i will start this discussion with a quick chart, to show the world i have a pirated copy of microsoft excel and i know how to use it.
as you can see, Lester's problem is his control. his .85 H/IP thus far this year is better than any mark he's ever put up, not counting 2005 in Portland. now i'm not exactly sure of what the hitting environment is like in the International League, but he did have a huge jump in BB/IP from 05 (AA) to 06 (AAA) [sidenote: i left out his AAA stats from '07 as it was a rehab assignment and therefore possibly not indicative of his true capabilities. caveat for 2007 in the bigs too, although he did post a decent .49 BB/IP level in limited time there.]
my point here is that his stuff is nasty, he just needs to throw strikes more often. i'm guessing that the hitters in the international league aren't going to be nearly as patient as what he's going to face up in boston, especially with so many starts against the yankees and other patient teams. i say the Sox sort of have the luxury of letting him develop his control at the big league level - his pitch count will go up and he generally wont make it past the 6th, but we have a capable bullpen and a potent enough offense to make up for the runs he may give up. pitching to aggressive minor league hackers isn't going to force him to establish the command that will turn him into an elite starter. he has the stuff. does this make sense?
The Ejected Fan: abstained
Hazel Mae’s Landing Strip: I would like to use stats like dubb, but I am far too lazy to look them up. I guess I will have to use the Dusty Baker method and talk about what I see. What I see is a guy with good stuff that isn't attacking the strike zone. Last year he showed what he was capable of, especially in Game 4 against the Rockies, where he shut them down for 6+ innings. But this year he has to be the most frustrating pitcher on the staff to watch, because he has the stuff but he doesn’t attack the hitters! I don't know if Lester is trying to nibble too much (a la Dice-K) or just has poor control of his pitches. When he first came up as a rookie in '06 I thought the wildness and getting out of jams would be something he would grow out of. Guess I was wrong. Should we drop him back to the minors to work on mechanics? I am going to say no - he needs a full season under his belt, which for a variety of reasons he hasn't been able to do. He is pitching in front of a prolific offense that should be able to bail him out of some his bad starts, and we always have Bat Shit (Tavarez - hat tip: Surviving Grady) in the pen if it gets out of control. With a full season working John Farrell and getting advice from Beckett, he might be able to work the kinks out of his game and really become the pitcher Boston fans have been hoping for. Patience my friends, patience.
The Ejected fan : pass
Smarty Barrett- Don't get me wrong - Jon Lester is a great story. The cancer thing, the clinching of the World Series, all that. Not only that, I love Jon Lester. [dubbschism says: love like the way i love sushi, or love like the way i love Didi Malloy on The Riches?] I think he has great stuff, he's confident, and he has great composure both on and off the field. As a Red Sox fan, nothing would make me happier than seeing him do well. That said, I really think he could benefit from some time in the minors once Colón is ready to join the big club. Stats as well as the untrained eye will tell you that Lester's biggest problem is throwing strikes.
Take note of the following:
- In his career, Lester's first pitch to any given batter is ball one 53% of the time.
- Nearly 2/3 of his base on balls are on either 4 pitches or 5 pitches, which indicates that he has trouble recovering when throwing ball one.
- In his career, he is walking one batter per 7.6 plate appearances.
And with this control trouble comes, of course, more pitches. Entering his last start, Lester was averaging 18 pitches per inning. His average outing was 5 and 1/3 innings, but his average pitch count per outing was 93 pitches.
Based on this data, you can say that Lester clearly needs to work on his command. If the Red Sox were the Pirates or the Reds or the Royals, I would be perfectly content seeing him work out these kinks in the majors against big-league hitting and working through the growing pains. However, the Red Sox are a team that can contend for another World Series title and they cannot afford his failures up here every 5th day. Control mainly has to do with mechanical issues and repetition of delivery. These can ALL be worked on about an hour down 95 in Pawtucket. There are some things that I can tolerate guys working on up here at the big-league level. Throwing strikes is not one of them.
The Ejected fan : silence