Lackey’s Lacking Season

By R.J. Anderson //

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Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox shocked the baseball world when they signed free agent starter John Lackey last offseason. Lackey’s first season in Beantown is categorized as a failure because of a relatively high ERA as he topped 4.00 for the first time since 2004. The perception and ERA seem to stem from a shoddy first half while his second half looked like typical Lackey:

First Half: 18 GS, 113 IP, 4.78 ERA, 1.48 SO/BB
Second Half: 15 GS, 102 IP, 3.97 ERA, 3.38 SO/BB

Taking either half as an indication of Lackey’s true talent would be a mistake. The narrative may suggest Lackey felt more comfortable in Boston over the second half or grew accustomed to the division, but more likely is that he benefitted from a weaker schedule. After making seven starts versus playoff teams in the first half, Lackey made three starts against them the rest of the way. That’s not to say Lackey’s performances did improve in a vacuum, they did, just that they may have been aided by the schedule makers.

One anecdotal aspect which may carry truth in Lackey feeling better about his curveball later in the season. Perhaps this is just another case of creating a story after the results, but Lackey’s hammer is his finest secondary pitch, so it would make sense if he struggled without a great feel for the pitch.

Heading forward, Lackey will continue to pitch in an offensive friendly environment against some of the best teams in baseball — and that’s just the division schedule. Still, most fielding independent metrics had Lackey outpitching his ERA last season. Usually, the peripherals will win out, so don’t be surprised if Lackey has a positively Lackey season once again in 2011.

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