How good is John Lackey and how rich is he about to be?

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John Lackey put on quite a show last night, tossing six scoreless innings before loading the bases in the seventh, repeatedly saying “this is mine!” when Mike Scioscia came out to pull him with two outs and the Angels up 4-0, storming into the clubhouse after leaving against his will, and then using the postgame interview to complain about the home-plate umpiring.
He’s being criticized in some circles and praised in others, but with free agency looming and last night perhaps being his final game with the Angels the whole performance got me wondering about just how good Lackey has been over the years.
We could talk about win-loss records and strikeout rates and ground-ball percentages and all sorts of other stuff, but here’s a quick glance at his overall performance:

YEAR     GS      IP     xFIP     RANK
2005     33     209     3.75      3rd
2006     33     218     4.33     13th
2007     33     224     4.09     15th
2008     24     163     3.99     12th
2009     27     176     4.11     10th



xFIP stands for Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, which basically takes everything a pitcher does, removes luck from the picture, and spits out an ERA-like number that’s generally better than actual ERA at predicting future performance. Lackey’s actual ERA during that five-year span is 3.49, but he’s benefited from good defenses, strong bullpens, and a pitcher-friendly ballpark, all of which xFIP removes from the equation.
As you can see Lackey has posted fairly consistent xFIPs over the past five years, with marks ranging from 3.75 to 4.33. Listed next to his yearly xFIP is his rank among AL pitchers who qualified for the ERA title, and those are pretty consistent as well. He was an elite starter in 2005, but has otherwise been in the 10-15 range. Given that there are 14 teams in the league, that basically makes him a mid-level No. 1 starter.
By comparison his opponent last night, A.J. Burnett, has xFIPs of 3.29, 3.85, 3.70, 3.65, and 4.50 during that same span. By that measure he’s been slightly better than Lackey, but Lackey has been slightly more durable and is nearly two years younger. The comparison is relevant not because they matched up last night, but because Burnett received a five-year, $82.5 million deal from the Yankees as a free agent last winter.
In his excellent preview of this offseason’s free agents Matthew Pouliot rated Lackey as the best pitcher available and ranked him third overall behind outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. That perhaps says as much about the weak free agent class as it does Lackey, but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get at least $60 million over five years and wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he surpasses Burnett’s deal.

Former trainers also allege discrimination by Mariners

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Dr. Lorena Martin was recently terminated as the Mariners’ director of high performance. Following her ouster, she alleged that members of the Mariners’ front office and coaching staff, including GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais, and director of player development Andy McKay, made bigoted comments against foreign-born players. While the Mariners strongly denied Martin’s accusations, MLB opened an investigation into the matter.

TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that former trainers of the Mariners, based out of the club’s complex in Boca Chica (Domonican Republic), claim the club’s treatment of Latino personnel changed once Dipoto took over as GM. Those trainers, Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez, did not speak specifically to Martin’s claims, but did say their experiences with Dipoto and McKay could relate with hers.

Through an interpreter over the phone, Santiago said, “It seemed like Dipoto and McKay would talk to just about everyone who was of American descent and talk to them more personally and try to be involved with them. But never with me.” When asked if it was because he was Latino, Santiago responded, “Under God and before you and in my mind and in my heart — yes. Because I am a Latino of color.”

Santiago continued, “I felt like, ‘Wow.’ They have relationships with all the Americans. They would talk with all of them, but they never came near me. Andy McKay never stopped by, even though he would stop by every other area.”

Furthermore, Santiago commented, “Before Dipoto and McKay came, everything was in order. I didn’t feel discriminated against. Everybody respected everybody from different areas. But when they came, everything changed. In the past,  the previous regimes, the general manager would come and talk with us. They would visit more often, specifically the farm director. Andy McKay never came by my office. He never said anything to me. He never looked for a way to see how I worked, to see if I was good or bad at what I did. He never found a way to talk to me, but he would talk with everybody that was American.”

Per Cotterill, the Mariners apparently found it problematic that neither Santiago nor Valdez were certified. Santiago wondered why his lack of certification was never an issue for the previous 10 years he worked for the Mariners or the previous 15 he’d worked in baseball. The Mariners were paying for his training for certification in physical therapy. He has one year remaining. Valdez also said the club was paying for him to obtain his certification.

Valdez said through an interpreter, “It felt like the relations between the American employees and Latino employees within the club, it felt like they were different. Almost like one was superior to the other.” Though Valdez declined to name specific examples, he said, “It was just [McKay’s] demeanor. He would arrive, see us and not acknowledge us. He wouldn’t want to talk or be with us. He would arrive to the staff meeting and that was it. I never exchanged words with either [McKay or Dipoto].”

To date, neither Martin nor the trainers have provided concrete evidence of the discrimination they claimed happened while working for the Mariners. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and it doesn’t mean the Mariners can’t face some kind of punishment by MLB. You may recall that MLB does not need a convinction in order to levy a punishment against players accused of domestic violence. Martin, in particular, risked a lot for what will likely amount to very little. She has burnt to a crisp her bridge with the Mariners and other organizations, even outside of baseball, will likely view her as a risky hire. She appears to be doing what she thinks is right by her and her former coworkers, which is commendable. Even for Santiago and Valdez, it would be a lot simpler and safer career-wise to stay quiet, which is why we should take these accusations seriously and give them the benefit of the doubt.