” found that Jackson cost his teams two runs defensively in 2011, which ran the total to 15 runs allowed in the past four seasons combined.

The biggest issue was holding runners on in 2011. According to “The Fielding Bible,” of the 23 stolen bases attempted with Jackson on the mound, only one was caught stealing (four percent). His career numbers a little better, at 21 percent efficiency.

But the numbers are not just from runners advancing. Over the past three seasons, his fielding percentage is only .892, with 11 of his 12 errors of the throwing variety. He also has committed five extra defensive misplays during that timeframe.

“The Fielding Bible” editor John Dewan compared Jackson’s numbers to that of an average pitcher in 2011. Jackson had one good play and six misplays and errors, while and average pitcher makes two good plays and only four misplays or errors on average.

“He has really struggled holding runners,” said Dewan. “That has been a definite problem for him. So he has to more than make up for it with his pitching.”

Despite those statistics, Jackson still put up good overall numbers in 199 2/3 innings, going 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA and 148 strikeouts.

It is no secret the Nationals have been working on his delivery, and whether or not there is a tell in his setup or delivery that is allowing the opposition to get a jump on the righthander. Jackson acknowledged they had been concentrating on his delivery during MASN’s coverage of the Tigers-Nationals game last week.

General manager Mike Rizzo made it known from the first day when he signed Jackson that the team had seen something on tape they felt would help Jackson when he pitches from the stretch or the windup.

Jackson needs to improve on his defense and help his catcher make plays when runners get on base. That would to improve his defensive efficiency and, ultimately, keep his earned-run average down. As efficient as he has shown in most every other part of his game, fixing this issue would be able to put him on a different level.

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