It’s perfectly fine to admit when you’re wrong. I was one of the many who was perplexed to see Luke Jackson make the Opening Day roster. After an entire offseason, I thought the Braves would have, at the very least, added a couple of arms to ensure guys like Jackson and Sam Freeman wouldn’t grace the ground at SunTrust Park ever again (in a Braves uniform that is).
The Opening Day debacle by the bullpen immediately confirmed mine, and the rest of Braves’ Country’s concerns: Luke Jackson was a dud. He came in and walked two, allowed another hit, then gave up a grand slam to sink the Braves’ chances of ever coming back. Rightfully, the Luke Jackson jokes took over Twitter. Every time he was seen warming up, the moans could be heard circulating the city of Atlanta. But the reality is, Jackson has been the Braves’ best relief pitcher in 2019.
Since Opening Day, not only has Jackson not allowed a run, he’s been downright dominant, striking out 15 in 9.1 innings. His ERA has gone from 36.00 to a respectable 3.48. In last Tuesday’s gaudy loss to the Diamondbacks that featured a bullpen meltdown, Jackson was only one who could get an out. He came in with the bases loaded, allowed a hit to the first batter he faced then retired the next three in order without letting another runner cross the plate. It was a superb performance and should have ended any conversation about whether he belongs in the majors or not.
It’s time to put some respect on Jackson’s name. For now, the jokes have to stop. He can’t be lumped in with the underachievers like Shane Carle, Jesse Biddle, Jonny Venters, and Chad Sobotka. He’s been undoubtedly the most reliable reliever on the staff. The only question now is whether Jackson’s productions is sustainable.
That is far more challenging to answer. Last year, Jackson had a 10.2 K/9 inning, but he walked far too many batters and gave up more than a hit an inning. He has the stuff to make it in the MLB, but like most the Braves’ bullpen, it’s all about control. For Atlanta’s sake, Jackson’s last two weeks better not be a flash in the pan.