Game Preview: John Lackey

Doug Pensinger

A good pitcher.

Those with a memory not limited to the Eastern Seaboard may remember that John Lackey was once something of a star. When teams traveled out to the west coast, the game used to be promoted as your team vs. John Lackey and the Angels. I once took him in the first round of a fantasy baseball draft because I didn't understand baseball very well.

Since coming to Boston, though, his reputation has suffered mightily. Don't be fooled. He's still a good pitcher, and while the Rays should be favored today, that's because we're throwing David Price, not because we're facing John Lackey. Here are the two starter's 2013 statistics.

John Lackey David Price
K% 20.7% 20.4%
BB% 5.1% 3.7%
GB% 46.8% 44.9%
ERA 3.52 3.33
FIP 3.86 3.03
xFIP 3.49 3.27
SIERA 3.56 3.43

Now back to Lackey. Take a look at his career:

Year Team FIP-
2002 LAA 90
2003 LAA 106
2004 LAA 93
2005 LAA 74
2006 LAA 75
2007 LAA 80
2008 LAA 106
2009 LAA 86
2010 BOS 88
2011 BOS 112
2012 BOS Did not play.
2013 BOS 94

That's not an overhyped pitcher with an unearned reputation. That's a pitcher with one bad year (in a city that eats its own), an injury, and a long track record of above average performance. Here's what he throws:

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

Brooks Baseball calls the yellow pitch a slider, not a cutter, and I agree. Both fastballs are in the low 90s, the changeup and slider average around 85 mph, and the curve is of the power variety at 80 mph. As you can tell from the graph, Lackey's changeup is a token pitch. Over the course of his career, Lackey's slider has been the primary put-away weapon against right-handed batters, with the curve coming out to play against lefties. But in recent years, Lackey's curve has taken much more of a back seat. With two strikes, he now focuses on his slider when facing batters on either side of the plate.

This season he's had slight reverse splits, mostly to do with his HR/FB from righties, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing to see there. Treat him like you would any other right-handed starter with a decent slider. Play your lefties.

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