Last night, John Lackey struggled once again to bring his season ERA to an astounding 7.36. In a perfect world, this would be his last start, at least for a while. This is a clearly a man who is not mentally ready to be out on the mound. Whether or not it's because of personal reasons, I am not in a position to say. All I can do is judge what I see, and what I see is a guy who is pitching as bad as I have seen a guy pitch, and his press conferences are no better. After last night's disaster, in which he threw a walk, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch, all with the bases loaded, all consecutively, Lackey had an extremely short and stern press conference. He is a defeated man right now, and the numbers show that he needs to be moved to the bullpen.
Somehow, John Lackey has almost posted a .500 record, as he is currently standing at 5-6, which really just shows how good this Red Sox offense has been this year. His other numbers are pretty atrocious. As I said, his ERA is currently standing at 7.36, which is 2.59 worse than his previous career worse. His WHIP stands at 1.604, which is far worse than he has ever done in his career. In general, his contract is looking worse and worse by the minute, and it is hurting the team by continuing to throw him out there.
He is also depleting the team's bullpen, averaging just 5.2 innings every time he goes out there, compared to a career mark of 6.2 innings. That inning difference per start is a big one, usually a waste of at least one arm every game. Lackey's main issue all year has been control, and his lack of strikeouts. He is averaging just a pedestrian 5.19 K/9, which is a career worst. Also a career worst (you getting the theme here, yet?) is his 3.8 walks per nine innings. The saddest part about that stat is that I thought that was too low. I could have sworn that number would be at least 4. The biggest stat that many baseball minds look at for pitchers is K/BB ratio, and it is not pretty. His ratio currently sits at 1.46, and his next lowest total is 2.06, which he posted in his rookie year.
Another major issue is the contact batters are getting off Lackey's pitches. For his career, he usually induces around 44% ground balls. However, so far in 2011, he is getting the ball on the ground just 36% of the time. Predictably, his line drive percentage is also high, currently at 22%. Since 2006, that rate has been hovering in the high teens. When a guy's ground pall percentage is falling and line drive percentage is rising, it is a pretty safe bet his numbers will get vastly worse. Sure enough, the same is true for Mr. Lackey.
I know Lackey may or may not be going through some personal issues, and that may be the reason for his putrid performance this year. While I feel for what he is going through, if he is going to take the mound, he is open to criticism. If it is truly affecting him this much, then he needs to do the team a favor and sit himself out for a while. If not, he needs to be moved from the rotation. I realize this will never happen, but in a perfect world, Miller will get another start in place of Lackey, and Wakefield will stay in the rotation. I never thought I would say that, as I have not been the biggest fan of the knuckle baller the last couple of years, but it seems to be the best move the team could make. However, we all know Francona's tendency to stay loyal to his big-money veterans (looking at you, JD), so this is unlikely to happen. Thankfully, the offense is clicking enough that they may be able to endure a few more clunkers from Lackey.