Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 Starting Rotation Preview: John Lackey

Eighteen million dollars. That is how much John Lackey is making per year on his contract, signed before the 2010 season. At the time, Red Sox fans were split on the deal. I was too. On the one hand, I didn't think he was much better than a borderline #2, but probably a solid #3 starter. Probably not worth that monster deal. However, since MLB doesn't have a salary cap, it technically doesn't matter, although even big market teams have a budget. However, after what I saw out of him last year, I've been completely convinced the Red Sox overpaid for him.

The number John Lackey put up last year were much worse than what he put up in Anaheim. Because of that, I have seen that many people are optimistic that he can improve upon those numbers, and deviate back towards his career means. However, there are some things that could prove otherwise. First of all, look at the division he pitches in. Each team has guys in their lineup who can hit the ball out of the park, something Lackey seems prone to do. The Yanks have ARod and Tex, the Rays have Longoria, the Os have Reynolds and Vlad and the Jays have Bautista (we'll see if he can keep up last year's performance).

Another reason his numbers could stay on the downswing is that he has to play in Fenway Park for half of his starts. Fenway will inflate almost anybody's pitching stats, almost to the extent that Coors Field does. Finally, he is on the wrong side of 30. His career should be on a downward swing, considering he's pitched 150 innings in each of his eight full seasons, and pitched 200 innings in five seasons, and 198 in another. That's a lot of wear and tear on an arm, and I believe will keep him from improving. I'm not necessarily saying he will fall off the face of the Earth, but I also don't see him returning to his Angel-form. Here are my predictions for the John Lackey in 2011.

16-13, 4.45 ERA, 204 IP, 1.48 WHIP, 21 HR, 1.7 WAR

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