John Lackey's 2011 Season and Its Place in History

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John Lackey's 2011 Season and Its Place in History
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On September 19th, the Boston Red Sox started John Lackey in the second game of their doubleheader with the Baltimore Orioles. Lackey stayed true to his form this season, going 4.1 innings giving up eight runs on 11 hits and two walks.

That’s an ERA of 16.6 and a 2.54 WHIP. That brings Lackey's numbers for the season to 12-12 with a 6.49 ERA and 1.63 WHIP. In fact, his ERA is 1.15 runs above Bronson Arroyo’s, who has the second-worst ERA in all the Majors.

Now let’s take it a step further. How does Lackey’s 2011 season rank among the all-time worst in ERA for starters? Let’s see what the numbers say.

(Sorted by ERA and WHIP rank in parentheses)

Rank Name Year Team Record ERA WHIP IP GS
1 Les Sweetland 1930 PHI 7-15 7.71 1.982 167 25
2 Jim Deshaies 1994 MIN 6-12 7.39 1.719 130.1 25
3 Jack Knott 1936 SLB 9-17 7.29 1.894 192.2 23
4 Jose Lima 2005 KC 5-16 6.99 1.660 168.2 32
5 LaTroy Hawkins 1999 MIN 10-14 6.66 1.709 174.1 33
6 Greg Harris 1994 COL 3-12 6.65 1.585 130 19
7 Jose Lima 2000 HOU 7-16 6.65 1.625 196.1 33
8 Chubby Dean 1940 PHA 6-13 6.61 1.776 159.1 19
9 Darryl Kile 1999 COL 8-13 6.61 1.752 190.2 32
10 Nels Potter 1939 PHA 8-12 6.60 1.762 196.1 25
11 Ernie Wingard 1927 SLB 2-13 6.56 1.868 156.1 17
12 George Caster 1940 PHA 4-19 6.56 1.699 178.1 24
13 John Lackey 2011 BOS 12-12 6.49 1.630 154 27
14 Terry Mulholland 1994 NYY 6-7 6.49 1.550 120.2 19
15 Eric Milton 2005 CIN 8-15 6.47 1.551 186.1 34
16 Dave Fleming 1994 SEA 7-11 6.46 1.855 117 23
17 Jimmy Ring 1928 PHI 4-17 6.44 1.835 176 25
18 Joel Pineiro 2006 SEA 8-13 6.36 1.648 165.2 25
19 Jaime Navarro 1998 CHW 8-16 6.36 1.737 172.2 27
20 Nate Robertson 2008 DET 7-11 6.35 1.660 168.2 28
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Will starting John Lackey this season cost the Red Sox the Playoffs?

(All pitchers had to have qualified for the ERA title in Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index)

If the season ended today, Lackey’s ERA would be the 13th highest in MLB history among starters. With another start like he had against the Orioles, he could shoot up above LaTroy Hawkins and take fifth place.

It’s amazing to think that the Red Sox would keep sending him out on the hill. One could argue that the injuries to Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett forced the Red Sox to start Lackey, but he has been historically bad this year.

In August, he posted 4.61 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP, and that was his best month in terms of ERA. In terms of WHIP, his best month was June, when he posted a 1.28 WHIP with a 5.28 ERA.

It is almost a complete certainty that when John Lackey pitches, you need to give him at least 5 runs of support for the team to win. The Red Sox would have been better off promoting guys from AAA.

At least the Red Sox would have had the chance to find someone who can produce at a respectable level. And now with Boston's lead in the AL Wild Card race shrinking, they have only one starter they can trust, Jon Lester, and they are praying that Beckett stays healthy.

This means that the only reason to continue start Lackey is to justify the contract the Rex Sox gave him.

And if they start him because they have invested $82.5 million in him, then they risk not making the playoffs just for the sake of attempting to justify a bad contract.

This is a blog post from 90% is Half Statistical. To view the other posts of this blog go to http://ninetypercentishalfstatistical.mlblogs.com/

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