John Lackey Epitomizes Flawed Win-Loss Statistic, Should Be Red Sox’ No. 1 Option Down Home Stretch


john lackeyJohn Lackey has the lowest ERA of any Red Sox starter.

He has more quality starts than any of his rotation mates.

His 1.17 WHIP is surpassed only by newcomer Jake Peavy.

A fan of advanced metrics? Lackey’s 3.0 WAR is tops among all Boston pitchers.

He also leads the team in losses.

The veteran right-hander fell victim to yet another hard-luck defeat in Monday’s Labor Day matinee against the Tigers, working 7 1/3 strong innings — six of them scoreless — but receiving exactly zero run support.

This has become an unfortunate trend for Lackey this season. In fact, the Red Sox — the second-highest-scoring team in baseball — seem to save their offensive off nights for when the big Texan is on the mound. Boston has been shut out 11 times this year, and six of them have come in Lackey starts. It’s maddening, really.

Take Monday, for example. The Red Sox put runners on in every inning but the third, put men in scoring position on five occasions and put a man on third four times. Yet, they were still unable to push cross even a single run. (Old friend Jose Iglesias had something to do with that, helping the Tigers turn three rally-killing double plays.)

It’s baffling that the Red Sox’ high-powered offense continues to sputter with Lackey on the hill, providing him with 15 runs total in the 12 games he’s lost this year. But that should not overshadow the fact that, since Clay Buchholz went down in early June, Lackey has been the team’s best starting arm.

No other Red Sox pitcher has displayed the ability to pitch deep into games on a consistent basis. No matter the opponent, Lackey is almost guaranteed to work at least into the seventh inning. He’s done so in each of his last 15 starts. Felix Doubront, by comparison, hasn’t made it out of the fifth in four of his last eight outings. Lackey has allowed five or more earned runs in an outing just twice this season. Jon Lester, considered the staff’s ace while Buchholz is on the shelf, and Ryan Dempster have done so seven and five times, respectively.

While the Red Sox currently sit in good standing in the American League East, five games ahead of second-place Tampa Bay, they are far from a lock to clinch a playoff bid — as anyone who has watched this team in recent years will surely tell you — especially with the rigorous September schedule that awaits. But if the team’s record holds, John Farrell should seriously consider giving Lackey the nod in a series opener.

It’s time for Boston fans to forget about the Lackey of old. Forget about the 2011 debacle. Forget about the season lost to Tommy John surgery. Right now, John Lackey is playing some of the best baseball of his career. It’s about time people took notice.

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