Exit Interview: John Lackey

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.  Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: John Lackey

Season stats: 13-10, 2.77 ERA, 33 games, 218 IP, 211 H, 21 HR, 53 BB, 175 K, 1.211 WHIP, 3.57 FIP, 5.7 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 9, Goat 3

Overall grade: A

Positives: Had his most wins for one team since 2010….struck out three times as many folks as he walked….limited right-handers to a .620 OPS….was amazing at Busch, posting a 9-4 record and a 1.93 ERA….was fairly consistent throughout the year, as many stats don’t show significant change from one half to another….was very strong in May, with hitters having a line of .216/.288/.281….was 13-2 when he got at least three runs scored for him….the first batter he faced only hit .129/.182/.161….batters hit just .226 against him with two outs in an inning and just .191 with two outs and runners in scoring position.

Negatives: Was 4-6 with a 3.82 ERA away from Busch, which may have meant the park played a large part in his success….started off the season rough, putting up a 4.21 ERA in April….was 0-8 when he received two or less runs of support….hitters in the leadoff spot hit .340 with an .841 OPS….batters also touched him at a .329 clip on his first pitch….interestingly, folks actually did better (.372, with an .891 OPS) when they were down 0-1….to lead off an inning, hitters hit .270/.303/.374, which mean a number of leadoff batters reaching, even if they stopped at first.

Overview: Even if you don’t take into account that Lackey was pitching for the league minimum (before the Cardinals decided to toss in some performance incentive bonuses), Lackey was a huge contributor to this team.  Factor in the salary and the struggles Allen Craig and Joe Kelly (at least in the first half) had in Boston, and this is one of the most astounding deals that John Mozeliak has ever put together.  With Adam Wainwright down, this team needed that rock in the rotation and they got it from Lackey.  He was consistently strong, only giving up four or more runs four times during the season, twice in April and once in Colorado.  He gave up a total of eight runs in six starts against Chicago and Pittsburgh combined and did well enough to not only be the Game 1 starter in the playoffs, but convince Matheny to bring him back on short rest for Game 4.  That decision didn’t work out as planned (which was not surprising to many of us) but the fact that it could be even considered and argued to be a good thing is completely due to Lackey’s work this season.

Outlook: Lackey’s a free agent this year and has been extended the $15.8 million qualifying offer by the club.  Jon Doble is of the opinion that Lackey  might accept it, which would not be the worst thing.  It’s unlikely he’ll be as strong as he was last year, but he can still give $16 million of value, or at least get close.  That would require some juggling in the rotation, as it’s already full without Lackey, but there’s no doubt Mo could make something work.  However, I’m on record saying the QO won’t really impact Lackey that much and there are folks out there willing to give him a two or three year deal, so he’d be unlikely to accept just the one year offer.  No player has ever accepted the QO and, given the prospects for Lackey in the free agent realm, I don’t think he’ll be the first.  That said, might we have to deal with him as part of the Cubs next season?  You can’t rule that out, but that’s when you hope regression kicks in.

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