Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Lackey laughs all the way to the bank

Posted by Bill Koch on December 15, 2009

John Lackey?
All of this excitement over John Lackey?
The Boston Red Sox generated all of this buzz by overpaying for a No. 3 starter who masquerades as an ace?
Please. Boston just ignored all of its alleged cutting-edge statistical analysis and signed a pitcher to a bloated contract who, according to the numbers that the organization values so highly, is on the decline. The Red Sox did this at the expense of upgrading their offense, basically waving goodbye to Jason Bay and a chance to get into the Matt Holliday sweepstakes, and are heading into the 2010 season at least two bats short of a line-up that can realistically challenge the New York Yankees.
Lackey is ready to put pen to paper on a five-year, $85-million contract sometime soon, this year’s top prize in a very average free agent pitching crop headed to Boston. He brings with him a handful of red flags that should be waving before too long and sticking the Red Sox with more dead money on their payroll, cash that it can’t afford while John Henry’s personal financial empire is in the tank and Boston’s revenue stream stagnates in its ancient ballpark.
Lackey’s been on the slide since 2007, when he won a career-high 19 games and posted a career-low 3.01 ERA. That season was the last in a run of five years where Lackey made at least 32 starts and threw a low total of 198.1 innings in 2004. That number climbed to a career-high 224 in 2007.
What followed was Lackey’s inevitable decline as he turned 30. He’s spent significant time on the disabled list each of the past two seasons, starting a total of 51 games, and his WHIP has risen in each season to its worst levels since his 1.33 in 2005. His Ks/9 innings has dropped every season since a career-best 8.6 in 2005 – it was just 7.1 last year – and he’s allegedly supposed to be a power pitcher. To put that in some perspective, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s career Ks/9 innings total is 8.5 in three seasons. Do you view Dice-K as a power arm? Didn’t think so – and neither is Lackey anymore. He’s a two-pitch guy with a dying fastball.
Lackey also struggles to go deep into games and will sap the strength from Boston’s bullpen, with opponents crushing him at a .316 clip on pitches 76-90 of his outings last year and hammering him to the tune of a 1.34 WHIP on pitches 91-105. Even in his best year, 2007, Lackey relied on the Angels’ strong bullpen (K-Rod, Scot Shields, Justin Speier, Darren Oliver) to routinely get him out of jams in the late innings – his WHIP on pitches 76-90 was an astronomical 1.58. That makes Lackey a five- or six-inning guy at best with Dice-K and Tim Wakefield already in the rotation. Hope Boston’s middle relievers have very good insurance policies on their shoulders and elbows.
Even more damning for Lackey are some of the names who pop up as statistical comparisons for his career to this point on http://www.baseball-reference.com. I’ll throw a couple of them out there just for fun – Kevin Millwood, Matt Morris – before I get real serious with a couple you Red Sox fans might know – Bartolo Colon and Brad Penny. You paying either one of those overweight, out of shape, No. 5-starter wanna-bes $85 million to come back here? I didn’t think so.
You can make the argument that Boston is trying to go the pitching-and-defense route by signing Lackey and making it public yesterday that they’re turning up the heat on a Josh Beckett extension. A rotation of Beckett, Jon Lester, Lackey and Dice-K is enough to make people happy on paper. Don’t be naïve enough to think it’ll last much past 2010. The fact that Boston is publicizing the Beckett talks and said nothing about being a player for Lackey should tell you something. The Red Sox are laying the groundwork to let Beckett walk, already planting the first seeds of what is sure to be a growing public relations war as spring training approaches. They’ll paint Beckett as the greedy bad guy for not accepting whatever their offer is, just like they did with Nomar Garciaparra, Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez and all the rest – not that Boston should have broken the bank to bring those players back. That’s not what I’m saying. I just don’t think the Red Sox should have to use the lemmings who make up their Red Sox Nation to kick those guys in the ass on the way out of town, and Beckett could be next. We’ll be left with Lackey – and we’ll be unimpressed.


4 Responses to “Lackey laughs all the way to the bank”

  1. bigblue123 said

    Mets get Japansese reliever – star with the Yakuit Swalllows and you are complaining about getting Lackey and Cameron – – I wish I were Sox fan

  2. […] In fact, Lackey’s wife remains the only reason that we’re glad to have him in Boston. We’ve said as much here at Ramble On since the day he signed with the Red […]

  3. […] exposed when he makes his next start and at Yankee Stadium and takes his inevitable pounding. We’ve taken a strong stand against Lackey being considered a reliable starting pitcher on this team from the day he signed his […]

  4. […] inconsistent. John Lackey continues to be the biggest free agent bust in baseball this year — as we here at Ramble On told you he would be. The Red Sox bullpen takes on water by the day. Last time we checked, Pedroia doesn’t pitch the […]

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