Why Austin Jackson Will Be the Key to Detroit’s Success in Second Half

When the Detroit Tigers acquired Austin Jackson from the New York Yankees in a three-way trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks (who received Edwin Jackson and traded pitcher Max Scherzer to the Tigers) they saw their center fielder of the future.

Anyone who is touted as one of the top prospects for the Yankees has a lot of promise, and Dave Dombrowski wasted no time in his efforts to attain him.

Following his 2010 rookie season, it appeared as if Detroit had struck gold. Jackson was one of the top rookies in the league, hitting .293 in 151 games played, with 27 steals and 48 extra base hits while finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

However, Jackson’s bat cooled off significantly in the 2011 campaign. His average was down to .249, and his American League worst 170 strikeouts in 2010, became even worse increasing to 181 in 2011.

In 2012 it appeared as if everything had finally come together. Jackson had a career-high in home runs (16), RBI’s (66), batting average (.300), on base percentage (.377) and slugging percentage (.479).

In addition, Jackson had always been an above average outfielder, but 2012 was his breakout season. Jackson finished the season with a .997 fielding percentage, making just one error in 345 chances.

In 2013, Jackson’s struggles returned, and with that all of his offensive numbers dropped. Jackson’s .339 batting average in the month of June notwithstanding, he only hit above .280 for an entire month one other time in the season.

While he has had some struggles, Jackson is of key importance to the current Tigers team.

In that down 2013 season, when Jackson played and the team won (77 games), he batted .319 with 38 RBI’s. When Jackson played and the team lost (52 games), he hit .195 with just 11 RBI’s.

In 2014, the numbers are not quite as drastic (mainly due to the fact that his overall batting average is down), but when Jackson plays and the Tigers win (50 games as of July 18) Jackson hits 50 points higher (.277) than when they lose (.227).

Jackson has led off in 12 games in this 2014 campaign; in those games he is hitting .636 in the first inning. Yes, you read that correctly.

In 263 at-bats when Jackson is hitting anywhere but leadoff, he is hitting .247. When Jackson is in his familiar leadoff role, he is hitting .302. It is evident even from inning to inning that Jackson is more comfortable leading off at all times. When Jackson leads off an inning, whether it is the first or the ninth, his average is .355.

So enough of the sabermetrics. Enough of the flip-flopping Rajai Davis, Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter at the top of the lineup and throwing Jackson in at the bottom wherever he conveniently fits. Jackson can be one of the most consistent hitters when he is in his comfort zone, and he deserves to be treated like so.

For over 12 months, whether Detroit is winning or losing, there has been a very evident trend, and anyone who watches the Tigers knows it. Detroit goes as Jackson goes.

Top of the lineup, top of the division. Austin “Action” Jackson is the conductor of the Detroit Tigers’ orchestra.

Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.