Lackey Proves He’s Just Fine

If you want to put a scare into a baseball fan, the easiest way is to tell him that his team’s best pitcher has undiagnosed arm soreness and has to go on the disabled list. The combination of the unknown with the historical rate of pitcher attrition will make most of them go immediately to the worst case scenario. Even when the MRI comes back clean, it’s common for pitchers to see decreased performance while they work through their issues.

Thus, worry about John Lackey was pretty widespread this spring. He spent 53 days on the disabled list with a “triceps strain” last year, and developed a bit of a home run problem when he was on the mound. This spring, he was diagnosed with an “elbow strain” and a “forearm strain”, and he spent the first two months of the season on the disabled list. Three different strains and two lengthy DL stints for a 30-year-old who carried a heavy load early in his career? You could almost hear Dr. Andrews sharpening his knives back in April.

But, after another complete game shutout last night, Lackey has shown that he’s just fine. It is almost scary how close his current numbers are to his career averages.

His career FB velocity? 91.0. His 2009 fastball velocity? 91.6.
His career K/9? 7.22. His 2009 K/9? 7.23.
His career GB%? 43.1%. His 2009 GB%? 44.1%.

Across the board, this is just a classic Lackey season – 3:1 K/BB rate, average batted ball profile, just under one home run allowed per complete game. Not only is he not having surgery, but you would be hard pressed to find any evidence that he was ever unable to pitch this year.

By beating the odds, Lackey has put himself back in line for a big payday this winter. He doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but he’s above average across the board, and the total package has made him one of the most consistently solid starting pitchers in baseball. As a guy who has already proven he can get American League hitters out, he’ll be in high demand this winter. Even with a two month stay on the DL to start the year, you have to imagine that multiple clubs will be lining up to woo Lackey out of Los Angeles.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Mark
Guest

As a baseball fan, I wouldn’t want my team to give John Lackey that big payday this offseason. In his 30s and with those two DL stints in two years he doesn’t exactly excite me. Contract years have a way of bringing out the best in everyone, but when he gets his money there won’t be a reason to stay in shape. Given his physical problems the past couple of years and the term 6-pack is more applicable to a beer belly than a strong belly I wouldn’t woo him anything close to what the Yankees did for Burnett.

The Joe From 1993
Guest
The Joe From 1993

“I wouldn’t woo him anything close to what the Yankees did for Burnett.”

Really? Seriously?

A.J. Burnett is a pitcher in his 30s (one year older than Lackey) with a much worse injury history than Lackey. In 2008 Burnett managed to throw 200+ innings for only the 3rd time in his career, the previous times being in 2002 and 2005.

Burnett’s career FIP is 3.84. Lackey’s career FIP is 3.82

Since 2002 Burnett is a 26.7 WAR pitcher. Since 2002 Lackey is a 31.1 WAR pitcher.

How is Burnett worth the risk, but Lackey is not?

Jason H
Guest
Jason H

This makes way too much sense. I wouldn’t expect a response.

Bhaakon
Guest
Bhaakon

It’s fine case, but I don’t see what it has to do with the original poster’s point. He never said “Burnett’s worth his contract but I wouldn’t give that much to Lackey,” he just said that he wouldn’t give Lackey a Burnett-sized deal. He could mean that Burnett’s worth more than Lackey (which, as you’ve pointed out, is simply incorrect), but, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he could also mean that neither is worth that much, that the market has changed since the Burnett deal, that the majority of teams have less leeway in their payroll and would weigh injury risk more heavily than the Yanks, some combination of those three, or something I didn’t think of.

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