Don’t look now, but Braves relief pitcher Luke Jackson is quietly having an All-Star caliber season this year.
What hasn’t been said about the Atlanta Braves bullpen this year? It has been one of, if not the worst in the majors (24th worst ERA and tied with most losses in the majors).
A lot of this has to do with the fact that some guys like Mark Melancon and Darren O’Day are no longer with the Braves anymore. Shane Greene also did not re-sign with the Braves until the 2021 season was already well underway.
One guy who has defied all expectations this year is Luke Jackson, a player who has received lots of criticism over his time with the Braves from the fans (myself included). He has been a bright spot this season in a very, very bad bullpen.
Those stats speak for themselves. His ERA is lower than big-name relievers like Liam Hendricks, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen.
Part of what has made him so effective this season has been his slider. According to Baseball Savant, Jackson throws his slider 49% of the time, and hitters are only hitting .115 against it this year.
Jackson, a native of Fort Lauderdale, FL, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2010 as the 45th overall pick straight out of high school. David O’Brien of The Athletic (paid subscription only) wrote about Jackson in an article back in 2019, and highlighted the unusual way he got to the Atlanta Braves:
"“Enter Luke Jackson, aka “The Friendly Neighborhood Slider-Man,” as he’s known in the Atlanta bullpen. He had a 5.19 career ERA, 1.582 WHIP and one save in 93 career appearances spread in four years with the Braves and Texas Rangers before this season. His most notable stat was the fact that he was designated for assignment or released five times by the Braves in seven months from December 2017 to June 2018.”"
That’s quite the path to take to play in Atlanta.
I would not be surprised if the Braves reliever would be considered for the NL All-Star game this year. He certainly has had good stuff out of the bullpen this year and looks like he will continue this efficiency the rest of the season.