John Lackey: Most Valuable Cardinal

John Lackey has been more than good for the Cardinals in 2015. He’s arguably their best starter.

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Outlaw cowboy William Munny walks into a bar carrying a double barrel shotgun and asks someone, “Who owns this joint?” That’s John Lackey in 2015. He walks into any baseball park, asks where the mound is and delivers a gem. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is or what the stakes are. The Abilene, Texas native is having his best season in 8 years.

On Thursday in Milwaukee, John Lackey dominated. He pitched seven innings, needed less than 90 pitches and restricted the Brewers from starting anything. He struck out 8 and allowed only 5 hits, lowering his earned run average to 2.79. Unlike other rotation colleagues, Lackey has been a steady beast the entire season.

When the Cards acquired Lackey stout at 2014’s trade deadline, some fans weren’t happy because the team lost some good “team guys” in Joe Kelly and Allen Craig. The deal was mint to me. Lackey was a proven veteran, someone who had been to war and back. A guy who helped shut the doors on the Cards 2013 season in Game 6 of the World Series. It also helped that Lackey would only cost the team a measly 500K in 2015.

Lackey was solid in Red the rest of 2014 and in the playoffs, but he’s been unreal in 2015. With Adam Wainwright sidelined, Lackey picked up the sheriff’s badge, blew it off and patched it onto his chest. With a few grunts, he’s supplied the team with that rare edge. Lackey pitches angry, carries his emotions on his sleeve, chest and forehead, and treats other teams like impostor’s on his will.

Lackey touched 200 innings, 150 strikeouts and left Milwaukee with a WAR(wins above replacement via baseball reference) of 5.1. That represents his highest WAR since the 2007 season. He has a 3-1 strikeouts to walks ratio and has scattered 18 home runs over those 200 frames. His fielding independent ERA isn’t too swanky at 3.57 but his ERA+ of 141 is quite nice. All in all, Lackey has been money and unlike Mike in Swingers, he knows it.

Lackey has even shed the home/road splits that followed him into this season. After a rough outing in Colorado(easily his worst as a Cardinal) on June 8th, Lackey has been great in road grays in 8 of his last 9 starts(the one mishap coming in San Diego where the Cards played regrettable defense behind him).

People make a big deal about quality starts, but Lackey takes it to another level. He provides the “high” quality starts. He’s pitched at least seven innings and allowed three runs or less in 19 different games.

Does all this cream and sugar mean the Lackey grounds will return in 2016? Nope. He’s pitching himself out of “comeback to the Lou” territory. As I stated last month, Lackey will receive a 3 year deal and the Cards will likely retain Jaime Garcia’s services. It’s just business.

For now, appreciate what Lackey is doing for a team in need of a veteran compass in a young rotation. He’s the dude, the general and the cowboy all in one leg kick and bullet to the plate. Come playoff time, he will be a force you want on your side and it won’t matter where the game takes place.

While he won’t get as much press or attention as Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez, John Lackey has been the most valuable Cardinal in 2015, bang for buck. Who called that a year ago? If you did, pat yourself on the back and have some coffee for me.

Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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