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John Lackey’s home/road splits in 2010

Posted by Andy on August 30, 2010

When the Red Sox signed John Lackey as a free agent, I was among many folks who criticized the move, citing Lackey's historical performance in Fenway Park. His numbers so far this year among his career worst, in particular his 95 ERA+. Are his difficulties this year due to Fenway Park? Let's investigate.

Let's start right away with Lackey's home/road splits so far this season:

Home 14 391 359 49 106 28 2 7 11 5 26 66 2.54 .295 .349 .443 .792 159 .345 100 123
Away 13 380 336 46 95 20 2 9 13 5 38 55 1.45 .283 .355 .435 .790 146 .314 100 110
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/30/2010.
Home 9 3 .750 4.60 14 14 90.0 106 49 46 7 26 66 1.467 6.6 2.54
Away 3 5 .375 4.60 13 13 86.0 95 46 44 9 38 55 1.547 5.8 1.45
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/30/2010.

Interestingly, his ERA is identical in 14 home games and 13 away games. In fact, all of his meaningful numbers are very similar. OPS of .792 at home and .790 on the road is essentially identical.

The only number that's quite different are his wins and losses. Despite essentially identical performances from Lackey at home and on the road, his home record is 9-3 and his road record is 3-5. This is a truly great indicator of how little W-L record means for individual pitchers, especially without context.

Without looking in detail, however, I suspect these numbers show that Lackey has actually pitched much better at home. Fenway Park is a strong hitter's park (106 batting factor) and thus Lackey posting the same numbers there as he has elsewhere means he has pitched a lot better there. The Red Sox undoubtedly scored more runs in his home starts, leading to a better W-L record for Lackey.

So, I don't think it's fair to blame Fenway Park on Lackey's disappointing season.

Historically, Lackey has pitched slightly better at home than on the road. So this year, it would seem that he's just not as good as past years, regardless of which mound he's standing on. For what it's worth, his hits allowed and walks allowed are up, and his strikeouts are down.

15 Responses to “John Lackey’s home/road splits in 2010”

  1. Neil Says:

    No arguments with any of your conclusions, Andy. The significant differences are SO/BB and WHIP on the road compared to Fenway. Why does his pitch placement waver on the road? Why is the ERA identical? Is the defense turning a lot more double plays behind him away from the shadow of the Monster?

    Or in the inevitable logical loop.... do the Sox score more runs for him at home than on the road? They didn't exactly knock the cover off the ball in Tampa this past weekend.

  2. DavidRF Says:

    Lackey is right-handed. I thought traditionally, that Fenway was supposed to be tougher on lefties. Whitey Ford, Randy Johnson, Johan Santana, etc. Often specifically tough on Yankee lefties who are used to pitching in a park with a large left field.

    Was there something about Lackey's platoon splits that led people to believe he'd be more adversely affected than other RHP's?

  3. Andy Says:

    I think the fears were based just on his numbers pitching in Fenway Park. He was bad against the Red Sox overall but much worse in Fenway.

  4. Basmati Says:

    Look at his stats so far this year and compare with last year. His GS, IP and W-L are almost identical, but his H, BB and Runs are all up some way. Looks like the Angels made the right move letting him go (especially as they would have had to put up big money to keep him).

  5. Robert Says:

    Your overall take when the Red Sox signed Lackey was correct. He was heading for a regression. The mid-4.00 ERA at Fenway isn't surprising as that was expected based on past performance and as he moved from the more pitching-friendly Anaheim to an unkind homepark in Boston. It's more concerning that his road numbers have regressed, including his strikeout rate. Coming off some injured seasons and now almost 32, this contract can turn nasty pretty fast.

    The good news for the Sox is they do have two good young pitchers in Lester and Buchholz leading their rotation. The bad news is they have a lot of money and time still tied up in Lackey, Dice-K and Beckett. All three are on the downside and holding down 3/5th of the rotation. That's a negative in a division where they're going to have to compete with the young arms of the Rays, who already have five good young starters, and a likely major break-out stud in Hellickson back in AAA. This will allow them ot move one of their other starters, such as Shields, to fill another need in the starting nine. The Yankees are in better shape here, too, with only one out of their five pitching slots blocked in the form of the pitching mercurial AJ Burnett, who may end up being the Yankees #5 in short order. Sabathia is in top form; Pettitte has remained quite effective and will only sign year-to-year contracts, so age/blockage is not a concern; and Hughes has emerged as an effective and cheap rotation member, whose innings cap will be off in 2011. Down in the minors they also have the highest-rated AA rotation, which will give them additional arms, or flexibility to make trades. The Sox may have lost similar flexibility by signing someone like Lackey and adding him to the likes of Dice-K and Beckett.

  6. Gerry Says:

    It would be highly anachronistic to blame Fenway Park *on* John Lackey's disappointing season. I think the point of the essay is that it's not fair to blame Fenway Park *for* Lackey's disappointing season.

  7. Neil Says:

    Gerry, not sure what you're saying? Lackey has the same ERA at home and on road but different W-L numbers.

    Robert, your knowledge of Sox minor-league system is impressive. Not sure if I totally buy your analysis of Rays vs. Yankees vs. Sox future contract commitments. New York can buy their way out of any poor decisions or injury developments. Burnett is an enigma though! No wonder the Jays let him go. Ah, the allure of "good stuff".

  8. Gerry Says:

    Neil, Andy wrote, "I don't think it's fair to blame Fenway Park on Lackey's disappointing season." What I'm saying is that Fenway Park existed long before John Lackey's disappointing season, indeed, long before John Lackey, so it's not just unfair to blame Fenway on Lackey, it is chronologically ludicrous. Lackey had nothing to do with Fenway coming into existence, right? Andy's post was really about whether you can blame Lackey's season on Fenway, that is, whether you can blame Fenway for Lackey's season (and the answer seems to be, no, you can't).

    I'm making a syntactic, not a sabermetric, point.

  9. Brett Says:

    I love grammatical wars. Hilarity.

  10. Neil Says:

    Got it, Gerry... my bad. You were talking cause and effect, not reasons for the split. And so was Andy most likely.

    Brett, maybe we all take ourselves too seriously in here.

  11. Jason Rennie Says:

    ERA+ only accounts for league and home ballpark. Another factor is the teams Lackey pitched against. This year, the division opponents (NYY, TOR, TBR, BAL) have a run/game average of 4.72. Had he stayed with LAA, his division opponents (TEX, SEA, OAK) would have had a run/game average of 4.05. Is it any surprise that his ERA jumped .73 with the more difficult opponents?

  12. Robert Says:

    Neil @7, I think we're basically in agreement here. The Yankees have the resources to more easily absorb, ummm, let's just call them "errors." My point was, on the starting rotation side, the Yankees only have one of their five slots blocked by a pitcher, Burnett, who may become an increasing liability, yet who still has three years left on his contract. He was solid in '09, he has been bad this year. My guess is they will give him one more year, and if he doesn't step it back up they will move him to another team his last two seasons, eating at least half the cost. That's always the advantage the Yankees have, but even if they keep him and he drifts toward being their #5, they have a lot of quality arms coming up, so one or two can either enter the rotation, or they can use them as trade bait to land another starter.

    On the Red Sox side, the signing of Lackey locked down 3/5ths of the rotation with Dice-K, Beckett and Lackey. If they were all in top form that wouldn't be a problem, just like Burnett wouldn't be a problem for the Yankees. Yet there's a good reason to believe that the best is behind them for all three, and all three are not known for durability, which will create extra stress on the Sox. The Sox have some very good arms in their system, too. They're going to have to work a little harder than the Yankees to find them openings as starters. The easiest guy to move right now is Dice-K. He has two years and $20 million left on that $100 investment, but if they throw a good amount of money in someone will take him. Problem is he misses way too much time to be a member of a rotation trying to compete in the AL East. Add in Beckett's issues and now Lackey's history of missing games, and you can see the problem with this rotation.

  13. Neil Says:

    Jason, a useful contribution to the discussion. No doubt, the AL East is a beast this year but I'm not sure if the imbalanced schedule is enough to account for the split. Would have to break down the individual gamelogs but then the sample size in terms of starts for Lackey this year might be small.

  14. MikeD Says:

    @12, I'd say the Red Sox are just about as capable of absorbing bad contracts as the Yankees. If Lackey gets worse, I don't expect the Sox will keep parading him out on the mound every fifth day, although they'll probably get at least three years into the contract before they decide to hit flush.

    I think your point though on having three pitchers in the starting rotation that all seem to have injuries is more key. That does put a lot of pressure on the bullpen and the farm system. Dice-K does seem the most logical to move, and they probably should consider it this offseason if they can replace him with a more durable option.

  15. Neil Says:

    It took a while to digest all you were saying, Robert. I'm don't really see enough Yankees or Red Sox games to offer an informed opinion on what their starting rotations might look next year.

    From a distance, it seems like no one is expecting a bounce-back year from Lackey next year, perhaps his age and all. One should also remember that Burnett's consistency is....inconsistency. One good year, one bad year....

    If the Yankees were not having a good year overall do think Burnett would still be in the rotation or is he being paid too much to ever go into relief?