John Lackey struggled early in the 2017 season, but his recent success suggests he still deserves a spot in the Chicago Cubs starting rotation.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey made 17 starts before the All Star Break, and not many of them went well. He went 5-9 and sported a 5.20 ERA. As a 38-year-old, those numbers are not encouraging whatsoever.
His velocity has dipped. Considering Lackey is a pitcher who likes to challenge hitters with his fastball, that is not a good sign. However, it should be expected considering Lackey has pitched 2784.1 innings in his career.
If the Cubs were in tank mode, there would be no issue trotting Lackey and his bloated ERA out to the mound every five days. But that’s not the case. The Chicago Cubs are in the middle of trying to win the NL Central and make a run in the playoffs.
The veteran right-hander has flipped the script since the All-Star break. The pitcher win stat is flawed, but his record is up to 8-9. In three starts, he has pitched 16 innings and has only given up five earned runs. That equates to a 2.81 ERA, nearly cutting his first half ERA in half.
Be wary of the small sample if you want, but his stuff has looked better.
He went six innings giving up two earned runs in his last start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Lackey’s fastball had some extra life and his breaking ball had a nasty bite to it.
Lackey is the fifth starter in the rotation so he does not have to be great; he just has to be serviceable. The Cubs’ do not have another option now, so as long as Lackey continues his hot streak, his job is safe.
The question is, will Joe Maddon trust John Lackey in a playoff game?
Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana are all the getting the ball in an important game before Lackey. But Lackey can still play a role in getting the Chicago Cubs back to the postseason.
Lackey needs to continue to eat innings and give the Cubs a chance to win each of his starts, which he has done post All Star Break.