Red Sox

McAdam: Lackey's recent stretch is deceiving

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McAdam: Lackey's recent stretch is deceiving

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ARLINGTON, Texas -- From a distance, the numbers are starting to look impressive: seven wins in the last nine outings, just one loss since July 4.

The manager sounds pleased, noting that this is the pitcher the Red Sox believed they had all along.

But that may be faint praise. Sure, John Lackey now has a dozen wins, second only to Jon Lester among all the Red Sox starters.

A closer look, however, reveals a more nuanced picture. Yes, Lackey is pitching far better than he did for most of the first two months, when four times, he allowed six or more runs in a game and seemed incapable of keeping his team in most games.

But the improvement is more marginal than anything else and Lackey's win total is more a reflection of the run support he's been provided more than any great turnaround on the pitcher's part.

As we've learned, thanks to the introduction of advanced metrics and reflected in recent Cy Young Award balloting, win totals can be both highly misleading and inflated. For starting pitchers, ERA is still the most accurate measuring stick and Lackey's current 5.98 is one of the highest in the American League among qualifying pitchers.

In fact, among the 47 qualifying starters in the American League, Lackey is dead last -- No. 47, a full run worse than currently under-siege A.J. Burnett.

If Lackey didn't have the backing of the game's top offense, he'd be nowhere near a dozen wins. In that nine-game stretch, just twice has he has allowed fewer than three earned runs.

And, tellingly, he's completed the seventh inning once in those nine starts. At a time when bullpens are spent and teams need their starters to chew up innings, Lackey seldom delivers.

Over the nine-game stretch -- and remember, that run of starts is being held up as his best work of the season -- his ERA is 4.11.

Even if Lackey had pitched that "well'' all year, his 4.11 would rank 27th among qualifying American League starters. Put another way, you could fill five full rotations of starters who have lower ERAs all year than Lackey has in during his current stretch of best performances.

And that 4.11 ERA, in this, the second straight season dominated by pitching, that's still more than a tenth of a run above the American League average of 3.97.

For this, Lackey is celebrated?

Tuesday night, he had a 6-0 lead after the first three innings, but allowed base hits to the first three hitters he faced in the bottom of the third. And how did the Rangers score their first run, trailing by six runs? With a bases-loaded walk, courtesy of Lackey.

The walk, meanwhile was issued not to Josh Hamilton or Nelson Cruz, the type of fearsome slugger who could have brought the Rangers back into the game with one swing of the bat. Instead, it was given to ultra-aggressive Elvis Andrus, who has a grand total of 28 walks this season, or, an average of one every three games.

Andrus is neither selective nor dangerous, and yet, Lackey walked him with the bases loaded and a six-run lead.

Does that sound like any kind of turnaround?

Thanks to his swolen victory total, some will suggest that the Red Sox have found their Game 3 playoff starter in Lackey. And if expecting a post-season starting pitcher to give up three or so runs in about six innings is the bar that's been set, then perhaps they have.

But given that the quality of the lineup the Red Sox will face in the Division Series will, by definition, be better than most average lineups Lackey has faced -- and against whom he's compiled a 1.54 WHIP -- then perhaps the Red Sox should keep looking.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.