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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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The Wild and Wooly Jackson and Ishii
2005-03-10 00:44
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Through his professional career, Edwin Jackson has walked four batters per nine innings: 3.94 in the minors, 4.24 in the majors. What would seem to be the defining aspect of his brief 2004 stint in Los Angeles, his wildness, was nothing unusual for him. What was unusual was how he got hit: 31 hits allowed in 25 innings, the first time on any level he had allowed more hits than innings pitched.

Today, albeit in an exhibition, Jackson had a typical Jackson outing. He pitched 3 1/3 hitless innings, walking four. He more or less went halfsies on this key game from the 2003 season, in which he went six innings, allowing two hits and walking eight. He did not allow a run in either game.

Any kind of extreme wildness in a Dodger pitcher, of course, eventually makes one muse upon the ethereal, ephemeral, all-too theatrical Kazuhisa Ishii. Watching any start by Ishii requires nerves of Remington Steele.

How has Ishii survived? You can speculate on how lucky he has been in posting a winning record in the United States, but for whatever reason, here you have a fellow who not only has never allowed more hits than innings pitched in a season, but also goes through long stretches in which the hits he does allow have been disproportionately singles.

On one level, Jackson takes the Ishii method a step further. Jackson is wild, but he has pitched 366 innings in professional baseball and allowed 15 home runs. That includes the majors; that includes Las Vegas. By comparison, Ishii allowed 21 home runs last season alone. And need I remind you that in 2004, Hideo Nomo allowed 19 home runs in a mere 84 innings.

The reason to truly fear for Ishii's future is that not only has his won-lost record, and for that matter his ERA, been the product of a tightrope walk rather than true effectiveness, but now Ishii is facing a decline in strikeouts: from 8.6 per nine innings in 2003 to 5.2 in 2004. Unless that slide is an anomaly, a reckoning approaches.

With Jackson, the future seems brighter. Rising to AAA from AA, and again to the majors from AAA, Jackson's strikeout rates have diminished - down to 6.7 in 2004. And yet, that figure remains solid. We simply await learning whether Jackson has reached rock bottom in strikeouts. If his strikeout reduction is a product of physical or mechanical problems, if it's a matter of adjustment to pitching at higher levels, then great - we look forward to the fix. If six Ks a game is his new reality, that's livable. Will he go down further - that's the question. Which was the anomaly - the strikeout decline or the brief increase in hits allowed? Jackson is only 21 after all, for all the promise and worry that comes with that age.

Jackson and Ishii are similar pitchers - but with Jackson there is just so much more uncertainty, and in turn so much more hope.

Of course, up to now, when you think of Jackson, you would think of Randy Johnson before you think of Ishii. Johnson was Jackson's opponent in Jackson's classic major league debut (in which Jackson walked none). Johnson was also a pitcher who had to conquer his wildness to make it. And he didn't really reign it in until his 30th birthday approached - he didn't even appear in a major league game until he was 25.

Postscript:

Randy Johnson was born September 10, 1963.

Kazuhisa Ishii was born September 9, 1973.

Edwin Jackson was born September 9, 1983.

Oh, and yes, Scott Erickson is having a nice March. He was born in June, though, so he doesn't count.

Comments
2005-03-10 16:32:11
1.   Dodgerkid
Ah numerology.

Nomo I have read has been unable throw higher than the high 80s with Tampa Bay. I think this is the end of his career sad to say.

2005-03-10 16:50:47
2.   FirstMohican
The preseason by Erikson is great. That gives Penny so much more time considering it seems like Erikson can defintely cut it as at least our #5.

Poor Nomo. The Devil Rays should give him one regular season start. After he gives up a bomb on a 82MPH fastball, he takes out a katana, kneels over, stabs his stomach and Lou Pinella strolls out and chops his head off. It sounds morbid only because it's not our custom.

2005-03-10 17:00:58
3.   Jim Hitchcock
FM, I think the grounds crew would have strong objections.

If anybody is interested, there's a similiar column about a hard thrower named Ed Threets on the SF Chronicle website. (I only go there to read Giants propaganda).

2005-03-10 17:10:42
4.   Linkmeister
Hey, Nolan Ryan was wild for his first few years, too.
2005-03-10 17:18:07
5.   Icaros
As was some guy named Koufax.
2005-03-10 17:31:14
6.   FirstMohican
Big Daddy Kane was born September 10, 1968.
2005-03-10 19:13:07
7.   Howard Fox
Hey, I was wild when I was young, then I became an accountant.
2005-03-10 20:08:38
8.   scareduck
Jon -- I believe you are correct with the K/9 decline but only telling half a story with it. The other thing that has happened is the conversion of Ishii to a flyball pitcher. Predictably, he has done well at Dodger Stadium (4.16 ERA) but much worse on the road (5.14 ERA). His ERA-dERA is negative, always a serious concern.
2005-03-10 21:21:11
9.   Jamie
Hey Howard:

Classic!

2005-03-10 21:27:59
10.   Jon T
I always liked Erickson; maybe I was just getting into baseball when he won 20 games. At any rate, baseball-reference.com has Erickson being born February 2.
2005-03-11 00:42:21
11.   Bob Timmermann
If anyone ever thinks that sitting through four straight basketball games is fun.

It's really not.

2005-03-11 01:13:18
12.   Jim Hitchcock
Especially if you were to have a crick in your neck.

OTOH, sure wouldn't mine a few twilight doubleheaders.

2005-03-11 08:37:18
13.   Bob Timmermann
I started at 12:30 and finished at 11:30.

Kaz Ishii starts are faster than that!

2005-03-11 09:53:55
14.   molokai
Bob would it have helped if the Bruins had won?
2005-03-11 11:15:37
15.   Bob Timmermann
By the time, I left that game had been over for seven hours. I had almost forgotten.

I do think that Oregon State's orange jerseys are pretty ugly.

Stanford and Washington State have pretty similar color schemes. And I don't like the font on Stanford's white uniforms. But then, with all due to deference to our esteemed Jon, I really hate the Stanford basketball team and find them and their fans among college basketball's most annoying outfits.

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