Tuesday, February 15, 2011

John Lackey: Not a Liar

Twitter tricked me into reading Shaughnessy's column this morning, but I'm glad I did so: it gave me the opportunity to foam at the mouth for a few minutes for absolutely no reason. This week's installment is on John Lackey, who's returned from off-season workouts on the treadmill eleven pounds lighter. He claims to have done so while watching SportsCenter, so I can only imagine some of that weight loss is fueled by anger at not having his pitching genius recognized, but either way, he's good to go, is impressing his manager with his energy, and is already making snarky comments about his teammates:
Lackey made a veiled reference to [Carl Crawford] when he said, “I definitely pitch to contact moreso than some of the guys and I think our improved outfield defense will definitely help for sure.’’

There’s code there. Lackey is telling you that one of the reasons for his inflated 2010 numbers was the Sox’ subpar defense.
'But wait,' I thought, hornets of irritation beginning to rise in my brain, 'this team was supposed to be a paragon of defense! And while I don't remember how well the defense played when Lackey pitched, I don't want to believe him because I dislike him for not pitching as well as I thought he should have!'

Fortunately, the Internets exist. A quick trip over to Fan Graphs brought up the by-team defensive statistics summary for 2010 and a secondary trip over to the Fan Graphs glossary told me I should be paying attention to UZR and DRS as the best measures of how the team built around defense did defensively. Some quick reordering and we should have this question sorted out...

...wow, the Sox really were putrid in the field. UZR puts them at 10th to last in the majors, while DRS says they were even worse: only the Pirates and Royals did more poorly. I guess less-chunky Lackey knows what he's talking about. Now, if he can turn that talk into pitching at an above-average level, we'll be cool.