Cubs Fans: Did You Watch John Lackey Last Night?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IOctober 9, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Starting pitcher John Lackey #41 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox during Game One of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Angel Stadium on October 8, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Last night the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Boston Red Sox to begin their Divisional Series in California.

Starting the game for the Angels was their ace, John Lackey, who happens to be a free agent in five weeks. He threw 7.1 scoreless innings, allowing only four hits and walking one while striking out four. He threw 113 pitches in the victory.

Lackey ended the season 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA despite missing time because of injury. He's been at the front of a competitive Angels rotation for most of this decade, and would look fabulous in the Cubs' pinstripes next year.

At just 31 years old, Lackey is 102-71 in his career, all with the Angels. His best season came in 2007, when he went 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA in 224 innings. He has not thrown more than 177 innings in either of the last two years because of injuries, though.

Consider the Cubs' in-house option this winter, Rich Harden. He's more of a strikeout pitcher than Lackey, which makes him more of the sexy option for GM Jim Hendry. But his resume is more consistently littered with missed starts, and his career won-loss record isn't as strong.

If the Cubs are going to spend $10 million per season on a starting pitcher this winter, which appears to be what Harden wants, why not add someone who's started, and won, a Game One in his life?

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Indeed, Lackey has appeared in 12 playoff games in his career (10 starts) and has a 3-3 record with a 3.02 ERA. Placing someone with his experience second or third in a Cubs rotation with Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly would give the Cubs a solid rotation, also taking pressure off Ryan Dempster.

To expect Dempster to duplicate what he did in 2008, or to ask Randy Wells to repeat his 2009, would be naive. But, thanks to Hendry's naivete, Dempster will be in Chicago making an ace's salary for the next couple years. Wells is still under a rookie contract, but he feels more like lightning in a bottle than the second coming of Greg Maddux (or even Jon Lieber).

Harden's three years younger than Lackey, but at 28 years old has won only 50 of 79 career decisions, and has a 4.09 career ERA.

The numbers Harden put up after the All Star Break are undeniable. He struck out 88 in only 67 innings, and held opposing batters to a .189 batting average. But looking beyond those sexy statistics, Harden averaged under six innings per start and only won four of seven decisions after the break.

Lackey, on the other hand, averaged nearly seven innings per start after the break, winning seven of 11 decisions while holding opponents to .239 batting average. He only struck out 78, but threw 103 innings after the break; Harden only threw 141 all year.

Lackey would be a great fit on a Cubs team that stands to potentially lose Lilly and Derrek Lee to free agency after 2010, and could lose Aramis Ramirez as well if he refuses his player option.

Reality is that 2010 is a go-for-broke season for the Cubs, and Lackey's the perfect pitcher to make that run for glory. After all, it's only been 102 years...why not bring in a winner and change history?


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