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John Derran Lackey (born October 23, 1978, in Abilenemarker, Texasmarker) is a Major League Baseball starting pitcher and who is currently a free agent. Fox Sports color commentator Rex Hudler coined the nickname Big John for the 6' 6" Angels hurler.

Early life

High school years

Before Lackey was in high school, he played at Dixie Little League in Abilene. Lackey attended Abilene High School marker (the Eagles), and was a letterman in football, basketball, and baseball. In baseball, he was a two-time first team All-District honoree and as a senior, he was also an All-State selection.

College years

He played one season of baseball at the University of Texas at Arlingtonmarker, playing first base and sometimes moonlighting as a reliever. In , he played on the Junior College World Series champion Grayson County College team in Denison, Texasmarker, where he posted a 10-3 record with a 4.23 ERA.

Minor league career

In the 1999 Major League Baseball Draft, he was drafted in the second round (68th overall) by the Anaheim Angels. He began his professional career with the Rookie-Level Boise Hawks, posting a 6-2 record and a 4.98 ERA. Already in his first year Lackey became known for his competitiveness. According to, Tom Kotchman, the veteran manager, recalled "one particular game when he tried to replace Lackey only to have the tall Texan tell him otherwise. Sure enough, Kotchman trotted back to the dugout and Lackey kept dominating, as if to say, 'See? I'm not done yet.'" In , Lackey split his time between the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels, High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, and Double-A Erie SeaWolves. Because of his quick ascent up the minor league ladder, he was named the Angels' Minor League Pitcher of the Year, posting a combined 15-9 record with a 3.15 ERA. He began with Double-A Arkansas before being promoted in July of that year to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, where he struggled a bit, posting a 3-4 record and a 6.71 ERA. He recovered in the season, being named Best Pitching Prospect of the Pacific Coast League and accumulating an 8-2 record with a 2.57 ERA.

Major league career


He was called up to the bigs on June 24, dropping his first major league start against the Texas Rangers. He was optioned back to Salt Lake, until he was recalled to replace pitcher Al Levine on June 28. On June 30, he replaced Scott Schoeneweis in the Angels' rotation and gained his first victory against the cross-town rival Los Angeles Dodgers. Lackey was the winning pitcher for the American League Wild Card-clinching victory against Texas on September 26.

With the AL Wild Card in hand, the Angels began their march through the 2002 postseason, facing the feared New York Yankees in the ALDS. Lackey made his relief and postseason debut in Game 3, allowing two earned runs in the midst of an Angels rally to win 9-6. He gained his first postseason victory against the Minnesota Twins in Game 4 of the ALCS, pitching seven innings while allowing only three hits and striking out seven.

With their victory in five games over the Twins, the Angels earned their first American League pennant and made their first trip to the World Series. After starter Kevin Appier was pulled after two-plus innings in Game 2, Lackey pitched two innings giving up two earned runs on two hits, receiving a no-decision in the eventual 11-10 Angel victory over the San Francisco Giants. He started Game 4 of the Series, pitching four scoreless innings, but gaining a no-decision after allowing three hits and three earned runs in the 5th inning in the eventual Angels loss.

However, it was in Game 7 of the World Series on October 27, 2002, that Lackey won one of the biggest games of his career. Lackey allowed only one earned run on four hits while striking out four in five innings, allowing the Angels to hold an early 4-1 lead to hand over to their bullpen trio of Brendan Donnelly, Francisco Rodríguez, and Troy Percival to seal their World Series title. Lackey became only the second rookie in World Series history to start and win Game 7, the other being Babe Adams of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Lackey struggled his sophomore year, compiling a 10-16 record with a 4.63 ERA while leading the team in hits allowed, earned runs allowed, and wild pitches. He improved in , with a record of 14-13 and a 4.67 ERA, helping the Angels win their first division title since . The campaign saw Lackey mature further, working into the sixth inning in thirty of his 36 starts, earning a 14-5 record with a 3.44 ERA. He ranked second in strikeouts per nine innings (with 8.6 K/9 IP) and third in strikeouts (199). However, he retained a bit of his wild nature with the third most wild pitches in the league.

After the Angels placed 2005 Cy Young winner Bartolo Colón on the disabled list in , Lackey emerged as the team's ace, and skipper Mike Scioscia made him the number one starter after the All-Star break. On July 7, 2006, Lackey retired 27 batters in a row after Mark Kotsay of the Oakland Athletics led off the first inning with double, coming within one out of a perfect game. He threw a career high 30 2/3 scoreless innings from July 2, 2006 through July 19, 2006, when he gave up a fifth-inning home run to Ben Broussard of the Cleveland Indians. He was later named American League Pitcher of the Month for July 2006.


On June 13, , Lackey became the first pitcher to win 10 games for the 2007 season. On July 1, Lackey was named as one of three Angels to represent the club and the American League at the 2007 All-Star Game. At the end of the 2007 season, Lackey won the award for the American League's top earned run average, finishing with an excellent 3.01 ERA. Lackey was rewarded for his excellent season with a third-place finish in that season's Cy Young voting.

On July 10, , Lackey allowed six runs on 15 hits in 5 2/3 innings. The 15 hits tied an all-time Angels franchise record for hits allowed by a starter in a single game.

On July 18, 2008, Lackey recorded his 1000th career strikeout against Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox. Lackey is the sixth Angels pitcher to accomplish that feat. On July 29, 2008, Lackey pitched against the Red Sox at Fenway Parkmarker, carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning. He came within two outs of a no-hitter before Dustin Pedroia singled to left to spoil it. The next batter, Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer to break up the shutout. Lackey still finished the game and the Angels won 6-2.

In Game 1 of the 2008 ALDS, he gave up a two-run home run to Jason Bay of the Boston Red Sox, and was charged with the Angel's first loss in the series.

In his first start of 2009, on May 16, Lackey was ejected after his first two pitches of the season in a game against the Texas Rangers. Lackey threw his first pitch behind Ian Kinsler's head, and hit Kinsler in the side with his second pitch. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson ejected Lackey without hesitation. Since Kinsler scored, Lackey was charged with an earned run, giving him an ERA of infinity.[147847] Kinsler had hit two home runs against the Angels the night before.[147848]

On August 30, 2009, Lackey earned his 100th career win against the Oakland Athletics, giving up one run (on an error by shortstop Erick Aybar) through eight innings.

Lackey is one of only 6 major league pitchers who won at least 11 games in each year from 2004–09, the others being CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe, Johan Santana, Javier Vazquez, and Jason Marquis.


At the end of the 2009 season Lackey became a free agent. He was widely regarded as the best free agent starting pitcher on the 2010 market. Baseball Prospectus declared, "Lackey stands alone as the best of the best, a relatively young righty who carries significantly less risk than the other high-upside hurlers," additionally noting he faced a tough division and tougher league and his statistics would likely be even better if he were a National League pitcher. As one of the top free agent starters on the market, he was predicted to command a deal worth $100 million, similar to the deal A.J. Burnett received from the Yankees. Lackey was sought after by many teams, including the Seattle Mariners, the Milwaukee Brewers , the New York Yankees, the New York Mets, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was reported, the Yankees definitely had Lackey 'on their radar' with a source saying the Yankees were especially "impressed by his toughness" in the playoffs.

Popular culture

In 2009, the satirical publication The Onion published an article about Lackey, titled Superstitious John Lackey Has To Build, Destroy A Luxury Hotel Before Every Start.


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