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What Is Wrong With John Lackey?

John Lackey (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

In his first year with the Red Sox, John Lackey was relatively OK, going 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. He tossed 215 innings and was seen as the horse of the staff. But, with four years left on Lackey’s 5-year, $82.5 million contract, the Red Sox need more than just “steady.” They need the pitcher they thought they were getting: a man who had an ERA under 4.00 for five consecutive years and once had a 19-win season.

Instead, the Red Sox now have the most wildly inconsistent pitcher in the majors. Lackey (2-5) has the worst ERA (8.04) in all of baseball among starters, and his 1.81 WHIP is second only to Cardinals hurler Jake Westbrook (1.82).

It may seem that the 32-year-old Lackey has been bad all year, but he actually strung together three straight quality starts from April 19-30. In those outings against the A’s, Angels, and Mariners, Lackey allowed just three runs in 20 innings (1.35 ERA). In his four other starts (two to start the season and his last two outings in May), Lackey has yielded 32 runs in just 19.1 innings for a startling 14.89 ERA.

So, what is wrong with John Lackey?

“Everything in my life sucks right now to be honest with you,” Lackey said after Wednesday’s start.

Lackey’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and Lackey revealed his wife’s battle to back in February. I’d say that can be tough and may have had its effect on Lackey. Pitchers can be fragile people, and if their mind is not clear, they can break under the pressure.

Wednesday’s outing against the Blue Jays was Lackey’s latest failure. He was charged with nine earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.

“Everything went wrong that could go wrong, that’s pretty much the story of the whole damn year,” said Lackey after the game. “I don’t know what the hell happened tonight. I threw the ball way better than I did my last start. I don’t know.”

While his off-the-field matters may be negatively affecting his on-field performance, what happens when he actually tosses a gem? In perhaps his best game in a Sox uniform on April 24 against the Angels, Lackey allowed zero runs on just six hits in eight innings to get a well-deserved win.

I don’t know exactly what’s affecting Lackey, but I do know he has to pitch better. A lot better. And soon.

About KC Downey - @kc_downey

KC is the "head coach" of the Sports of Boston, LLC blog network. Follow him on Twitter: @kc_downey

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