John Lackey has gone from the poster boy of the beer and chicken fiasco to the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff.
In last night’s win over the Rays, Lackey went 8.0 innings, allowing just two runs while striking out five and walking one. While it wasn’t quite as impressive as his previous outing, which was also 8.0 innings with 11 strikeouts in a 5-1 win over the Yankees, it was still an extremely strong performance. And it’s outings like these that we’ve come to expect from him.
Jon Lester is considered by most to be the ace of the pitching staff. He’s the one John Farrell gave the ball to on Opening Day. He’s the homegrown talent who overcame some serious adversity to become a successful major league pitcher. He was instrumental in last season’s run to the World Series and is off to a solid start this year. All that being said, Lackey is still the guy for me.
This isn’t a shot against Lester. Lester consistently piles up 200 inning seasons and is always good for 15-16 wins per season. He’s a workhorse. If you’re building a rotation for the playoffs, he’s absolutely a guy you’d want near the top of that rotation.
But if you asked me right now who I’d want going in a must-win game for the Sox, my choice would be Lackey. The two six run outlier games aside, Lackey has been dominant dating back to last season’s playoffs. Maybe it’s his mound presence, but there’s been something that gives Sox fans confidence each time he takes the hill. Anyone who has been watching the team regularly has noticed this. Anyone who hasn’t been watching and just looks at the numbers will probably disagree with me.
So what are the numbers? It’s probably only fair that I provide them:
Lester: 2-4, 3.10 ERA, 43 SO, 8 BB, 40.2 IP
Lackey: 4-2, 3.83 ERA, 39 SO, 8 BB, 40.0 IP
That’s what you’d call pretty even. Take out Lackey’s two six run games and he dips below Lester in ERA. Give Lester some better defense (21 runs, only 14 ER) and his W-L is possibly improved. You can manipulate the numbers any way you want to give either of them an edge.
This argument is not that Lester is a bad pitcher, because he’s not. He’s an extremely talented one. But Lackey has just shown the ability to be on a different level and that’s why, if I’m forced to choose right now, he’d get my vote as the ace.
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