A recurring theme for the 2016 Cubs was the elevated contributions the team received from the starting pitchers, and John Lackey was no exception. At 37 years old, Lackey struck out opposing hitters at the highest rate of his career (24.1 percent, 8.6 K/9) and parlayed a career-low .213 batting average against to a career-best 1.06 WHIP. Good defense goes a long way toward helping pitchers, but Lackey had a previously unmatched level of success with his slider, as opposing hitters hit .137 against that offering while slugging a mere .185 against it. Additionally, he made adjustments with his changeup, and sustained a lot of the growth he experienced with the pitch in 2015. Perhaps most impressively, Lackey did not show signs of fatigue the third time through opposing batting orders, as he was even better in those situations (.187/.252/.317 line against) than he was the first and second time through. Additionally, his performance in the second half featured an ERA (2.76) nearly a run lower than his first-half mark (3.70). He'll reprise his role as the Cubs No. 4 starter in 2017.
Lackey said he's leaning toward coming back in 2018 rather than retiring, CSN Chicago reports. "At this point, I think I'm more likely to pitch next year than not pitch," Lackey said. "But we'll see at the end of the season." Lackey will be 39 at the start of the 2018 season, but he's shown he's still an effective pitcher at this stage of his career. Last year, Lackey struck out opposing hitters at the highest rate of his career (24.1 percent, 8.6 K/9), and he posted a strong 3.35 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, the latter of which was a new career best as well.
Lackey is the scheduled starter for Game 4 of the Cubs' World Series matchup with the Indians, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. As was the case during the rest of the postseason, Lackey will line up fourth in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. This puts Lackey in a position to pitch at Wrigley Field on Saturday and face either Ryan Merritt, Corey Kluber, or Danny Salazar (forearm).
Manager Joe Maddon announced that Lackey will start Game 4 of the NLDS, Jesse Rogers of ESPN reports. Lackey posted strong numbers yet again this season, prompting the Cubs to continue riding him into the postseason. His start is naturally not guaranteed given that the series is best-of-5, but should Game 4 be necessary, the right-hander would pitch Tuesday on the road against the winner of the Giants/Mets Wild Card game.
Lackey (11-8) tossed five strong innings, allowing just one run on five hits while walking three and striking out three Pirates in Tuesday's win. Lackey's victory earned him an 11-win season for the 11th time in his 14-year career (the first of which, in 2002, he only started 18 games). The veteran has played a key role in the Cubs' success this season, managing a 3.35 ERA (third-best of his career) while sporting a career-best 1.06 WHIP over 188.1 innings (29 starts). Lackey's 180 strikeouts are the most he's notched since 2006 as a member of the Angels. His fantastic regular season is now complete, and will look to roll his success into the postseason.
Lackey (10-8) overcame a tough second inning to finish seven strong frames in Wednesday's win over the Reds, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk with four strikeouts. He came in looking to bounce back from a three-homer misstep against the Brewers, and the veteran righty did just that, giving up two or fewer runs for the fifth time in his last six starts. The Reds' second-inning rally accounted for the vast majority of what they were able to do against Lackey, as they got four men on base and scored both their runs in that frame. Over his other six innings, Lackey gave up just two hits, and his day was finished after a leisurely 87 pitches. Lackey may only make one more start before the regular season ends; he'll draw the Pirates on Tuesday, but could conceivably be skipped in preparation for the playoffs when his turn comes up on the season's last day.