2015 Arch Awards: Who was St. Louis’s Best Under-the-Radar Performer in 2015?

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John Lackey, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

Lackey may not be competing under the fairest conditions here, considering that he just signed with the arch-rival Chicago Cubs on a two-year, $32 million-dollar deal. The 37-year-old right-hander obviously did something to earn that contract during 2015, though, and that’s why he’s nominated as the best under-the-radar performer.

Despite the fact that many thought of him as the Cardinals’ fourth or fifth starter, several circumstances (including his masterful performance) led to Lackey becoming the Cardinals’ Game 1 starter in this year’s NLDS against his new team. Through 33 starts, which matched his career high and was tied for the National League lead, Lackey went 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA (seventh-lowest among qualifying NL starters), a 1.211 WHIP, and a .256 opponent batting average. He also had 175 strikeouts, his highest total since 2007, and walked 53 hitters.

In an unlikely turn of events, Lackey teamed with the previously injury-plagued Jaime Garcia to become the Cardinals’ top two starters down the stretch. He followed up his great regular season with a masterful 7.1-inning performance in the Cardinals’ first postseason game, allowing just two hits and one walk while holding the Cubs scoreless. He wasn’t as fortunate when he came back to start Game 4, lasting just three innings after allowing a fateful three-run home run to Javier Baez, but most Cardinals fans will be content to give him credit for his great Game 1 start and his fantastic regular season overall. So for a veteran of 13 MLB seasons who made a base salary of just $500,000 during 2015 and was largely seen as past his prime, a resurgent performance definitely qualifies him as a candidate for St. Louis sports’s most unexpected success story.

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