Chicago Cubs: Which players could take a step back in 2017?
Fourteen-year veteran John Lackey had an above average year in 2016. He allowed a career low in hits (146) when starting more than 25 games (11 seasons). His 3.35 ERA was the third best in his career. And, he struck out 180 batters for the first time since 2006. All in all, it was a good year.
The Chicago Cubs were great in 2016, finishing with the top pitching staff and defense in all of baseball. No starting pitcher benefited from his defense more than Lackey. On the season, he left 76.2% of runners on base, 5% above his career average. However, he also allowed a higher number of hard hit balls (34.4%) than his average (27.8%). Simply put, Lackey needed great catches on line drives and fly balls in the gap to get out of jams. Furthermore, he gave up a home run on one out of every eight fly balls.
If the defense continues to shine and the offense gives Lackey leads, he could have another great year. That said, it is just as likely to be a year of struggles for him.