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John Lackey Unhappy but Not Ineffective, Cubs Bullpen Leaders, Collection Fun, and Other Bullets

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The worst kinds of injuries are the ones you sustain while doing something completely normal. I felt a disconcerting explosion of pain in the arch of my foot this morning while working out, which I’m hoping was just a mild stretching of something that wasn’t ready to be stretched (it’s sore now, but not excruciating). It just sucks because I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary, extreme, or risky. It’s not fair! *shakes fist at Father Time*

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  • John Lackey was “pissed” out his outing yesterday, feeling he pitched better than the results reflected (Tribune). His start was a reminder that BABIP isn’t the only thing that can get you, even if you’re pitching well enough (the Reds’ BABIP against Lackey was just .278 for the). The other aspect that can lead to a lot of runs that may not be entirely reflective of how a guy pitched? Left-on-base percentage – i.e., how often did the runners who reached base score? The league-wide figure is always right around 75.0%, and although some pitchers have a demonstrated ability to tighten up a bit with runners on base and outperform the average number (or vice versa), usually outliers indicate old fashioned good or bad luck with the sequence in which hits and walks happened to take place. Lackey’s LOB% yesterday was 15.2%. He definitely did not get any help with sequencing, and easily could have given up two or three fewer runs (especially without the errors in the 6th inning).
  • That said, Lackey netted just 9 whiffs in the game (decent, not overwhelming), and was sitting 90-91mph with his two and four-seam fastballs, still down about 1.5 to 2mph from where he was last April. Most of the run-scoring in the game happened on balls that were struck over 100mph, so, although Lackey definitely could have benefited from more fortunate hit-sequencing, he also did give up some hard contact at inopportune times.
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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  • On the season, Lackey has an ugly 4.88 ERA through 24.0 innings, and a 4.44 FIP to nearly match. But his xFIP is just 3.36 thanks to a 20.8% HR/FB ratio (his career mark is right where you’d expect it for most pitchers, just 10.0%). In other words, almost the entirety of Lackey’s struggles so far this year can be explained by more of his fly balls than usual leaving the yard. In theory, as tiny samples become larger samples, that smooths out. Heck, that xFIP is 29th best in baseball.
  • Overall on the starting pitching front, Joe Maddon maintains that (1) he has no issues so long as the starters are healthy, and (2) the starters are healthy. (ESPN) The Cubs haven’t had a quality start, for whatever that’s worth, in their last six games.
  • Wade Davis and Carl Edwards Jr. still sport 0.00 ERAs, and Hector Rondon has been fairly Rondon-like here in the early going (1.23 ERA). But did you know that the Cubs’ fourth best ERA belongs to Mike Montgomery (2.31)? He’s been getting results, quietly, despite a oh-my-this-can’t-last 15.4% BB rate.
  • You may recall that Addison Russell collects Pokémon cards and, more entertainingly, gets other players to sign them. For more on his unusual hobby, Jesse Rogers has a deeper probe here. It may seem like a weird, silly nothing – and it is! – but there’s a nice, broader lesson in there: if you like something, if it makes you happy to do it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone else? Then just do it, man. Life’s too short. Have some fun.
  • (Obligatory plug, but it’s true: I immediately started searching baseball cards on Amazon after reading that piece.)
  • Pretty incredible and random from the Pirates’ world: pitcher Ivan Nova had yet to issue a walk all season until he did so yesterday. The benefactor? Mike Trout? Bryce Harper? … nope, it was Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who had never before taking a big league at bat. Baseball: it’s weird out there y’all.

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  • The Diamondbacks are doing well in the West here in the early going, largely thanks to a fine young rotation. A big part of that so far has been a bounce back for Shelby Miller, but he’s having an MRI after experiencing tightness in his forearm, and it doesn’t sound good.
  • Dan Vogelbach is back on his way up to the big leagues, having just been recalled by the Mariners. Rake, young man.

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  • Michael’s graphic skills improve by the day:


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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