If a young starter were struggling the way Lackey is right now, that would be one thing. But John Lackey is not a young starter.
John Lackey has never really been a ‘dominant’ pitcher at any point in his career. The closest he was to being dominant was in 2014 when he pitched to a 2.77 ERA in 33 games for the rival Cardinals.
2014 is the only season he pitched to under a three ERA (he had a 3.01 ERA in 2007, but that still doesn’t count). Other than those two years, Lackey is a guy with a career ERA in the fours, which isn’t particularly stellar.
His numbers have jumped significantly from last year to this year. Even though it’s a small sample size, his ERA went up 1.91 points, his ERA+ is down 42 points, and he is surrounding 1.2 more homers per nine.
If you’ve watched games, Lackey seemingly always gives up a few runs in the first few innings and then battles his way to pitch six innings of five run ball. That isn’t exactly worth a whopping 16 million big ones.