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Entries in Jon Lester (14)

Monday
Jan072013

The Red Sox Should be Concerned about Jon Lester

My colleague at Baseballanalytics.org, David Golebiewski, has written a fascinating piece on the upswing of the use of cutters to record strikeouts. One of the things that we discussed was that Red Sox deuce Jon Lester has led all pitchers in strikeouts via the cutter over the last four seasons with 258.

But here's the odd piece of news, despite the increase in recorded strikeouts by pitchers using the cutter, Lester's use of the pitch and his cutter whiffs dropped dramatically last season. 

  • In 2012, Lester threw 454 cutters and he struck out 45.
  • In 2011, Lester threw 798 cutters and he struck out 87.
  • In 2010, Lester threw 728 cutters and he struck out 71.
  • In 2009, Lester threw 500 cutters and he struck out 41.
  • In 2009, Lester threw 330 cutters and he struck out 14. 

Over this same five year period, in which Lester recorded 950 strikeouts, he struck out 354 with his fastball and 216 with his curve. Batters have hit the fastball at a .275 pace, the cutter .208, and the curve .189.

Last season, was by far Lester's worst and one must wonder if pitch selection was the reason.

Look at the pitch breakdowns in 2012

 Lester fell in love with his sinker but did not find much success with it.

Here are Lester's pitches in 2011

 Look how effective his cutter was this season.

Lester in 2010

Another highly effective season for the cutter.

So, what's going on with Lester?

Last August, on ESPN.com Tim Keown wrote

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette doesn't want anyone in his organization throwing the cutter. He thinks the pitch is generally less effective than others -- it helps that Duquette doesn't consider Mariano Rivera's cutter a cutter -- and he believes young pitchers who depend on it would be better served developing a changeup and curve. And, perhaps most importantly, he believes a reliance on the cutter leads to a drop in velocity and a greater risk of injury.

Duquette may be right 

  • In 2008, Lester's fastball averaged 91.6 mph.
  • In 2009, Lester's fastball averaged 93.4 mph.
  • In 2010, Lester's fastball averaged 93.5 mph.
  • In 2011, Lester's fastball averaged 92.6 mph.
  • In 2012, Lester's fastball averaged 92.0 mph.

The question for John Farrell, and Red Sox Nation is whether Jon Lester now can be more of a pitcher if he has a declining fastball and a reduced use of a cutter. So, it could be that Lester probably doesn't want his cutter back this birthday as much he would like his extra-yard-and-a-half on his fastball and an effective sinker.

Wednesday
Sep122012

Bill Chuck's Nine to Know: Report from Fenway

Photo by Bill Chuck
September 11 at Fenway Park
Photo by Bill Chuck

 

Last night at Fenway where the Red Sox were hosting the Yankees, after a moving 9/11 ceremony, I expected to see a game between a motivated team against an opponent playing out the season, And that's exactly what I saw. However, I was shocked to find that the inspired team was the near-comatose Red Sox as they faced a Yankee squad that looked sloppy in every aspect of the game won by Jacoby Ellsbury on a 9th inning walkoff single, 4-3.

Here's Nine to Know:

1. Each team had 12 at bats with runners in scoring position - the Sox were 5-12, the Yankees were 1-12.

2. The Yankees blew leads of 1-0 and 3-2, the Red Sox blew a 2-1 lead when Derek Jeter hit a two-run double.

3. Red Sox starter Jon Lester pitched 5.1 innings throwing 102 pitches walking seven and allowing three runs. Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched 6.1 innings throwing 94 pitches and allowing three runs including a Dustin Pedroia homer.

Lester was all over the place last night:

Lester has been hit at a .275 pace this season, .276 against righties and .271 against lefties:

4. Andrew Bailey picked up his first win as a Red Sox, David Robertson took the loss and dropped to 1-7. Robertson continued his not-2011 season as he failed in his attempt to pitch two innings of relief (he went 1.1).

5. For the third time in a week the Yankees fell into a first-place tie with the Orioles who crushed the Rays, 9-2.

6. Lester struck out five giving the lefty 150 for the season and 1044 for his career, the most for any lefty in Red Sox history. Here's your top nine:

RkPlayerSOFromToWLW-L%IPERA
1 Jon Lester 1044 2006 2012 85 45 .654 1138.0 3.76
2 Bruce Hurst 1043 1980 1988 88 73 .547 1459.0 4.23
3 Dutch Leonard 771 1913 1918 90 64 .584 1361.1 2.13
4 Lefty Grove 743 1934 1941 105 62 .629 1539.2 3.34
5 Mel Parnell 732 1947 1956 123 75 .621 1752.2 3.50
6 Bill Lee 578 1969 1978 94 68 .580 1503.1 3.64
7 Ray Collins 511 1909 1915 84 62 .575 1336.0 2.51
8 Mickey McDermott 499 1948 1953 48 34 .585 773.2 3.80
9 Babe Ruth 483 1914 1919 89 46 .659 1190.1 2.19
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/12/2012.

7. Jacoby Ellsbury celebrated turning 29 by picking up four hits, just the third time a Red Sox birthday-boy celebrated with this many hits since 1918:

RkPlayerDateOppRsltABHRBI
1 Jacoby Ellsbury 2012-09-11 NYY W 4-3 5 4 2
2 Carl Yastrzemski 1976-08-22 OAK L 6-7 5 4 1
3 Carl Yastrzemski 1961-08-22 WSA W 3-2 5 4 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/12/2012.

8. Alex Rodriguez went 0-4 with three strikeouts and was 0-2 with runners in scoring position. This season, A-Rod is hitting .221 with runners in scoring position and RISP/w 2 outs he's hitting .156 with four RBI.

A-Rod's hitting with RISP:

9. Jon Lester started and finished his September 11th start with a record of 9-11.

Wednesday
Sep282011

ERA aside, Lester Still Strong

With Boston's season quite possibly on the line, Jon Lester takes the mound tonight against the Orioles. The lefty has been drubbed for 17 runs in 25.2 innings pitched in September, contributing to a starting pitching collapse that has erased what was an 8.5 game lead over the Rays in the Wild Card race to begin the month.

Further stoking Sox fans' fears, Lester is pitching on three days' rest. Starters throwing on short rest tend to get rocked: according to Baseball-Reference, starters' opponent on-base-plus slugging percentage was 13 percent higher on three days' rest than in other situations in 2010, and 27 percent higher in 2011.

But, rather than painting an apocalyptic picture of a tired Lester getting rocked against the O's, I'd like to point out a few reasons why he's still Boston's best hope of avoiding what Nate Silver suggests could be the worst September swoon of all time.

- Lester might have an ERA nearing six this September, but his fielding-independent numbers are still strong. His xFIP, an ERA estimator based on strikeouts, walks and a normalized home run per fly ball rate, is 3.75 this month. Lester hasn't been ace-like, but he shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Kyle Weiland, Erik Bedard and Andrew Miller, whose combined xFIP in September is 5.47 (Josh Beckett also has a strong xFIP of 2.96).

- Shallow bloop hits in the outfield and bleeders in the infield have caused much of Lester's September woes. Here's his opponent hit chart for the month:

 

Lester's in-play average (including homers) is .403 in September, compared to .301 from April-August and the .320 league average. Whereas Lester got roughed up when he missed high and down the middle through August, he's giving up those seeing-eye hits all over the zone in September:

Lester's in-play average by pitch location, April-August 2011                  Lester's in-play average by pitch location, September 2011 - It's not pitch location, either. Virtually nothing has changed in terms of where Lester is throwing the ball:

Lester's vertical pitch location

April-August: 30% thrown up, 33% middle, 37% down

September: 29% up, 34% middle, 37% down

Lester's horizontal pitch location

April-August: 30% inside, 21% middle, 49% outside

September: 31% inside, 23% middle, 46% outside

- Lester's velocity isn't down. He's still sitting 92-93 mph with his fastball, maxing out at 96, and tossing his cutter around 88-89 mph.

- The "pitching on three days' rest" narrative is a bit misleading, as Lester threw just 55 pitchers in his September 24 start against the Yankees. For a guy who topped 200 innings three straight years prior to 2011 and has averaged about 105 pitches per start this season, fatigue might not be such a big issue.