Commentary

Mailbag: Thoughts on Lackey and more

Updated: July 9, 2010, 12:22 PM ET
By Curt Schilling | ESPNBoston.com

Editor's note: The second of an occasional mailbag on the Red Sox.Click here to ask Curt a question for his next mailbag.

Q: Hey Curt, was curious what your thoughts are so far of John Lackey? He's gotten hit more than I expected him to, but he does have a knack for sticking around in games. -- DJ (Holliston)

A: The first thing most folks go to is contract, so we have a guy making $18.7 million this year. You then assume you should read a stat line equal to that right? A 1.56 WHIP??? 4.46 ERA??? What? The guy's 9-3, I argue. Well, you come back with, 'but he's getting great run support so he should be better!'

My only issue, if you want to call it that, and I would bet John would feel the same way, is 101 innings in 16 starts. He's got pride, he competes, he wants the ball. For me that means he wants to pitch and pitch a lot and just over six innings per start is not pitching a lot. He hasn't pitched nearly as well as he will, and I believe that. First off, he's in the big boy division this year: The AL East spits out the bottom 3/5ths of just about anyone's rotation. If it doesn't, you're a very good team.

He hasn't pitched nearly as well as he can, the 1.56 WHIP is way higher than his career average and what you were expecting. The ERA, yeah, that's high but not insanely high. My concern, if you want to call it that, is that he's walked far too many guys in 101 innings (39). He'd likely say the same thing.

So where does that leave it? I would tell you this is pretty damn awesome. Pitching as poorly as I think he has at times, and being inconsistent, he's still 9-3. He'll go on a good run and when he does he'll help carry this team through the late season and into the playoffs.

Johnny Podres used to tell me "three a month, kid". Get three wins a month and pick up an extra one here and there and you get 20. It's July 1st, he has nine wins and he hasn't pitched nearly as well as he can or will. That bodes well.

Q: How devastating is the loss of Dustin Pedroia (both on and off the field)? -- Eric (Hingham)

A: Far less than you think. Terry Francona is about as good a manager as there is when it comes to things like this because he refuses to make it a story in the media, and he refuses to allow players to use it as an excuse internally, or externally. They absolutely could use it, but the coaches and players will not. If they do, it's a sure sign they don't believe they can win.

Q: A buddy of mine was saying the other day that Pedroia hasn't played long enough to be the Sox's leader. But I don't buy that -- I think if you listen to everyone talk about him it's clear that he's the guy in that locker room that everyone else feeds off. Thoughts -- also, can he still be that leader even if he's not playing? -- Rick (Hartford)

A: I don't know if he's a 'traditional' leader but I know he does an important, and some might argue more important job of leading 'on the field'. Dustin talks a lot (as someone who knows a thing or two about running my mouth, I can spot them) but the thing you have to love about the talk is the fact he says nothing he doesn't back up. It's part of who and what he is and that personality is going to generally do one of two things:

1. Make him an idiot because he can't actually play the game (which we know he can)

or

2. Make him a leading presence and set the tone for the guys that don't talk or are timid about being confident. It's infectious in a good way on good teams.

His talk would be white noise on a bad team, or if he was not an exceptional player, neither of which is the case.

Q: What makes Jon Lester such a dominating pitcher? Also, you were around when Lester first started coming up: Did you think he'd be this good? -- Randy (Dennis)

A: It would be easier to say, why isn't he the top pitcher in the game? The only thing, the only thing separating Jon Lester from being considered in the 'best pitcher in the game' conversation right now is command of his fastball. The minute he commands the outer half of the plate with a four-seamer is the minute it's over. That's when he ascends to the Cy Young conversation every year. He legitimately throws in the mid 90s, with the ability to reach back and hit 98 in a jam. He has a devastating cutter, he is physically a monster. His mechanics are becoming refined and he's beginning to prepare with intelligence. Once he combines a pregame plan with outstanding command, he'll do things no one thought he could.

Q: Do you think the Sox can maintain their current pace with all of these injuries? -- Billy (Philly)

A: If any team can I would bet on it being them. Tito is about as good as they come at creating the right atmosphere for them to continue winning.

Q: Hey Curt. With recent struggles for Paps do you see the Sox letting him walk next year and going with Daniel Bard? If so, do you believe Bard is ready for the role of closer in Beantown? Keep up the great insight! -- Brian McCarthy (Baltimore)

A: I don't know. I do know Paps has made it clear that he's approaching the next deal, and his career, as a business. I haven't spoken to him about that but at face value I take that to mean "I'm getting paid" when it comes to his next contract. I am not sure but if that is the case I don't see the Sox putting $12-15 million over 4-5 years on the table. Maybe they will, but I would bet against it. As far as Daniel being ready, I don't know. You never know until you try, but I will tell you that's the hardest thing to do in the major leagues as a pitcher: close. Closing is 49 percent stuff and 51 percent mind. Guys that can shake off a blown save and shut a team down the next night are rare birds. Stuff-wise the kid is just flat-out awesome. He is getting better, much better, at beating left-handed hitters and that puts him real close to having elite closer stuff. The head is the bigger issue. If he can blow a save and be Mariano Rivera mentally the next day, then yeah, the kid has a long and prosperous career ahead of him.

Q: Hey Curt, with all of these injuries, do you think the Sox are going to need to be more active at the trade deadline? -- LouieG (Worcester)

A: That all depends on who's slated to come back, and when. If they start getting these guys back pre-deadline, and into August, they don't need to do much. But Theo Epstein is as good as they come at making deals 'out of the blue' at the deadline, for players no one expects him to go after. He's always got an eye toward not just making it into October, but the next year as well.

Q: Curt -- Both Jacoby Ellsbury & Jed Lowrie had shown such promise before injuries began accumulating. Do you see either of them still having a long-term future with the club? -- Vtsoxfan (Winooski, Vt.)

A: I have no idea about Jed. He has played so little to date and freak injuries or not, at some point you develop a reputation that is hard to shake. He's at a point now where I think many people have the mindset of "If he helps us great, if not no big deal," which sucks. No player wants to ever be in that position and it'll be interesting to see how he handles that.

Jacoby is a bit different. Look, the guy broke his ribs! That's about the worst thing next to a serious arm or leg injury you can do as a player. Your torso is the center of everything in baseball, no matter which position you play. It's where all of your power is generated, or flows through. I hope he does have a long-term future because he's a great kid with incredible tools.

Curt Schilling, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08, is a three-time World Series champion, six-time MLB All-Star and founded 38 Studios. Curt and his wife, Shonda, have raised money to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) through Curt's Pitch for ALS, and have encouraged awareness for sun protection through the SHADE Foundation. They recently announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

Curt Schilling, a three-time World Series champion, pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08. Curt and his wife Shonda have raised money to fight ALS (www.curtspitch.com), encouraged awareness for sun protection (www.shadefoundation.org) and announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England (www.aane.org) after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

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