On Aug. 23, 2011, John Lackey received 11 runs of support while earning a win that improved his season record to 12-9. Exactly two years later, Lackey didn’t receive a single run while suffering a loss that dropped his record to 8-11.
That should tell you all that you need to know about a pitcher’s win-loss record and how misleading the stat can be. Lackey is a remarkably better pitcher now than he was in 2011. Unfortunately for the right-hander, he’s also a lot unluckier when it comes to getting backed up by the Red Sox’ offense.
Lackey tossed eight excellent innings against the Dodgers on Friday, but it once again wasn’t enough. He made one mistake to Hanley Ramirez in the fourth inning, and the Dodgers shortstop drilled it over the center field fence to give Los Angeles a 2-0 lead that it would eventually turn into a win. Lackey’s eight-inning effort — during which he surrendered just three hits, struck out six and didn’t walk anyone — was spoiled by the Red Sox’ inability to solve Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco.
Given the career revival that Lackey has experienced this season, it’s hard to say that the veteran flat-out can’t catch a break. But Lackey is undoubtedly the Red Sox’ hard-luck loser of 2013.
“Typically, there’s that one starter in the rotation that’s going to fall victim of maybe some less run support than others. He’s been the guy,” manager John Farrell said following Friday’s loss. “I think he’s been on the mound on half the times we’ve been shut out this season. We talked about this not long ago. We feel like he’s pitched better than the numbers might indicate, certainly the win-loss [record]. But you know what? That’s the way this game goes.”
Lackey has just one win in seven starts since the All-Star break, and the Red Sox’ lack of run support is a big reason why. Lackey did have a couple of mediocre starts out of the break, but he’s been much better than his 1-5 record in that span indicates and he’s definitely been much better than his 8-11 overall record indicates.
The Red Sox have averaged just 2.29 runs in the seven second-half games that Lackey has started. They’ve now been shut out in three of those games after being blanked by the Dodgers on Friday. The Red Sox have provided 65 runs of support in Lackey’s 147 2/3 innings this season, which equates to a 3.96 run-suppport average. That’s hands-down the lowest mark among Red Sox starters, and it’s more than a full run fewer than the next-lowest mark (5.15, Felix Doubront).
The Red Sox are now 10-13 in games that Lackey starts, even though he’s been arguably their most consistent starter all season. Lackey leads the Sox with 16 quality starts, and he’s given up three earned runs or fewer in 18 of his 23 starts this season. On Friday, he accomplished both feats against a red-hot Dodgers team that boasts one of baseball’s most dangerous lineups.
“We feel like every starter that goes to the mound is going to pitch well,” Farrell said. “[The Dodgers] are playing exceptionally well. They’re getting timely hits. They’ve pitched exceptionally well. Not only their rotation, but their bullpen has been very strong. You don’t go in thinking that you’re not going to hold a team down and John did that tonight.”
On Aug. 23, 2011, Lackey was an awful pitcher who was fortunate enough to have a winning record despite a 5.98 ERA. Two years later, the Dodgers served Lackey another reminder that frustration comes in a variety of ways when you’re talking about the game of baseball.