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Lackey’s reputation precedes him as a very durable pitcher, capable of working late into games, regardless of his pitch count. Although you won’t mistake him for Roy Halladay, Lackey is a workhorse.
He’s thrown over 200 innings six times in his career thus far, and he has thrown at least 160 innings every year since his rookie season in 2002.
Much of Lackey’s value rests in his ability to eat innings. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he has shown no signs of regressing in this area. Lackey tossed an impressive 375 innings in 2010 and 2011 for Boston.
Jon Lester is the only member of the Red Sox staff who completed more innings of work over that time period.
Endurance aside, a healthy John Lackey can be an effective pitcher.
In his first year with the Red Sox, Lackey saw his ERA jump, his walk rate increase and his strikeout rate decrease. Furthermore, his 4.40 ERA was a less-than-ideal performance from a player making $16 million per year.
However, upon closer inspection, Lackey was not all that bad. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in 2010 was a very solid 3.85, and his WAR checked in at 4.1, greater than that of Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett in the same year.
Furthermore, in Lackey’s disastrous 2011 season, where he posted a 6.41 ERA, his FIP was much lower at 4.71.
This statistic suggests that Lackey’s poor performance was as much the result of defensive shortcomings as it was his own pitching.
This is interesting, because as most Red Sox fans know, Lackey has a nasty habit of flailing his arms around in annoyance whenever a defender makes on error while he is on the mound. His low FIP suggests that his anger may not be so unwarranted.