Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - John Lackey

2010: 14-11, 33 starts, 215 IP, 4.40 ERA, 72 BB, 156 SO
2011 projection: 13-12, 33 starts, 227 IP, 3.89 ERA
2011: 12-12, 28 starts, 160 IP, 6.41 ERA, 56 BB, 108 SO
2012: [No stats; missed entire year recovering from Tommy John surgery]
2013 projection: 12-12, 33 starts, 209 IP, 4.04 ERA, 59 BB, 163 SO

There's no use pretending that John Lackey is a popular figure around here, because the inaccuracy of that notion would be staggering. Lackey is disliked for his role in the Beer and Chicken fiasco of 2011, for his surly refusal to own up the the shenanigans, and for the impression that he might have known he was eventually headed for the surgery table before he signed the 5 year, $82.5 million dollar contract with the Red Sox in the 2009-2010 offseason.

But there are some redeeming qualities about John Lackey, and I would like to point them out to you this morning, because I really think that Lackey will be an important and valuable piece in the 2013 Red Sox rotation. For starters, Lackey is a legitimate innings-eater: the fewest innings he's pitched in a season since coming up to the majors for good is 160 - and that was 2011, when he would end the year with elbow surgery. I have no trouble believing that Lackey can pitch over 200 innings this year, after being surgically repaired and having the 2012 season to get healthy.

Not coincidentally, 2011 was also the only year in his decade-long career that Lackey's SO/BB ratio was below 2 (1.93). For reference, Curt Schilling had three such years in his own career, Randy Johnson had six, and even Hall of Famer Bob Gibson had five. So what's the point? Just that Lackey strikes out a LOT more batters than he walks - and that is definitely a good thing.

In my opinion, John Lackey's single biggest flaw is that he wears his emotions on his sleeve. This tendency is fine, and even somewhat endearing, when that emotion is something like triumph, or pride, or excitement, but the feeling we usually see Lackey expressing on the mound is disgust. He gets disgusted when his teammates botch a defensive play behind him, and disgusted when the call doesn't go his way: both rational and understandable feelings, but when the fans in the nosebleed seat can see your anger, it's time to tone it down.

I really think that Lackey can (and will) redeem himself to Red Sox fans this season. For one thing, he'll be the only big, surly, Texan starter in the clubhouse since Josh Beckett was shipped off to LA. But the most important thing is that he should finally be 100% healthy (which is a real achievement for the Red Sox in recent years), and he should be able to perform up to his considerable potential.

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