Monday, March 15, 2010

Heavy Lifting on John Lackey

I took it a little personally last week when said that I was not doing any "heavy lifting," instead writing about JD Drew's OPS or performance-enhancing drugs, two things that are pretty salient in today's environment. Then my co-author proclaims his entire post about grittiness and big-game-ness to be "heavy lifting."

In response to that, I decided to dive a little deeper into the numbers. And while many of the aggregate stats between Josh Beckett and John Lackey are very similar, they are reasonably different pitchers.

A few of the things I learned tonight:
>Lackey is a first-half pitcher. He has historically put together a trend of some clustered stinkers in the second half of the year.
>Lackey doesn't get taken deep too often.
>Lackey gives up a lot of singles. Doug Mirabelli would probably call him a "pussy singles pitcher." But judging by his aggregate ERA, it would lead me to believe that these singles he gives up don't really come in bunches. It is not uncommon for John Lackey to give up eight, nine, ten hits in a game without pitching especially badly. It's also not uncommon historically for Scioscia to leave Lackey in a game for too long and see him surrender 10+ hits. So maybe Lackey was wrong about the infamous game when he flipped out after being yanked.

But what I'm trying to say about the singles, is that if you dig deep into the stats, you don't see a lot of home runs surrendered by Lackey. You don't really see too many doubles either, and you see a lot of both given up by Beckett (which, granted, could be a function of the ballpark he's pitching in). Even if you take 2006 out of the equation, I can probably speak for all of us by saying that if Beckett's going to give up one home run in a game, he'll give up three or four.

>It's surprising to see the number of games over the past several years where Lackey's gone pretty deep into the game. It seems like the way Scioscia's managed him as a pitcher is that he's always given Lackey the opportunity to "wait for seven," which is what Francona does with inferior starters when it's already evident that they don't have it that day. Francona lets them get shelled and doesn't pull them until they've given up seven runs. Lackey will make this a lot more tolerable, because even when Scioscia's waiting for seven, Lackey can work his way out of jams and prevent the big inning. On the other side of the spectrum, when Beckett has a bad outing, it's all about the big inning--moreso than for any other pitcher since John Burkett.

>A big reason for this is Lackey's ability to get the double play. Over the past three years, Beckett has induced 14, 9, and 12 double plays. Lackey has induced 17, 21 and 23. Certainly a product of all the singles he gives up, but it's a good indicator that the singles are not creating havoc.

>We can all say with relative certainty that we'll never see anything out of Lackey as bad as what Beckett brought to the table in 2006. We cannot say that with 100% certainty about Beckett. Beckett's 2006 brought 74 walks, 10 HBPs, 11 wild pitches, and 36 home runs (although Lackey has hit a lot of batters and has thrown a lot of wild pitches over his years). On the other side of the coin, we aren't going to see Lackey blow 170 batters away like Beckett can, even in a lackluster year. So really what the numbers are telling us is what we already knew: that while Beckett can be more volatile and combustible in both directions (positive and negative), Lackey's statistically on a more even keel. While Red Sox fans might lose sleep over Josh Beckett (but probably not, especially if he's the third-best starter in the rotation), they will not be losing sleep over John Lackey.


Ross Kaplan said...

I just wish Pat would do his job so I could have something to comment on. Unfortunately I do not get NESN here in the BK so my only Red Sox Spring Training updates come from this blog and the MLB Network. And DV, ignore Featherstain, you're not doing the heavy lifting, you're doing the ONLY lifting.

Anonymous said...

"you're not doing the heavy lifting, you're doing the ONLY lifting"

hahahahahahaha. That's hilarious.

DV- agreed that Lackey and Beckett bring a different overall dynamic even though their overall career numbers might be somewhat similar. Lackey is more consistent, Beckett is the guy you'd probably rather have pitching a big a game (or is he?). Of course, that assumes the Red Sox will have any big games this year.


the gm at work said...

To be completely fair, I didn't post during my last spring break either. We went from March 23 to April 1, 2007 without a post.


I think the whole single/double play thing is especially interesting knowing what the Red Sox expect out of their infield defense. Not sure if I really completely buy it, but the guy could really thrive here.

There will be no big games this year.

PF said...

Gentlemen -

A few points:

- I go away for a few days where I won't be on a computer all day and I get totally piled on back to back days. Good job outta you guys, very impressive work and I laughed out loud on multiple ocassions.

- In case it wasn't completely apparent, I was kidding with dv about the heavy lifting. It's been 60/40 for quite some time and since I get needled about that all the time I figured I'd dish some of it back.

- I was also kidding about dv writing about PED's and jd drew's ops too much. However I do enjoy posts like this because it's likey to educate me about the red sox, and that is a big bonus of this site for me. It's a major source of information about boston's baseball team. Dv writes an interesting post, and then gunn, bandi, jason, jflu, etc. are going to make comments and start a conversation that will even further enlighten me. This isn't as likely to happen with topics we've discussed more frequently. I'm not saying this is a reason not to write those posts, just a personal preference thing

- gunn, bandi, ross, and danno are all giant stains.

the gm at work said...


We all listen to Boston sports talk radio. Making fun of people for taking vacations is something hardwired in our brains. Congratulations on waking up before 12 today.

Another thing about Lackey is about how he's able to get all these double plays and is able to get out of all of these innings despite not really being a ground-ball pitcher. His GB/FB ratio for his career is 0.78, and he hasn't really strayed from that ever. Just something interesting. It's weird how every batter turns into Number Two against him and hits lazy fly balls to left field.

jason said...

did ortiz's outing yesterday make things better?

the gm at work said...


As I said in the comments section yesterday, that is good news. It is promising to know that the guy can actually hit live pitching.