The Red Sox are Sorely Lack(ey)ing

John Lackey is just the latest established pitcher to join the Red Sox to see some of his numbers diminish (in a bad way) and other numbers rise (in a bad way). The Sox better hope that his performance this season was reflective of the loss of key personnel surrounding him, but I find the argument specious.

When you compare Lackey’s average performance over his last five seasons with the Angels and this current season with the Red Sox, you can see that his performance has been every bit painful to the Sox as the numerous injuries they incurred.

Lackey W-L PCT GS CG IP H R ER ERA WHIP
2005-09 14-8 .636 30 2 198 194 85 77 3.49 1.262
2010 12-10 .545 29 0 190 211 101 94 4.45 1.458

Let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers.

Lackey BB SO H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB BAA OPS QS%
2005-09 56 167 8.8 0.8 2.6 7.6 2.97 .256 .698 65%
2010 66 134 10.0 0.8 3.1 6.3 2.03 .283 .776 62%

Things don’t improve as we go one layer deeper.

Lackey Pit/PA Str% S/Str 1st% SB SB% XBH% BAbip vRH vLH
2005-09 3.73 65% 15% 64% 13 73% 7.1% .305 .246 .245
2010 3.83 63% 12% 64% 24 71% 8.8% .325 .254 .307

Glossary:

Pit/PA – Pitches per Plate Appearance

Str% – Strike percentage

S/Str – Strikes swinging percentage (without contact)

1st% – First pitch strike percentage

SB – Stolen Bases

SB% – Stolen Base percentage

XBH% – Extra-base hit percentage – percentage of all Plate Appearances

BAbip – Batting average for balls in play

vRH – Right-handed Lackey vs. Right-handed hitters

vLH – Right-handed Lackey vs. Left-handed hitters

Are these numbers a surprise?

Not really and here’s why. Lackey is not an ace, but really a great number three starter, a pretty good number two against weaker teams. In his career, Lackey has done well in his career against teams with records under .500, going 59-32, an ERA of 3.82, a WHIP of 1.284, and holding them to a .262 batting average. Against winning teams, however, his record is a more modest 55-49, an ERA of 3.95, a WHIP of 1.358, and his batting average against is .267.

Those numbers reflect his entire career (and this season), which consists primarily of the weaker AL West. When you look at those same numbers from this year you see the problem more distinctly.

In 2010, Lackey against teams with records under .500, is 6-3, an ERA of 3.64, a WHIP of 1.310, and holding them to a .263 batting average. Against winning teams, his record is 6-7, with an ERA of 5.09, a WHIP of 1.575, and his batting average against is .298. Only showing that in the games that you look to a pitcher to step up his game, Lackey steps down.

But, I ask is again, is this really a surprise?

Once again, I respond, no not really and here’s why and here is something you can help me with – There is no question that the Red Sox have developed outstanding pitchers, but I can’t find an established pitcher, who the Sox have acquired over the last six years, who has done equal or better than he did with his prior ballclub. Can you?

Before you say, Josh Beckett, who is as close as you are going to get, while I won’t break down all of the numbers, here are the basics:

In 106 starts with a significantly less successful Florida Marlins team, Beckett was 41-34 (.547) with a 3.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.235. With the Sox, not surprisingly Beckett has a better W-L record going 69-38 (.645), but his ERA is 4.26 with a WHIP that is exactly the same, 1.235. By the way, his record against the Yankees is 9-7 with a 6.23 ERA.

While you are looking at pitchers who the Sox have acquired, don’t neglect the bullpen including Ramon Ramirez who in 44 games this season with the Sox had a 4.46 ERA and since he has joined the Giants has pitched in 19 games with a 0.92 ERA. Ramirez had .222 batting average against with KC before being acquired by the Sox, a .239 with Boston, and has a .178 in San Francisco.

The bottom line is that the Sox either better keep developing pitchers, do a better job in judging prospective pitching talent, or do a better job in working with pitchers once they have joined the team. Any one of the three will keep them competitive in the AL East which next year will include competition from the rapidly improved Jays and Orioles. But if it doesn’t happen, the Sox better find some big pieces to replace Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez if they depart, because they will need the bats.