A lot of talk is centered around Will Smith, Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene — the key acquisitions of last trading deadline and this offseason — and that’s for good reason. After all, they’ll be cumulatively collecting around $45M, and they’ll account for the vast majority of high leverage innings by the bullpen this year. And if those were the only quality arms in the bullpen, you still would have one of the best bullpens in baseball. And while there are a couple forgotten bullpen arms as well — for example, wherever Sean Newcomb ends up, he’ll have a big year — one name that is likely to be a key piece of a division-winning team is Braves Luke Jackson.
A lot has been made of Luke Jackson already, and there are some really annoying people on Twitter that like to talk about Luke Jackson incessantly. But there’s a contingent of fans that think he was a relief ace for us at one point, and there is another contingent of fans that think that he’s a DFA candidate and a below average member of the bullpen. But to be honest, I think he’s closer to the bullpen ace description than the other one.
Braves Luke Jackson’s 2019
Luke Jackson had an exceptional year last year. For the league minimum, or roughly 1/38th of what Mark Melancon is making, Lukey turned in some impressive numbers. He led the team in appearances and relief innings pitched, all but being a savior to the Braves’ division hopes early in the season when relief arms came at a premium. He appeared in the 25th-most games amongst relievers, for what it’s worth.
However, he wasn’t just a durable arm. He was third amongst team relievers in Win Probability Added, behind Anthony Swarzak (that guy was pretty good until he wasn’t) and Mark Melancon. The rest of his results are pretty interesting and resoundingly good. The Sliderman had the highest strike out rate on the team, 13.13 K/9. He mostly kept the ball in the ballpark (1.24 HR/9), kept his walk rate respectable (3.22 BB/9), and FIP liked him a good bit: 3.24 FIP. All told, he led the relievers in fWAR with 1.3 fWAR largely because he was an effective bellcow wire-to-wire.
Braves Luke Jackson’s 2020?
He’s still cheap ($1.825M salary for 2020), so it’s very doable for him to be worth his salary going forward. Hopefully we won’t need him 70 games in 2020 like we did in 2019, but he’s a good bet to lengthen a bullpen that already has elite arms at the top, and if any of them miss any significant time due to injury, Atlanta would be in good hands to be able to give the ball more to Jackson.
Thanks for reading on Braves Luke Jackson. If you enjoyed this piece and would like to hear more about Luke, check out our 2020 Spring Training Notes category, which features plenty of the Sliderman.