Tagged: John Lackey

The Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Factors Part 1



Twitter: @RobShawSports


When it comes to evaluating player performance and creating projections for the upcoming season, Bloomberg Sports takes several factors into account.  Here’s a breakdown of four of the nine factors that allow Bloomberg Sports to offer the most accurate projections in fantasy sports while attracting more than 20 Major League teams to turn to the company for scouting and advanced analytical solutions.


The first factor to consider is ballpark.  Over the last five years it seems like we have shifted back to the big ballparks that favor pitchers.  That is certainly the case for Citi Field, PETCO Park, and Target Field.  As a result, just about any Mets, Padres, or Twins hurler performs better at home than on the road.


On the other hand, there are power alleys in Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, and most definitely the Ballpark in Arlington.  Fantasy managers want to invest in the pitchers from the large cavernous and the hitters in the bandboxes.


On that note, be wary of pitchers who thrived in pitcher’s parks such as Mat Latos and Heath Bell who now join more hitter-friendly confines and definitely invest in hitters such as Michael Cuddyer making the move from Target Field to Coors this season.


The next fantasy factor to keep in mind is durability.  Fantasy managers expecting full seasons from Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, and Chipper Jones are playing against the odds.  There are durable hitters out there such as Yadier Molina and Roy Halladay.  Their durability is a fantasy asset since you know what to expect from them on a day-to-day basis.


Next, fantasy managers should consider the age of their players.  Bloomberg Sports has found 26-31 to be the prime age for baseball players.  A younger player should be approaching his peak, while older players are typically on the decline.  It should not shock you that Ichiro, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez are slowing down with age.


Finally, fantasy managers should consider the impact of a long-term deal.  It is very rare that the player delivers shortly after signing such a deal.  While we hate to question motivation, we have noticed that stars such as Jason Bay, John Lackey, Carl Crawford, and Jayson Werth were not nearly as productive after signing long-term deals compared to the season prior to the negotiation.  On that note, Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols may not be as safe as you thought.


For all nine Fantasy Factors visit BloombergSports.com.


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.

MLB Season in Review: Boston Red Sox Pitchers

By Eriq Gardner // 

Biggest Surprise

Clay Buchholz was one of the best prospects coming into the majors back in 2008. The fact that he’s been successful isn’t shocking. But considering his troubles in the early portion of his major league career, nobody was expecting a 17-7 record and 2.33 ERA.

Biggest Bust

John Lackey clearly hasn’t been worth his big free agent payday. In retrospect, his disappointing year in 2010 didn’t come out of the blue. His ability to strike out batters has been on the wane for several season. This year, his K/9 rate dipped all the way down to 6.53. That was the lowest mark since his rookie season, and bad news when a pitcher is facing strong AL East lineups on a regular basis.

2011 Keeper Alert

Jon Lester was a Cy Young candidate coming into the season. He’ll enter next season as one of the top few pitchers overall again after going 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and a stellar 9.74 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s only 26 years old. …Meanwhile, Daniel Bard is an intriguing option, depending on what the Red Sox decide to do with Jonathan Papelbon in the off-season. Should Bard inherit the closer role, he’ll immediately become one of the top few closers available, given his excellent peripherals.

2011 Regression Alert

Back to Buchholz. He’s still young and up-and-coming, but few pitchers in baseball  enjoyed better luck in 2010. His 2.33 ERA belied the fact that he’s not striking out enough batters and not keeping enough batters off base via walks. His xFIP, a measure of ERA based on peripherals, was nearly two runs higher at 4.20. If Buchholz doesn’t improve his underlying skills, look for him to give up more home runs next season and get lesser results when his strand rate normalizes.

For more on Red Sox pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools. 

What is John Lackey Lacking?

by Eno Sarris // 

With a career strikeout rate of about 7 per 9 innings, a career groundball rate of 43.6%, and only one season with an xFIP (a stat that runs along the same scale as ERA but strips out ballpark effects, bullpen support, batted-ball luck and other factors) under 3.88, John Lackey has lacked some of the traits that might point to a staff ace.

LackeyGrab.jpgThis year, the results have been worse. His xFIP has jumped to 4.51, the worst mark of his career. His strikeout rate (6.05 per nine) is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season eight years ago, and he’s walking more batters too (3.24 per 9 IP, vs. 2.70 career BB/9). The BABIP against (.328) is a little high, suggesting some bad luck, but that doesn’t explain the whole problem, as you can see from the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools charts above.

Matthew Carruth wrote an interesting piece about Lackey on FanGraphs and pointed out an interesting quirk about his year. The money quote:

Lackey’s strikeout to walk rate versus righties was 3.0 in 2008, was
2.9 last year and is at 2.9 this season. Versus a lefty it has slipped
from 3.6 in 2008 and 3.1 in 2009 all the way to 1.3 in 2010. John Lackey
isn’t facing significantly more lefties this season than he did in the
past, but perhaps he should be given his collapse against them this

Does this explain it all? After opening up the question on Twitter, I thought it was worth a little bit more exploration. One follower suggested the AL East and its competition level was mostly to blame. But that theory was handled by Carruth when he noted that Lackey faced batters with OPS figures of .755 and .766 the last two years – and .737 this year.

Another belief was that the parks in the AL East are much more conducive to offense than those in the AL West. According to StatCorner, the average park factor for home runs by left-handed batters in the AL West is 100 and for RHB it’s 92. In the AL East, those numbers are 104 and 108 respectively. Before we call it a day, though, it’s worth noting that Lackey has been pitching more often in Boston this year, so a comparison of Boston (83/95) to Anaheim (93/98) is more germane.

Another argument holds that Lackey’s giving up more doubles than usual due to the Green Monster. The park factor for doubles in Fenway is a sky-high 150 for left-handed batters (compared to 100 in Anaheim), so this seems plausible. Using this tool, you can even plot Lackey’s balls in play this year. Comparing his balls in play in Fenway to those in Anaheim does show this tendency. The light blue balls are singles and the dark blue dots are doubles. See the clusters out in left field? (Click on the picture for full size.)

Yes, it certainly looks like Lackey is giving up more doubles against left-handed batters, and that he is struggling against opposite-handed batters. We may have a chicken-and-egg situation with the balls in play versus lefties and his strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties: Is he struggling to locate, or has he altered his approach against lefties after the Green Monster was rattled a few times?

We also have a battle of sample sizes at play here. Lackey’s career xFIP (expected FIP, with normalized
home run rates) against lefties is 4.13 in 852.2 innings. That’s a much
bigger sample size than his 4.82 xFIP in 92.1 innings this year. So have his skills legitimately eroded, or is this a fluke of small(er) sample size?

These questions are all difficult to answer definitively. Either way, even the most ardent Lackey-haters will have to admit that not every single one of his starts comes in Fenway, and that a pitcher who has had success against lefties in the past will probably find some way to adjust to his new surroundings. Still, fantasy managers in standard mixed leagues could do well to adjust their own Lackey strategy by avoiding lefty-heavy lineups in Fenway, just in case.

For more on John Lackey and other struggling starters, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.