MLB: Revealing the American League East’s 4 Best Starting Pitchers

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John Lackey, Boston Red Sox

Jul 31, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey (41) reacts during the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, John Lackey. The same John Lackey that wasn’t too liked in Boston not too long ago. That John Lackey. Any confusion?

In all seriousness, though, Lackey has recovered from Tommy John Surgery quite well. His 3.21 ERA is his lowest since 2007 (second-best overall), and he’s striking out 8.4 batters per nine innings, something he hasn’t done since way back in 2005. The phrase “turning the clock back” fits well here.

You could argue that the 35-year-old John Lackey has been better the 2007 version of John Lackey, who finished third in Cy Young Voting.

It would be a tough argument to win, though. The 2007 Lackey boasted the AL’s best ERA (3.01) and ERA+ (150).

The 2013 Lackey through 126 innings: 3.21 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1.9 BB/9 (better than 2007) and 8.4 K/9 (better than 2007).

So it’s close. We’d have to start poking at minor things to get a better idea of which version of Lackey was better, but that’s a story for another day.

But the area where he’s clearly been better has been in the “stuff” department. His O-Swing%–measures how many pitches a batter swings at that are outside of the zone–of 35 percent is a career high (seventh-best in baseball), and his SwSr%–another factor of a pitcher’s overall nastiness–is his best mark since 2005 and second best of his career.

If you haven’t been paying a ton of attention, Lackey’s resurgence probably surfaces as a surprise. However, his ERA is second to only Kuroda, his xFIP (adjusted for home runs) is first, his K/9 is third and his WAR is also third.

Yes, that John Lackey.