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John Lackey Might Actually Be In The Best Shape Of His Career

Nobody's going to say John Lackey looks great, but for once the stories about a player being in the best shape of their career are clearly true.

Picture now officially outdated.
Picture now officially outdated.

It's the most annoying headline of the offseason: "_____ is in the best shape of his career." It comes when the well runs dry in terms of signings and trades, when there's nothing to do but count down the days until pitchers and catchers report.

This year, the player whose shape we've heard the most about is John Lackey. Not a surprise--those who fell the furthest are the ones who this sort of news can mean the most for. John Lackey was felled by his UCL (and, some would argue, his sheer Lackyness--Lackosity?), yes, but dropping a few pounds probably can't hurt.

Still, or that to matter, there has to be some actual substance behind all that talk. And after hearing about how great he looked before 2011, I'm not really interested in--

Wait, what?*


Dear God, somebody get this man a biscuit!***

While the eerie, almost emaciated look of the third picture seems to be more a trick of the camera than anything else, there's no doubt about it: John Lackey is looking slim.

Now, ignoring the fact that Lackey's head looks weirdly out of place on his body, there's no denying this is at least a little encouraging, right? I mean, sure, the last time John Lackey was in the best shape of his career, he produced a historically awful season. But that was thanks to a bum UCL. Two data points are not enough to tell us that the secret to John Lackey's powers lay in his extra layers, right?

For a team that desperately needs something to change in its rotation, Lackey's transformation can't be a bad thing. While we all hope that Dempster is good, Lester rebounds, Doubront advances, and Buchholz maintains his second-half momentum, Lackey is still a part of this group whether we like it or not. After the first three years of his time with the team, nobody is going to depend on him, no matter how low the scale goes. Even holding out a real hope for any significant production from the former Angel might be too much to ask after the disaster that was 2011.

Still, no matter how infinitesimally small you may consider the chance for Lackey to bounce back, these shots of a new, in-shape Lackey should at least bump them up a bit. If nothing else, it means he's trying.

*(Via Scott Lauber)

**(Via Gordon Edes)

***(Via Pete Abraham)