Here is a frightening statistic that relates to the human disaster that is John Lackey. Since 2000, “63″ is the worst “ERA+” of any qualifying starter in the AL. That horror show authored by Jose Lima in 2005. Mind you, “100” is indexed to an average league pitcher. Well, this morning, John Lackey’s ERA+ weighs in at 54, which is grotesquely lite ….. even for a junior flyweight who just made it through 39 days of Survivor.
Lackey’s three-length lead in this distasteful category can be partially explained by the fact that most pitchers, when they are experiencing horrible seasons, are cutoff before they can amass enough innings to “qualify.” So guys like Dontrelle Willis, who in 2008 couldn’t find home plate much better than John Wall, doesn’t’ pop up when one screens for horrifying ERA+ totals.
The logic here is quite clear. At some point, teams don’t let their guys go out there to be killed every fifth day. True, the Royals and Tigers let helpless guys like Jose Lima and Nate Robertson take the ball often enough to qualify for dubious year-end distinctions, but that says more about those club’s poor options than it does about their masochistic tendencies.
The problem that the Red Sox now face is Big John is wandering aimlessly in the desert with no map and no clue where the nearest help lies. So should the Sox give him a chance to stumble onto a highway? Or should they show mercy and throw in the towel, at least for the time being?
Ordinarily, teams have chosen door number two when faced with these decisions. And that is why you don’t see many final ERA totals in the same league as Lima and Robertson. But most teams aren’t facing this situation with a guy who they will owe $46M at season’s end.
Obviously, it is in the Sox best interest to “fix” the problem, or at least mitigate it, as they are deep into Lackey and probably can’t write him off just yet. But they also can’t keep sending him out there to get hammered as he did yesterday. Giving up four runs over six innings is one thing. And at this point, that would be passable. But Lackey is all too frequently giving up seven runs in less than five innings and that simply can’t be tolerated.
So what the hell should the Sox do about this? I mean, he is right at the point where the bartender should cut him off. And if the Sox owed something like 15M, I am sure he would be sent on his way. But they don’t owe him 15M. They owe him north of 50M, and that makes this situation a real bitch.
If it were up to me, Lackey is now out of lives so if he gets bombed by the Birds on Saturday or in his first start coming out of the break, we are sitting down for this conversation. He either accepts a trip to the DL that comes with a FULL three week rehab stint to tune things up or he agrees to surgery that cleans up his elbow. If he objects, he will become the Red Sox long man in the bullpen. Sorry John, but the club simply has no other choice if you continue down the current path.
Truthfully, I am okay with any of these options but I fear the Sox will go with option D which is to keep serving Lackey even though they know he is shitfaced. They may not serve him all summer but this club prides itself on patience so I expect them to give Lackey opportunities that other clubs would not.
Best case, Lackey perks up and gives the Sox some passable outings. In that event, the Sox might be able to recover 15-20M of the 45M that they will owe Lackey after the season. But worst case ….. look out Jose Lima, you might have some company at the bottom of the Millennium’s ERA+ list.