27 May 2010
Jimmy at The House That Dewey Built was looking into Lackey issues with walks today... and it got me thinking.
Jimmy noted that Lackey's 30 fee passes so far this season give him a 4.40 BB/9 rate - which is double his career average of 2.6 (when you remove 2010).
So what's the deal?
Lackey has never been a strikeout machine (7.12 K/9) or a ground ball machine (43.3% GB rate) and but his K rate is down a bit at 5.14. This is the first piece of the puzzle.
Walks are up and Ks are down... why?
A closer look at his pitch values reveals an interesting theory.
In 2007, Lackey's best season, he had a nasty curveball (12.0 value) and a solid slider (7.0) to go along with a good fastball (10.3) that averaged around 90 MPH.
This year, his curve is valued at -6.3. His fastball and slider are down as well, but it's clear that the curve isn't fooling anyone these days. He's throwing it as often as usual (24%), but to be honest, he only threw in 20% of the time in 2007 and used the slider more often than he has this year.
Could it be that simple?
It tough to say, but without a deceptive curve, Lackey seems to pressing too hard to paint the corners - something we've seen backfire on Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett in recent years. Batter appear to be waiting him out (41% swing rate down from 46% career avg) and are making contact more often once they get a pitch they like (85% contact rate up from 80% avg).
Bottom Line: I'm no John Farrell, but if Lackey can establish the curveball again, I think he'll have batters guessing again, and even if that doens't lead to more Ks, it should lead to less and weaker contact.
Factoids courtesy of Fangraphs.com
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