Impact of Chicago Cubs signing John Lackey

By Michael Dixon
Oct 9, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey (41) delivers a pitch during the first inning in game one of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

John Lackey is staying in the National League Central but moving up I-55, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that Lackey will be the newest member of the Chicago Cubs.

Lackey certainly won’t move the needle in the way that David Price and Jordan Zimmermann did, or in the way that Zack Greinke will when he signs. But this is a big deal — even more so when you realize that it simultaneously makes the Cubs better and makes the Cardinals worse.

As good as Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez are, would you take them in a three-game series over Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and John Lackey? At the bottom end of the rotation, do Jaime Garcia and Tyler Lyions match up well to Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel?

I’d surely take the Cubs top five over the Cardinals’ crew, and remember, the Cubs just beat the Cardinals 3-1 in a four-game playoff series, with Lackey in a St. Louis uniform.

The pessimistic side of this signing is that Lackey is 37, and when pitchers get to that age it doesn’t take much for them to become ineffective.

While that’s true, Lackey isn’t really what you’d call a power pitcher. His fastball is good, but not blazing, and those are the kinds of pitchers that tend to age pretty well. Also, whether you’re looking at his overall numbers or at his velocity, there’s nothing to really suggest that Lackey is in for a sharp decline in 2016.

Lackey

Even if he regresses a little bit from last season (which is certainly possible) the worst of his last three years is definitely good enough for a No. 3 starter, especially for a team that can score a lot of runs.

If Lackey’s 2016 numbers more closely resemble his 2013-2015 averages or certainly his peak, then the Cubs all of a sudden have one of the best No. 3 starters in the game, with really only the Mets being able to claim superiority. If the Cubs add another arm, then the rotation goes from being something that held them back in 2015 to a strength in 2016.

So, while John Lackey signing with the Cubs may not be the top story in any of tonight’s sports shows, this definitely helps tip the scales of power in the National League towards the Cubs.

They weren’t exactly far from the World Series in 2015, and if they make a couple more smart, under-the-radar moves, then they’ll be awfully hard to beat in 2016.

H/T to Fangraphs for Lackey’s fastball velocity.