Forever an Atlanta Brave: Farewell, Luke Jackson

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Luke Jackson points to Travis d'Arnaud after retiring the Dodgers during the 8th inning in game 1 of the 2021 NLCS. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Luke Jackson points to Travis d'Arnaud after retiring the Dodgers during the 8th inning in game 1 of the 2021 NLCS. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

While it isn’t strictly news about the Atlanta Braves, it was announced yesterday that Luke Jackson signed a two-year deal with the San Francisco Giants worth $11.5M with a club option for 2025. That is a nice contract for a reliever in general, especially nice for one coming off Tommy John surgery.

Unfortunately, it does signal the end of his time with the Atlanta Braves. A time that was filled with the lowest of lows and the highest of highs.

Jackson had struggled throughout his entire pro career with the Rangers. The former first round pick looked like a solid starter but never figured it out in the minors. The Rangers moved him to the bullpen where it looked like he was turning it around. He finally made it to the majors! He struggled.

It led to the Rangers having to move on from Luke Jackson

The former first round pick of the Texas Rangers came to the Atlanta Braves by a trade on December 8th 2016. The Braves sent Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl to Texas and in return got Luke Jackson.

After a year with the Braves with poor results in AAA & the majors, Jackson would be designated for assignment just over a year after being acquired by the Braves. On December 20th, 2017 the Braves acquired Preston Tucker from the Astros and Jackson was the roster casualty.

To his credit, Luke Jackson didn’t let it get him down for too long. He had his contract purchased by the Braves on April 4th, 2018. He would appear in two games. His last was a 0.1 inning outing against the Chicago Cubs, where he faced 3 batters and allowed 2 runs. He was designated for assignment in favor of Lucas Sims.

He had his contract purchased again on May 6th! He was off the roster on May 8th this time for Luiz Gohara.

On June 5th, Luke Jackson was back with the Atlanta Braves! On June 13th, he was designated for assignment once again in favor of a returning Mike Soroka. This time, Jackson elected free agency. Instead of allowing him to leave, the Braves would re-sign Jackson to a major league contract on June 17th.

Luke Jackson was a key piece in the Braves bullpen

Adversity after adversity. Constant struggled. Multiple DFAs. This was probably his last shot with the Atlanta Braves.

He made himself valuable. At least enough to hang around for the remainder of the season. From the time of his new contract to the end of the 2018 season, Jackson pitched 35.1 innings with a 4.33 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, & 3.88 SIERA. It earned him an opportunity to remain with the team in 2019.

His first appearance in 2018 was not good. On March 28th, 2019 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Luke Jackson faced 7 batters and allowed 4 runs. Oof. To be fair, that entire series with the Phillies is best forgotten from a Braves perspective.

Once again, Luke Jackson did not let that bother him. After that horrific outing, Jackson turned a corner. He became the Braves best bullpen arm in 2019, although that was not difficult as the bullpen as a whole was an issue. However, Luke became the one constant, even climbing to the role of closer. Over the next 47 innings, Jackson would pitch to a 2.49 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 2.38 xFIP, 2.69 SIERA, 1.28 WHIP, & 33.3% strikeout rate. This includes racking up 17 saves.

If it was not for Luke Jackson in the first half of 2019, it is safe to say the Braves do not win as many games. Thankfully, help would arrive in the form of several bullpen arms acquired at the trade deadline. The reinforcements would push Jackson back to a more comfortable role and lengthen the bullpen as a whole.

Overall, in 2019, Jackson would put together his best season in his career. In 72.2 innings, he had a 3.84 ERA, 3.00 xERA, 3.24 FIP, 2.52 xFIP, & 2.80 SIERA. This included a career high 33.7% strikeout rate. Jackson was criticized at times because the ERA was a tad high and it felt like he always had runners on. However, the ridiculously high .386 BABIP suggested bad luck and the great peripherals backed up what we all knew. Luke Jackson was elite. The career year resulted in a 1.3 fWAR season which is great for a reliever.

Luke Jackson finally established himself in the major leagues. Then 2020 happened. The weird Covid season hurt a lot of people, Jackson included. He pitched 26.1 innings with a 6.84 ERA, 4.58 xERA, 4.37 FIP, 4.70 xFIP, & 4.58 SIERA. The strikeouts dropped and Jackson just was not his 2019 self.

He did not let that affect him. He would bounce back in 2021 and be a solid member of the bullpen once again. That year, he appeared in 63.2 innings with a sub-2 (1.98) ERA. The peripherals were not as pretty but the Braves bullpen was deep enough where Jackson was mostly pitching in middle relief. Jackson in the middle innings was good enough to keep opposing offenses at bay and allow Brian Snitker to turn it over to the other members of The Night Shift to close the door.

It culminated in a magical postseason run with the Braves winning the 2021 World Series. Jackson pitched 3.2 innings during the World Series, allowing only 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, and striking out 4. In fact, the last pitch ever thrown by Luke Jackson in a Braves uniform might perfectly represent his time as an Atlanta Brave.

Luke Jackson was a World Champion.

Unfortunately, it would be revealed that Luke would need Tommy John surgery before the 2022 season, meaning he would never throw a pitch for the Braves in their championship tour.

Now, he heads out West and joins the Giants bullpen looking to rebound coming off Tommy John. Looking to bounce back one more time, like he has so many times before.

His time with the Atlanta Braves has come to an end but one thing is for certain, Luke Jackson will always be an Atlanta Brave.

The reason being is that it was more than just performance with him. He became a fan favorite because he was a great personality in addition to being a reliable member of the bullpen. Whether it was a positive interaction in person, a social media interaction, or just a funny video of Luke posted by the team, he had won over the hearts of Braves Country. He will always have a place in our hearts.

You can’t spell elite without Luke Jackson. You can’t talk about the 2021 World Champion Atlanta Braves without Luke Jackson.

Farewell to our friendly neighborhood Sliderman. Farewell, Luke Jackson.