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Soup of This Day #30: Do You Hear The People Sing?

July 6, 2011

John Lackey
John Lackey. Not easy to like – Photo: Keith Allison, 2011. Keith Allison is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I don’t boo. Not at football games. Not at baseball games. Partly because I watch most games via tv or the net and booing then is just dumb. Mostly though because it’s disrespectful and I think it dishonours the shirt. I dream of wearing those shirts and so I respect those that wear them. They get my support on the pitch no matter what – That’s the contract I keep and it’s irrespective of the contract they keep, whether it’s $80 million over 5 years or $1000 pay as you play.

On Monday night John Lackey got booed. True, he pitched 2.1 innings of shit, got the Sox in a hole they never climbed out of. They were down 7-0 through 4 and although they then went 7-2 it was a bridge too far. It finished 9-7 to the Blue Jays. For the Sox Ellsbury with a 2 run triple, Gonzalez a RBI double and a 3 run Monster shot. Some nice hitting there but that Lackey hole had steep sides.

Some numbers:

Lackey in 2011: 13 starts, 5 wins and 8 losses. 72.1 innings for just 45 strikeouts. 4 games of 7 or more runs and an ERA of 7.47. At Fenway that rises to 9.17 over 7 starts.

His WHIP is 1.63. That’s a mile past the danger line of 1.5. At Fenway it’s 1.83.

Of the 159 pitchers in the Majors with 45 innings or more this season his is the only ERA above 7. The next worse is at least half a run better, at 6.92. Why is that significant? There are 30 teams. Imagine each has 5 starters. That’s 150. Lackey’s ranked last out of 159. That’s not good.

Here’s Lackey after copping to 7 runs in 2.1 innings Monday night:

‘Overall my arm felt pretty good. Probably one of the better ones it’s felt as far as velocity, stuff like that. I just didn’t locate well enough.’

Welcome to Denial, population John Lackey. It’s his 4th outing where he’s given up 7 or more.

In just 13 games.

‘Just continue to work hard. I’ve made a lot of adjustments, kind of on the fly. Some of those will hopefully turn into some results here soon. I’ve felt a lot better since coming off the DL. I’ve pitched some good games and lost and obviously had some pretty rough ones.’

Let’s take a look at that claim of improvement. To be sure, in the 3 games after his return he got 3 wins, giving up 17 hits and 11 runs in 19.2 innings. That’s a barely passable ERA of 5.03 that’s only really ok because he got the wins.

The next 3 he got losses, giving up 21 hits and 14 runs in just 13.1 innings. That’s an ERA of 9.44.

Overall, since returning Lackey has conceded 38 hits and 25 runs across 33 innings for an ERA of 6.82. That’s better than before he went on the DL – Then he had 2 wins and 5 losses and an ERA of 8.01. Neither number is palatable though.

These numbers are jaw-dropping and not in a good way. There is a problem here and the easy answer is to hope that Lackey can throw himself out of the slump. Here’s 3 reasons why that doesn’t look smart though:

1. Lackey needs to win 9 from here just to reach parity with an average 2010. He barely looks capable of recreating the 5 he won in the 1st half of this season. The numbers needed to get his ERA to an acceptable level (3.5 let’s say) are intimidating. Say he starts 15 times for the remainder of the season. Assuming he gets through 7 innings a start, he needs to pitch 15 games for just 9 runs. That’s 9 runs in 105 innings. On Monday he managed 7 runs in under 3. He’s not looking like pitching his way out of this right now. He’s not looked like pitching that throughout his Boston career. Simply, he has no form for turning this around.

2. This Red Sox team is about momentum. They win in streaks and they lose in them too. Had Lackey not had a horror outing Monday the Sox would have won 6 straight. I’ll put that another way: Had Lackey not played Monday night the Sox would most likely have won 6 straight. This Red Sox team can not have a liability starter every 5 or 6 outings. Not with Wake and Miller ironed in starters. Not with a frail Buchholz. Not with Lester straining a lat. That all adds up to a lot on Beckett and that’s a struggle in October.

3. Lackey has had decent numbers in the past. Pitchers on $80 million over 5 are not @#$%, no matter how much fans think they are. He’s thrown 19 wins in a season and won a decider in a World Series. Maybe he’s injured. Tommy John is being bandied around. He says: ‘I’ve been pitching for 10 years, man. We’re all hampered at this point in some way. Nothing. No excuse there. Definitely nothing that’s going to keep me from pitching.’

Well ok but that’s not the definitive answer to ‘Are you injured?’ Instead it’s defiance and that isn’t enough with an ERA of 7.47.

John, I’m not gonna boo you dude. Maybe the booing and the anger is starting to play inside you head. Maybe it’s not and you don’t get it. I do think a trade might be the answer for you though. I think you need a club with less of a profile or one where you can get by out of the limelight. Maybe be a 5th string starter out West, get your head and your arm right.

Over to you Tito, Theo…

Do You Hear The People Sing?

  1. he’s too high risk! what trade would take him? i think it’s time to just cut him loose at eat the debt. dl for now. i still think he’ll mysteriously wind up on the dl soon.

    • Yeah I know. Was thinking, hoping really, that a NL team might take him as an experienced 4th or 5th starter in a rebuilding rotation, trade him for a less experienced 4th or 5th guy with solid stats who cold help out for the remainder of 2011. An Oakland maybe.

      But yeah, you’re right, with that attitude and those numbers we’re stuck with him. Shame. He could be happy in Oakland. I know I’d be happier with him in Oakland.

      Leaves the rotation at Beckett, Wake, Aceves and Miller, at least for a bit (unless Buchholz gets back quicker). Who steps up if Lackey goes DL?

      Wheeler or Bard? and bring Bowden up to the pen?

      Do we hold Lackey for road games, where he sucks less and will maybe be shielded a bit from the Fenway pressure? His ERA on the road is 5.92 as opposed to 9.17 at home. Suggests it’s psychological rather than mechanical but hey, if he can occupy some innings without sucking too much he may give us some leeway until Buchholz and Lester get back.

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