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Lackey’s Night – Pitch By Pitch

06.30.10 at 8:57 am ET
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My Monday post concerned John Lackey’s season so far and included information from Fangraphs showing which of Lackey’s pitches have been most and least effective.  Generally, his fastball has been right around league average over the last three years and his curve, which was well above average for several seasons, has shown signs of deteriorating (although perhaps showing signs of rebounding with a strong June).

So let’s look at Lackey’s strong start on Tuesday against the Rays from a pitch-by-pitch standpoint and see what we see.  I threw together a VERY rudimentary scoring system so we can grade the outcome of (almost) every pitch.  What I’m trying to simulate is the change in expected runs either through hits, outs, or a change in the count on the batter.  So every pitch is assigned a positive value if it helped Lackey escape the inning (strikes and outs) or a negative value if it helped get him in trouble (balls, hits, or walks).  The only pitches that do not get graded (and do not show up below) are two-strike foul balls, which do not change the count.

Oh, and MLB.com classified almost all of Lackey’s fastballs as “cutters”, but looking at his history of less than 1% cutters in his career, I’m pretty sure that those will be corrected to “fastballs” (and that’s what I called them here).

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Key / Scoring System:

4 = HR =  minus 8 points
3 = 3B =  minus 7 points
2 = 2B =  minus 5 points
1 = 1B =  minus 3 points
W = Walk or HBP = minus 2 points
B = Ball = minus 1 point
S = Strike = plus 1 point
O = Out = plus 2 points

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1st Inning:

Fastball – BOBSBS1SSBSBSSB (0)
Curveball – BOBW (-2)
Slider -
Change – O (+2)

An uneven inning for Lackey saw two full counts, a single (apparently Crawford’s 1000th consecutive hit off Lackey), an erroneous pickoff throw, and a walk.  But he escaped.  Wonder how the rest of the game would have gone had Tampa taken advantage there?

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2nd Inning:

Fastball – OSBOSBO (+6)
Curveball – SB (0)
Slider – 1 (-3)
Change -

Four short AB’s with one single (on his only slider) added in.

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3rd Inning:

Fastball – BSSOSSSBOBBBSO (+7)
Curveball – BS2 (-5)
Slider -
Change – B (-1)

Four AB’s again, but these four were much longer, which can be expected facing the top of the order.  Crawford’s double was the only blemish.  Note how he’s leaned on his fastball for 7 of the 9 outs (+13) and 2 of the 3 hits have come off his other pitches (-9).

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4th Inning:

Fastball – SSSBBBS (+1)
Curveball – BSOO1SSO (+5)
Slider -
Change – 1 (-3)

Two singles in the 4th (remember how he’s struggled against 7-8-9 hitters this year?) led to extra pitches, and turned over the lineup for the 5th, but Lackey turned to his curveball more to escape the jam.

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5th Inning:

Fastball – BOSSOO (+7)
Curveball – SB (0)
Slider -
Change – S (+1)

Three up and three down against the top of the order on just 9 pitches might have bought him an extra inning down the road.

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6th Inning:

Fastball – BBSBWSSBSO (0)
Curveball – OSBBSOB (+3)
Slider -
Change -

Lackey labored through a walk and some long AB’s, probably guaranteeing that the 7th inning would be it.

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7th Inning:

Fastball – BSOOS1S11 (-3)
Curveball – BB (-2)
Slider – B (-1)
Change – B (-1)

Lackey breezed through the 8-9 hitters, then gave up three straight singles and his first run. Luckily, Crawford’s baserunning gaffe ended the frame on the 3rd hit or things could have gotten interesting.

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Tale of the Tape:

Fastball – +18 on 68 fastballs
Curveball – -1 on 28 curveballs
Slider – -4 on 2 sliders
Changeup – -2 on 5 changeups

At the end of the day, Lackey got consistently good results with his fastball last night.  And he must’ve known that it was sharp as he threw it on 66% of the pitches that “counted”, above his 59.6% fastball usage for the season to date.

Was Tuesday the start of a big second half for Lackey?  We’ll see.

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