Myth: John Lackey’s 2011 is made worse by the fact that he also pitched poorly in 2010.
See, even that isn’t true. From June on (his last 147.2 IP):
He sucked during the first two months, but after that he was actually (somewhat quietly) a very good pitcher (those rates are nearly identical to his 2009 season, except his FIP was higher then). This year you’d be hard-pressed to find a single peripheral that hasn’t nosedived.
What’s weird, though, is that his peripherals haven’t nosedived at all compared to the same point last year–but the results have. In almost every specific category, his performance has been eerily similar to his first 11 starts of 2010. He’s been virtually the same pitcher as he was up to this point in 2010, except his ERA: 4.95 / 7.36. How can you be almost identical in nearly every specific aspect of performance over two 60+ inning stretches, and yet give up half again as many runs in one stretch as the other?
His strand rate the first two months of last year was around 73%. This year it was almost 10% lower. A huge part of that ERA discrepancy has resulted from him inability to induce LOB. His FIP and xFIP are both right around 5.00 this year. He’s been bad AND he’s doing a bad/unlucky job of allowing hits/walks/HBP in poor situations.
He had a 4.22 ERA from June on. More like “he sucked the first two months and was mediocre from then onward.” While we would take that now, he’s never been the guy they were hoping to get.
Stats like FIP and K/BB are more predictive on a pitcher’s future performance than ERA. He was not mediocre from June onward last year, he was a well above-average pitcher for ~70% of the season last year. In fact, the only pitcher with a lower FIP than him after 6/1 last year was Lester, and it wasn’t by a whole lot.
None of this absolves him of his current, 2011 suck (which is fully justified given his #’s) but it’s not like we’ve gotten 280 IP of garbage from Lackey since we signed him.