Nation STATion: Quantifying Lackey's awfulness

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Nation STATion: Quantifying Lackey's awfulness

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

We are getting to the point where we need to consider Boston's John Lackey, if not the worst starting pitcher in baseball, certainly in the bottom five. There has been an attempt over the last couple of months to produce some instantaneous revisionist history of Lackey's pitching. But, I'm simply not buying it.

In his latest outing, he gave up five runs, four earned in the Red Sox 5-2 loss to the Yankees. The Sox left 16 men on base, but had they delivered, they perhaps would have given Lackey another win when he again pitched poorly.

Lackey has given up four earned runs or more than a dozen times this season. There have only been 16 pitchers who can make that claim. Only six pitchers have given up four plus earned runs more than 12 times, led by old friend Bronson Arroyo who has done it 14 times. Arroyo is 2-8 in those 14 games. Brett Myers of the hapless Astros is 0-10 in the 13 games he has at least given up four or more earned runs.

Of the 16 pitchers on the list, only two pitchers have won three or more of their poorly pitched games. One is Chris Capuano of the Mets who is 3-7. The other is Lackey, who is an amazing 5-6. I don't know which is more depressing, the fact that in Lackey's 10 defeats this season he has an ERA of 8.44, or the fact that in his 12 wins, his ERA is 4.13.

Of the 33 starters with at least 12 wins this season, no one has a worse ERA than Lackey in his wins. Justin Verlander, in his 20 wins, has an ERA of 1.68. You need a microscope to see Clayton Kershaws 0.76 ERA in his 17 wins. Yankee rookie Ivan Nova has a 2.98 ERA in his 14 wins and Josh Tomlin has a 3.32 ERA in his 12 wins. But they all pale in comparisons to Lackeys 4.13. Even A.J. Burnett has a 4.12 ERA in his wins, but no one is even pretending that Burnett has pitched well and he has had at least the decency to only have nine wins to go along with that awful winning ERA. Among pitchers who have a worse ERA in their wins, only Tim Wakefield (4.69) has as many as six wins.

The fact that Lackey has as many wins as he has is simply a reflection of the fact that in most cases, the Sox have hit enough to compensate for his mediocrity. Lackey has averaged exactly 6 runs in support this season in games hes pitched. The Sox have scored six runs for him three times, seven runs three other times, twice theyve scored nine runs, and twice theyve scored 10 runs, and one time each they have scored 11, 12 and 16 runs in games hes started.

Now, I will not argue he has pitched better of late. In his last 10 starts, he is 7-2, but his ERA is still a miserable 4.22 and his WHIP is a lousy 1.453. Speaking of WHIP (Walks Hits divided by Innings Pitched) for the season, Lackey sits at 1.548 in 23 starts. Only five pitchers in baseball with at least 20 starts have a worse WHIP, which brings me to my initial assertion that Lackey is in the bottom five among starters this season.

As we learned from Felix Hernandez's Cy Young selection last season when he finished with a 13-12 record, you have to ignore W-L record, but you cant ignore WHIP and ERA.

Check out this group and you can decide for yourself:
J.A. Happ, Astros: 1.644 WHIP, 6.03 ERA, 4-15 record
Tyler Chatwood, Angels: 1.604 WHIP, 4.35 ERA, 6-9 record
Nick Blackburn, Twins: 1.598 WHIP, 4.49 ERA, 7-10 record
Jo-Jo Reyes, JaysOrioles: 1.580 WHIP, 5.26 ERA, 7-10 record
Joel Pineiro, Angels: 1.565 WHIP, 5.33 ERA, 5-6 record
John Lackey, Sox: 1.548 WHIP, 5.94 ERA, 12-10 record

One last bitter pill, there are only 40 batters with an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) of .843 or higher. Youk is .861, Pedey .868, Jacoby .890, Gonzo .957, and Papi .987 are the Sox in that elite group. Among pitchers, there are only three with an OPS-against of .843 or higher: J.A. Happ .851, Bronson Arroyo .848, and John Lackey .843.

I guess it really doesnt matter how you rank the pitchers mentioned in this column. What matters is that I dont think any of us, in a five-game postseason series, would look forward to seeing any one of them pitching Game Three, a fate which may be facing the Sox.

Rangers have used medical staff to recruit players

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Rangers have used medical staff to recruit players

Acquiring pitchers who stay healthy hasn’t been the easiest for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski since he got to Boston.

The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, seem to be having success taking pitchers with prior injury concerns and revitalizing them.

Righty Andrew Cashner has been on the disabled list seven times. The first was for a rotator cuff strain. Elbow, shoulder, biceps, it’s all there on his body’s rap sheet. He has a 3.18 ERA.

Another Rangers starter, A.J. Griffin, has been to the DL six times. He doesn’t have the best ERA at the moment, 5.02, but he is in the rotation. 

Tyson Ross, who has great upside if healthy, is getting close to a return to the big leagues on a minor league rehab assignment. He's coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

It’s been a catchphrase for major league executives: the medical arena is where the most valuable advances will come now that advanced on-field statistics are so readily available.

Have the Rangers figured something out more broadly, or are Cashner, Griffin and Ross just case-by-case discussions?

Rangers president Jon Daniels explained on the CSNNE Baseball Show podcast. 

“There’s some of both,” Daniels said. “I think that there are certain injuries, there are certain body types, there are certain medical histories that probably lend themselves to coming back more than others. But the biggest [matter] is about the individual, both the individual player and then the individuals on your medical staff and your coaching staff and how do they handle it. 

“One of the things that I’ve become so acutely aware of, whether it’s sports medicine or it’s the real world, real-life medicine, it matters dramatically. If you have a heart attack, you have a stroke, it matters dramatically which hospital you go to and which doctor you see. And so by the same token, when you’re putting a medical team together and they’re all highly qualified, and yet there’s still an enormous difference between — and not just in medical practices, but in bedside manner. Kind of the ability to communicate with the players, get the most out of them, have players trust them. Our whole medical team, top to bottom, has been a real asset for us and has helped us both recruit players and then get the most out of them when they’re on the mend.”

Daniels said his medical staff has grown in recent years. Team physician Dr. Keith Meister has a sports medicine facility that players take advantage of.

“The personnel there, the [physical therapists] there [are] really really gifted. And so we work very closely with them. We have given some, with [Yu] Darvish … we’ve been open to some different like styles of treatment.”

Daniels didn’t specify the treatments, but noted they weren’t too far out there.

“I don’t think it’s like anything crazy, and I don’t think we’re the only ones doing it,” he said. “When you’re exposed to just different mindsets, you explore it a little bit, you end up taking the best of each world and kind of incorporating it into our plan. Jamie Reed, long-time major league trainer, he’s our medical director and he gets people, he gets players and he gets sports medicine. And he’s been instrumental in putting together a lot of really good people on our medical side. When you look at some of the better medical staffs out there, Arizona and Tampa, he’s been directly involved with training some of those guys.

“Like anything else, you can have like the best ideas in the world,” Daniels continued. “If you don’t have the right people executing it, it doesn’t matter. It comes down to the people and really proud of the group we’ve got together.”