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Let's Talk Lester


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#251 smastroyin


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 01:53 PM

You're not the only one concerned, but I just don't see how shutting someone down for two weeks and then asking them to start back up in the highest stress part of the season is all that much more damaging that just letting him pitch.

I agree that he should not have pitched the 8th last night, though. And I hope that Tito is given some marching orders in regards to limiting Lester's outing length in the final games of the season.

#252 The Filthy One

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 01:56 PM

The conventional wisdom is to increase a young pitcher's innings 15-20% each season, right? If Lester hadn't had the cancer setback, his progression following that blueprint would resemble:

2005 - 150 IP
2006 - 172 IP (+15%)
2007 - 198 IP (+15%)
2008 - 228 IP (+15%)

Yeah, it's a what-if scenario, but maybe the Sox think he's there? I'm sure they're monitoring the condition of his arm. This organization doesn't really strike me as the type to buy increased success for one season at the cost of damaging the guy who is emerging as a potential long term ace.


This speaks to something I've been concerned with, namely that there are two related issues with Lester:

1. His longterm healthy, which has to be priority #1;
2. His effectiveness going forward this year, particularly in the postseason.

As to #1, I assume the Sox have been monitoring this closely all year and know exactly how they want to handle the next few weeks. It's #2 that I worry about. We all know how fatigued Sabathia looked last postseason in the ALCS, but to look at his last five starts, you really couldn't have seen it coming:

Sabathia's 2007 Game Logs

Lester looked good yesterday, but as he advances further into uncharted IP territory, there could be sudden bumps in the road. That's my concern.

#253 simonus

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:02 PM

I seem to remember hearing about how the Sox did an initial diagnostic on each pitcher during spring-training to determine arm strength and then would re-evaluate throughout the season to assure that the given pitcher was not getting too fatigued. Is this right or have I completely made this up?

If so, I'd imagine Lester must be looking pretty good in his evaluations for Francona to keep using him in this manner and if his arm hasn't shown significant signs of fatigue, the inning increase issue seems mostly moot.

#254 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:19 PM

You're not the only one concerned, but I just don't see how shutting someone down for two weeks and then asking them to start back up in the highest stress part of the season is all that much more damaging that just letting him pitch.

But is it really at all damaging to shut someone down for two starts (while throwing side sessions I'm sure)? Abs already made the point earlier in the thread: you don't hear about any kind of increased injury risk following a couple of missed starts by a pitcher with a minor injury or fatigue issues. Why would this be a problem for Lester? He would be expected to pitch about 5 relatively low stress innings during the final week of the regular season, which would be the equivalent of something like a rehab start or an easing back into regular work (like Beckett just had)

#255 jtn46


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:27 PM

Honest question here: How effective of a measuring tool is just raw innings pitch? I know the rule of thumb is to increase IP 15-20% every year for a young pitcher. How accurate is that for Jon Lester, though? It seems to me that as recent as last year (and perhaps the beginning of this season) he struggled to go very deep into games. He threw perhaps as many pitches in 5IP as he does in 7IP in this stretch. Wouldn't a number of actual pitches be a better judge of how well he'll hold up come October? Perhaps he isn't actually increasing his workload by as much as it looks by just seeing IP.

I think this is probably a big reason the Sox aren't worried. His innings look scarier, but that's because he actually pitches into the 7th, 8th and 9th innings now and then, something he didn't do much before this season. It also has to be settling for them that his velocity has been so terrific.

Maybe Daisuke will be the second starter in the rotation, so Lester is less likely to pitch a second time should the Sox play the CS and WS.

#256 Bowlerman9


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:31 PM

So to summarize:

Jon Lester
2005, age 21 - 148.3 IP (ml)
2006, age 22 - 127.3 IP (46 ml, 81.3 ML - season cut short due to cancer). -14%
2007, age 23 - 153.7 IP (90.7 ml, 63 ML) + 9.3 IP (post season). +20.7%
2008, age 24 - 189.3 IP (ML through 9/8), 208 IP projected + ?? post season, currently 10th in MLB in PAP. +23.2% currently, + 35.3% projected regular season

I can't believe I'm the only one significantly concerned about this.


But why are you concerned? Just because "conventional wisdom" tells you to be?

Studies have shown that its safer for pitchers to increase workloads by 15-20%. Studies have also shown that pitchers can routinely throw 200+ innings without losing effectiveness or get injured. Studies have shown that pitchers who have been babied their entire life get hurt in the minors.

The truth is, every single player is different in what they can tolerate. No one knows if 130 pitches is 30 to the power of 3 times worse than 100 pitches. No one knows if Lester will get hurt throwing 220 innings this year.

I am concerned that the Sox might be the 4 seed and have to go through Anaheim and TB in the playoffs. I am not concerned about giving Lester a 10 inning break.

Lester might get hurt in 2 years whether he throws 180 innings or 220 innings this year. Lester might get rocked in mid-October whether he has two weeks off or not.

The truth is, no one knows whats "healthy" and whats not. Sacrificing two Jon Lester starts because some Bill James study showed that there is a 6% chance he gets hurt in 2010 if he throws 220 innings this year concerns me. Sacrificing two Lon Lester starts because we want him fresh for the World Series that we may never get to concerns me.

#257 simonus

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:39 PM

I think this is probably a big reason the Sox aren't worried. His innings look scarier, but that's because he actually pitches into the 7th, 8th and 9th innings now and then, something he didn't do much before this season. It also has to be settling for them that his velocity has been so terrific.

Maybe Daisuke will be the second starter in the rotation, so Lester is less likely to pitch a second time should the Sox play the CS and WS.


but PAP, which shows him to be one of the more heavily used pitchers in the league, is a function of pitches thrown, not innings pitched.

More directly, he is 37th in pitches per game (right with Daisuke), but 11th in total pitches thrown. Any way you cut it, he's been throwing a lot this year.

#258 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:43 PM

That's all well and good Bowlerman, but it boils down to 'nobody knows shit so lets throw caution to the wind.' I think the Sabathia debacle last year is a good reminder of what can happen to an otherwise dominant pitcher in the postseason once they have been overly taxed during the year. It seems to me that increasing the liklihood of Lester pitching effectively in the post season is more important than worrying about seeding, but to each their own. I'm really more concerned about his ability to pitch high quality/high stress innings this post season than what the stress of this season might mean in 2010 (though that is of concern as well). And honestly, do you think the downgrade from Lester to Hansack (worst case) for two starts is enough that it will likely be the difference between a 2 seed and a 4 seed? I'm sure someone can calculate the change in odds to win the division, but I imagine it isn't large.

#259 NickEsasky


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:46 PM

So PAP only factors in overall pitch count?

So if a guy goes 3 innings but throws 50 pitches in one inning before being removed he'd still be considered as having a 0 for PAP when throwing 50 pitches straight would be a lot worse for his arm than a normal workload of 110 normal stress pitches?

#260 smastroyin


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:49 PM

The reason I don't like cutting him back to adhere to a dogma is that we are talking about a guy who has really struggled in the past to maintain his mechanics and release point. I think his effectiveness has a lot more chance of going down than going up (especially compared to other pitchers) if you sit him for a couple starts. Throwing on the side is not the same as throwing in game situations and at game speed, no matter how hard you try to simulate it.

I think the Sox have been awfully risky to this point but I also think that is water under the bridge. Limiting Lester to 5 more innings in the regular season isn't going to change his accumulated usage to this point. I think there have been several times this year that Tito has gone too long with Lester, with last night being the obvious recent example. It was somewhat foolish to bring him out there. I also almost wish he hadn't pitched the no-hitter, or at least had done so in a way that only took 90 pitches. But that's all done.

I would rather he take his starts (with an extra days rest here and there), but have his innings limited. This is because I have the same concerns as you do, his effectiveness as a playoff starter.

#261 Bowlerman9


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 02:51 PM

So PAP only factors in overall pitch count?

So if a guy goes 3 innings but throws 50 pitches in one inning before being removed he'd still be considered as having a 0 for PAP when throwing 50 pitches straight would be a lot worse for his arm than a normal workload of 110 normal stress pitches?


Thats correct.

If someone actually went back and looked at historical PAPs, it would be discovered that it doesnt really tell you anything. Some pitchers always have high PAPs and never get hurt. Some have low PAPs and get hurt. Some have high PAPs and get hurt and are ineffective. Some have low PAPs and get hurt and are ineffective.

It really doesnt tell us anything.

#262 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 03:03 PM

That's well said Steve and I can appreciate where you're coming from. However, I'm not convinced he's going to suddenly forget his mechanics and release point by missing two starts. I know that the WS start last year is but one measly data point, but it's the only thing that comes to mind for Lester in terms of starting after not doing so for more than two weeks (with two relief appearances in the ALCS). He pitched better than he had all season in that start. Now I'm not saying that two weeks off is going to make him suddenly any better than he has been all season, but it may just allow him to continue at his current level for longer. I'm concerned there is going to be a wall and no one knows where it is. Why increase the liklihood of hitting it sooner than later? The rest period would hopefully allow his arm to recover and could be more beneficial than the reduced innings alone might indicate (i.e., had they been spread over the season). I admit that the most likely course of action is they'll push his starts back and hopefully limit his innings. This is largely a theoretical argument.

#263 Savin Hillbilly


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 05:21 PM

I think there have been several times this year that Tito has gone too long with Lester, with last night being the obvious recent example. It was somewhat foolish to bring him out there.

To be fair to Tito, I think it's quite possible that he would not have brought Lester out for the 8th against any other opponent right now. I agree that it was the wrong move, but it was also an understandable one under the circumstances. Last night was not quite a 'must win' game, but certainly a 'boy would a win here be big' game.

For this reason, I'm actually glad that the schedule seems to be shaping up for Lester to miss TB next week.

#264 Alcohol&Overcalls

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 05:38 PM

So PAP only factors in overall pitch count?

So if a guy goes 3 innings but throws 50 pitches in one inning before being removed he'd still be considered as having a 0 for PAP when throwing 50 pitches straight would be a lot worse for his arm than a normal workload of 110 normal stress pitches?


Yes, and there's good reason for that - PAP measures specifically abuse from overwork. So the 50-pitch start may well be worse for the pitcher than the 110-pitch normal-stress start, but that's not at all what the metric is intended to show.

The use of exponents is meant to show that workload stress is compounded above a certain point - in that the difference between 110 and 120 pitches is less than the difference between 120 and 130 pitches, and that there is a certain correlation between the number of very high pitch count games and injuries to modern pitchers. It's quite possible that Lester is racking up PAP because he is consistently going deep enough to get to 115-120 pitches more than other starters (because of quality) rather than the Cheeseburger Livan Hernandez plan of throwing a couple of 150+ sessions, for sure, and that he's not really all that worse off as a result.

#265 Ananti


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 05:46 PM

IP is not a good way to evaluate Lester's work load.

The reason Lester is able to work so many innings this year is because since about May he has drastically increased his pitch efficiency.

Whereas he used to barely get through 5 innings on 100 pitches, this year he is able to go 7 on the same 100 pitches.

So while the 7 innings represent a 40% increase in IP compared to the 5 IP, the number of pitches throw is actually is the same.

#266 Bowlerman9


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 05:56 PM

there is a certain correlation between the number of very high pitch count games and injuries to modern pitchers.


While I dont doubt this to be true, how is this compared to the correlation between the number of moderate pitch count games and injuries to pitchers? What about the correlation between the number of low pitch games (say, relief pitchers) and injuries?

#267 Worst Trade Evah


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Posted 10 September 2008 - 03:58 PM

IP is not a good way to evaluate Lester's work load.

The reason Lester is able to work so many innings this year is because since about May he has drastically increased his pitch efficiency.

Whereas he used to barely get through 5 innings on 100 pitches, this year he is able to go 7 on the same 100 pitches.

So while the 7 innings represent a 40% increase in IP compared to the 5 IP, the number of pitches throw is actually is the same.

And the stress in throwing them is less, because he's pitching out of jams less often. It's virtuous cycle, like compound interest or something. It's not just the number of pitches, but the labor involved in throwing them, and drawn-out, high pitch count innings apparently wear pitchers out faster.

Edited by Worst Trade Evah, 10 September 2008 - 03:59 PM.


#268 Sprowl


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Posted 16 September 2008 - 05:26 PM

Lester has now pitched 4 brilliant games in a row after his 2.1 IP, 7-run stinker in Toronto on August 23. Here's a chart of Lester's pitches on September 8, when he threw 7.2 innings, 6 hits and 0 runs at the Rays in Fenway:
Posted Image

Lester was pounding the strike zone with the 4-seamer, and getting swinging strikes on the curve. He threw plenty of balls with the cutter to RHH and the sinker to LHH, trying to get the hitters to chase pitches out of the zone. The sinker was not his most effective pitch in this game, and the Rays caught up with it for 4 of their 6 hits. His velocity has gotten better through the season, and he hit 97 several times in this game. That's quite an upward jump from his minor league scouting report, which listed his fastball as peaking 94-95, and it's another world entirely from the 91-mph fastballs we saw immediately preceding his cancer diagnosis and for the recovery year afterward.

Lester-Halladay matchups are becoming must-see MLB.tv -- and Lester is winning most of them so far. Here's the chart from Lester's performance on September 14, when he held the Jays to 4 hits and 1 run in 8 innings:
Posted Image

Again the 4-seamer (and the curve) get plenty of called strikes, and again his velocity touches 97. This time the sinker was very effective in producing weak contact, generating 8 outs. One thing stands out from this chart -- the reappearance of Lester's changeup, after an absence of several months. The Jays' lineup included 8 batters hitting RH, with Overbay the lone leftie, and Lester used the changeup three times in the first inning, always for balls, and usually high and outside. It didn't always help throw off the batter's timing, as Bautista's HR came off a letter-high 4-seamer over the center of the plate. As the game wore one, Lester and Tek turned increasingly to the cutter inside to RHH to set up the fastball away.

These were two vital games against two good-hitting divisional rivals with lots at stake and more than just pride on the line. At 24, Lester keeps getting stronger, and he's pitching like a staff ace.

#269 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 16 September 2008 - 05:36 PM

Great stuff as always Sprowl. If I'm reading this right, his cutter's sitting between 92 and 94, which is impressive in and of itself, but he threw one at just above 96 against the Rays. Granted it was a ball and there's always some error to be expected even with Pitch f/x, but the uptick in his velocity this year has been a real treat to watch.

Edited by PedroSpecialK, 16 September 2008 - 05:36 PM.


#270 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 16 September 2008 - 05:46 PM

I think it's reasonable to assume the uptick in velocity is due to his increased physical health and strength. It's clear this year that he's in very, very good shape; the next time he pitches take a look at his neck. It's huge and could easily pass for a linebacker's. I suspect that his overall condition is far better than last year's and is contributing to his much-improved velocity.

What's even more remarkable to me is that after putting up a 16/19 K/BB ratio through his first 6 starts, he's turned that completely around with a 128/43 K/BB ratio since then, pretty much 3:1. For him to have such a dramatic cut in his walk rate has been the single most surprising thing to me this year; I wonder if his increased velocity has made him far more confident in pounding the zone with his stuff.

At any rate he has been a joy to watch this season.

#271 Sprowl


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Posted 16 September 2008 - 11:48 PM

Great stuff as always Sprowl. If I'm reading this right, his cutter's sitting between 92 and 94, which is impressive in and of itself, but he threw one at just above 96 against the Rays. Granted it was a ball and there's always some error to be expected even with Pitch f/x, but the uptick in his velocity this year has been a real treat to watch.

Thanks, Pedro. For the Rays' game I think you may be looking at the 2-seamer (ie, sinker) -- but getting 96 mph on a sinker is no mean feat either. The pitch clusters go clockwise from the lower left: curve 75-81, cutter 88-93, 4-seam FB 91-97, and 2-seam sinking FB 90-96. You raise a good point regarding the pitchfx error: I suspect that the Fenway velocity readings tend toward the generous side, so it might make sense to subtract 1 (or maybe even 2) mph from all of the readings. Even so, Smiling Joe's observation is right on: Lester has clearly added bulk and right now he's strong as a horse. That may be one reason why the Sox are sanguine about letting his inning count mount so quickly. He's getting through the innings with fewer pitches, and he's not getting into many jams, so the stressful pitches are fewer as a proportion of overall pitches thrown.

#272 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 09:16 AM

The pitch clusters go clockwise from the lower left: curve 75-81, cutter 88-93, 4-seam FB 91-97, and 2-seam sinking FB 90-96.
...
Even so, Smiling Joe's observation is right on: Lester has clearly added bulk and right now he's strong as a horse. That may be one reason why the Sox are sanguine about letting his inning count mount so quickly. He's getting through the innings with fewer pitches, and he's not getting into many jams, so the stressful pitches are fewer as a proportion of overall pitches thrown.

Ah gotcha, that makes more sense. Still, nice to be able to fire a low-mid 90s pitch up there that has that much movement. And agreed on his strength. Yahoo has him listed at 6'2, 190, but you've gotta believe he's closer to 210 or so with all the muscle he's packed on this year - probably the main reason for his continued strength late into games and late into the season.

#273 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 09:43 AM

Yahoo has him listed at 6'2, 190, but you've gotta believe he's closer to 210 or so with all the muscle he's packed on this year - probably the main reason for his continued strength late into games and late into the season.

Yeah because Pedro had problems early in his career going late into games or putting up well over 200 IP. Personally I don't think Lester's bulk has much to do with the amount of stress being put on his arm/shoulder. It's all about mechanics. And I do think he has displayed good mechanics for the most part this season and has been pretty consistent in his delivery from what I can tell. Still, two more starts puts him around 210 IP, which is a huge jump. The results thus far have been fantastic, but I remain concerned that he's going to hit a wall and that it's going to come during the postseason.

#274 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 01:11 PM

Yeah because Pedro had problems early in his career going late into games or putting up well over 200 IP. Personally I don't think Lester's bulk has much to do with the amount of stress being put on his arm/shoulder. It's all about mechanics. And I do think he has displayed good mechanics for the most part this season and has been pretty consistent in his delivery from what I can tell. Still, two more starts puts him around 210 IP, which is a huge jump. The results thus far have been fantastic, but I remain concerned that he's going to hit a wall and that it's going to come during the postseason.

Why bring Pedro into the discussion? Not only has Pedro not gone 200 innings since 2005, but he's only done it twice since 2000. Obviously, his body type is not really conducive to going 200 innings year in and year out, and his 215+ seasons from '96-'00 didn't help. My point with Lester was that until this year, the maximum he's ever thrown in a season has been 155 innings, and though the cancer was obviously a big reason why he didn't get more innings in 2006 (he ended up with 128.1 that year), there's no question that the increase in muscle has enabled him to not only go deeper into games, but to get more velocity on his pitches than we've ever seen before, even considering his dominant 2005 in AA.

Also, in regards to Pedro and other pitchers like Tim Lincecum, there are power pitchers like this that come along that simply defy any set of guidelines as to how much abuse their arms can take. It's caught up to Pedro recently - let's hope Lincecum's luckier.

#275 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 01:50 PM

Why bring Pedro into the discussion? Not only has Pedro not gone 200 innings since 2005, but he's only done it twice since 2000. Obviously, his body type is not really conducive to going 200 innings year in and year out, and his 215+ seasons from '96-'00 didn't help. My point with Lester was that until this year, the maximum he's ever thrown in a season has been 155 innings, and though the cancer was obviously a big reason why he didn't get more innings in 2006 (he ended up with 128.1 that year), there's no question that the increase in muscle has enabled him to not only go deeper into games, but to get more velocity on his pitches than we've ever seen before, even considering his dominant 2005 in AA.

Because I don't think bulking up necessarily factors into how many innings a pitcher can throw in a season. Pedro is an example of a guy who regularly threw 200+ innings early in his career and is anything but bulky. Sure he's a freak of nature, but there are others beyond Lincecum who get there in any given season. Hammels, Hudson, Peavy come to mind. Hell look at lanky ass Bronson Arroyo; going on four consecutive seasons above 200, including 240! in 2006. Sure being bulkier may be a positive in terms of longterm durability (anecdotally at least that appears to be a factor), but that wasn't my point.

Specific to Lester, the numbers you cite (and that I posted in more detail on the previous page) are why I'm concerned about him now being on pace for a 37% increase in IP for the regular season. That's huge. Plus the possibility of another 20+ IP in the postseason. I don't see how being bulkier does much to mitigate that concern. Maybe it has allowed him to go deeper into games, I don't know, though I think his being more efficient and throwing more strikes has been a bigger factor in that regard. Being bulky certainly didn't prevent Sabathia from falling off the proverbial cliff last postseason.

#276 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 02:01 PM

These are all fair points you bring up regarding Peavy, Hudson and (most accurately) Hamels.

However, if we look at a guy like Arroyo, he can hardly be classified as a power pitcher - IIRC, his fastball tops out at 91-92? Regardless, obviously body type isn't the only thing that determines how many innings a guy can pitch in a given year (or, more accurately, how many pitches). That being said, I firmly believe that as SJH said, a big reason for Lester's ability to go deep into games and have this zip on his pitches is recovering his strength from the cancer treatment. He showed signs of it late last year, and has shown now what he can do when completely healthy.

I also think that the additional weight he's put on (as someone pointed out, his neck resembles that of a linebacker) has only helped him, as he's obviously been under the watch of some of baseball's finest strength and conditioning experts in building his muscle mass.

The Sabathia point is one that's particularly troubling, and it'll be interesting to see (should the Sox go deep in the postseason) how Lester fares in late October.

#277 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 02:24 PM

I'll say this much, that Lester appears to have fully recovered from his cancer treatments and has even exceeded his previous level of muscle mass is almost certainly a factor in the extra couple of mph he has gained on his fastball and how effective he has been this season. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to be able to sucessfully throw about 230 IP (if they can get deep into the postseason) after seasons of about 160, 130 (cancer), and 150 IP. The one possible mitigating factor that seems real to me is that some of the increase is due to his new found ability to get deeper into game (i.e. less pitches per IP).

#278 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 02:51 PM

The one possible mitigating factor that seems real to me is that some of the increase is due to his new found ability to get deeper into game (i.e. less pitches per IP).

Just checked this out because it's an interesting point - in 2008 he's got 15.81 pitches per inning, and has thrown 3120 pitches overall. At the MLB level in 2007 he had 17.24 pitcher per inning and threw 1086 pitches in the bigs. In '06, he had 18.57 pitches per inning and 1510 pitches in the big leagues. I'm looking for somewhere to find his minor league box scores and pitch counts but haven't been able to find him on MILB.com and I don't think Baseball Cube has this info. Anyone know where else I can look for this?

#279 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 03:08 PM

This is what gammoseditor posted last week in this thread regarding pitch counts.

Last year Lester threw 17.2 pitches per inning pitched in his major league starts in the regular season. This is only over 63 innings though and doesn't account for the 9.1 playoff innings or the 90.2 minor league innings he threw. He is down to 15.9 pitches per inning this year. The drop in pitches per inning would equate to almost 246 less pitches this year over the 189.1 innings he has worked.

246 pitches is what you'd expect Lester to throw over roughly 15.5 innings this year. He's still on pace to exceed his workload by right around 20% by the end of the regular season.


So this certainly appears to work in Lester's favor, but I personally don't think that this alone is enough to say there isn't any reason for concern going forward.

#280 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 03:29 PM

Just checked this out because it's an interesting point - in 2008 he's got 15.81 pitches per inning, and has thrown 3120 pitches overall. At the MLB level in 2007 he had 17.24 pitcher per inning and threw 1086 pitches in the bigs. In '06, he had 18.57 pitches per inning and 1510 pitches in the big leagues. I'm looking for somewhere to find his minor league box scores and pitch counts but haven't been able to find him on MILB.com and I don't think Baseball Cube has this info. Anyone know where else I can look for this?


If you have access to PAs. Ks, BBs and innings pitched you could use this formula from Tom Tango to get a rough idea of his pitch count in ml games.

3.3PA + 1.5SO + 2.2BB

#281 ToxicSmed


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 03:48 PM

Something that I find really encouraging is that Lester has continued to improve as the season has worn on.

Start 1-10: 3.95 ERA, 33 K, 29 BB, 57 IP
Start 11-20: 2.91 ERA, 49 K, 15 BB, 68 IP
Start 21-30: 2.74 ERA, 62 K, 18 BB, 72.1 IP

With the exception of the 2.1 IP, 7 ER game against the Jays on the 23rd, his last ten starts have been glorious.

#282 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 03:57 PM

If you have access to PAs. Ks, BBs and innings pitched you could use this formula from Tom Tango to get a rough idea of his pitch count in ml games.

3.3PA + 1.5SO + 2.2BB

Indeed I do, thanks. Using Tango's formula, here's a table I made with Lester's major and minor league total pitch counts, pitches per inning, and innings at both the major and minor league levels:

Sheet1
Year Total Pitches Thrown Majors Minors Total Pitches per Inning Majors Minors Total Innings Majors Minors
2005 2357 0 2356.5 15.89 0 15.89 148.1 0 148.1
2006 2313 1510 802.6 18.02 18.57 17.08 128.1 81.1 47
2007 2540 1086 1453.6 16.53 17.24 16.03 153.2 63 90.2
2008 3120 3120 0 15.81 15.81 0 197.1 197.1 0


The most interesting part to me is how similar his numbers are to his '05 campaign in AA, which is what got most of us so excited about him in the first place.

Edited by PedroSpecialK, 17 September 2008 - 03:58 PM.


#283 Bucknahs Bum Ankle


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 06:52 PM

Interesting. Assuming that formula is accurate, he's on pace for about a 30% increase in pitches thrown for the regular season. At least it's not quite as bad as the 37% increase in innings pitched that he's on pace for. Still worrisome though. He's already ahead of where they would have liked him to finish the season with 2 starts left and the postseason to come.

Edited by Bucknahs Bum Ankle, 17 September 2008 - 07:30 PM.


#284 Jnai


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Posted 17 September 2008 - 10:48 PM

Regarding the fact that Lester has been getting stronger over the course of the season:


Posted Image
The first figure is simply a graph showing his average fastball velocity and average curveball velocity over the course of the season, for all the games except Philly (their system is pretty clearly broken).

There's a steady rise in both Fastball and Curveball velocity, suggesting that the rise in fastball velocity isn't due to a change in fastball type distribution.



The other graph is a bit more psychadelic, so here is the explanation. I realize that averaging across pitch types can be bad because of the known issues in trying to identify pitches, so I took one of his first starts from each month of the season and plotted each pitch on the same Horizontal Movement X Speed axis. To account for the fact that different systems may have slightly different speed readings I used his first start at Fenway for each month.

Warmer colors (yellows and oranges) are early in the season, cooler colors (blues and purples) are later in the season.

I think it's pretty clear that the velocity increase is not due to pitch misidentification or something else, as the velocity increase is really across the board. Cooler colors are clearly above warmer colors in each cluster in this figure.

Posted Image


For those struggling to identify these pitches I have labeled them.

1. Bottom Left (Ugly Dark Purple) - Curveball
2. Middle Left (Light Blue) - Cutter (a few sliders towards the curveball side)
3. Top Middle (Green) - 4Seam Fastball [a few changeups are thrown with this kind of movement and erroneously grouped in the circle, they are the very slow 4seam fastballs, sorry]
4. Top Right (Light Purple) - 2Seam Fastball
5. Bottom Right (Orange) - Changeup

Posted Image

Edited by Jnai, 17 September 2008 - 10:50 PM.


#285 Sprowl


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Posted 18 September 2008 - 11:49 AM

Posted Image

Great stuff Dan, and excellent job controlling for pitch identification and park effects. It's interesting to note that the pitchfx system has pretty much given up on trying to identify Lester's cutter, let alone distinguishing between 2- and 4-seamer. Lately, it just lumps them all together as fastballs. It probably makes sense, since proper pitch ID really needs to be tailored to knowledge of the pitcher's repertoire and calibrated by park readings as well as for game-to-game variations in break and velocity. It's much easier for the human eye to pick out the differences than a machine.

#286 Hairps

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 01:16 PM

Red Sox manager Terry Francona acknowledged that Jon Lester has exceeded the team's projected innings total (204 1/3 innings) for the season, which might lead the Sox to scale back Lester's workload during next season's spring training.

http://www.weei.com/

#287 BoSox Rule

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 03:03 PM

Lester has once again been named the American League Pitcher of the Month. He also took home the honor in the July.

#288 Sprowl


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 12:21 AM

Lester showed his ability to get out of jams once again on Wednesday night, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, and stranding two in the third after Lowrie's error set up Hunter's soft liner for an RBI. When Lester got hit, it usually was on his 2-seamer. The contact was mixed: groundball singles by Anderson in the first and Guerrero in the fifth; line drive singles by Teixeira in the first and Anderson in the third.

Posted Image

Control was both a strong and a weak point. As bellyofthebeast mentioned in the game thread, Lester often went to 2-and-0 (5 times in the first three innings, by my count), but he made no big mistakes, and kept the ball off the middle of the plate and out of the hitters' sweet spots. A chart of Lester's strike zone shows how effectively he kept the ball low and inside on right-handed hitters:

Posted Image

His cutter worked beautifully, especially in the later innings. A fair proportion of them ended up low and inside for balls, but only one was hit (Teixeira's single in the fifth inning), and five generated swinging strikes. Many times Lester followed up a cutter low and inside with a 4-seam fastball either up or outside, and the effects were notably positive (PM me if you'd like the spreadsheet). Lester's 4-seamer topped out at 97 mph to Anderson in the 7th inning, supporting the announcers' characterization of him as a 'flamethrower'. The curve was even better: 28 curves, 9 balls, 7 fouls, 5 called strikes, 4 swinging strikes 3 balls in play for outs, and 0 hits.

#289 smastroyin


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 07:09 AM

I know that control has always been an issue for Lester and it will always be in the conversation, but let's face it, based on that strike zone chart, Tim Welke could have been outdone by a couple of blind monkeys. In that way, it is hard for me to break out what part of those control issues were Lester's fault and which were just the stupid strike zone.

#290 Jnai


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 09:28 AM

I know that control has always been an issue for Lester and it will always be in the conversation, but let's face it, based on that strike zone chart, Tim Welke could have been outdone by a couple of blind monkeys. In that way, it is hard for me to break out what part of those control issues were Lester's fault and which were just the stupid strike zone.


That strikezone chart is non-normalized to the height of the batter. It's true that the strikezone was terrible*, but the proper place to look for that is here:

http://brooksbasebal.....naheim Angels

Sprowl's chart simply has a rough sketch of a strikezone on it, with the actual X and Z locations of each pitch plotted without any transformation. The one in my link probably gives a better approximation of what the strikezone was and how it differs from the textbook zone, as the Z coordinates are normalized around the textbook strikezone for each hitter based on his height and stance. FWIW, my chart also only includes *calls* made by the umpire.

I actually think the biggest issue for Lester in this game was the high and outside strike call to RHH (I mean, high and outside within the strikezone) - it simply wasn't there, and it's a big part of his game. Obviously he was able to adjust, but I think if you look back at starts where he gets that call, his 4seamer/cutter make an incredibly effective combination.




*If you work for or are in any way affiliated with MLB Umpires and are concerned about technology being used to evaluate your performance, what I really mean by "terrible" is either "special" or "different".

Edited by Jnai, 03 October 2008 - 09:34 AM.


#291 DJnVa


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 09:37 AM

I know that control has always been an issue for Lester and it will always be in the conversation, but let's face it, based on that strike zone chart, Tim Welke could have been outdone by a couple of blind monkeys. In that way, it is hard for me to break out what part of those control issues were Lester's fault and which were just the stupid strike zone.



Good pitchers have the ability to make use of whatever strike zone the ump is using. If he didn't need to throw strikes to get strikes, it's smart to take advantage of that. However it's going to be tough to know exactly how that had an effect on things, but smart pitchers/catchers will take advantage.

#292 smastroyin


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 10:23 AM

Good pitchers have the ability to make use of whatever strike zone the ump is using. If he didn't need to throw strikes to get strikes, it's smart to take advantage of that. However it's going to be tough to know exactly how that had an effect on things, but smart pitchers/catchers will take advantage.


Well, I was going to mention this because I think that's what he did. Certainly he looked "stronger" and like he had "better command" in the later innings, but it may have just been knowing which pitches the ump was giving him. It may also be that like many umps, Welke was going with the flow of the game and once it was apparent that Lester was pitching well he started giving him some calls more of the marginal calls.

#293 Quintanariffic

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 11:03 AM

Well, I was going to mention this because I think that's what he did. Certainly he looked "stronger" and like he had "better command" in the later innings, but it may have just been knowing which pitches the ump was giving him. It may also be that like many umps, Welke was going with the flow of the game and once it was apparent that Lester was pitching well he started giving him some calls more of the marginal calls.


I think this is a reasonable interpretation. Might not have been what actually happened, but it was apparent to me that some of those sweeping curves that had been called balls started to be called strikes (the one in the 7th to Andreson notwithstanding).

#294 Sprowl


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 04:16 PM

A question for those who watched the broadcast of Lester's game: there was a brief segment on Lester throwing a one-seamer. I missed most of it, so I didn't hear what kind of movement the one-seamer was supposed to produce -- closer to a sinker or a cutter -- and which finger goes on which seam at what angle. Help a brother fill in the blanks here...

#295 TheYaz67

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 04:50 PM

They made it sound like a 2 seamer (FB), modified into the "one seamer". Instead of the fingers slightly spread, and therefore touching both seams, he shifts his middle finger to the right to touch the other finger, and uses that middle finger to apply the most pressure - I believe that was the description they gave. Produces a cutting action I believe.

#296 Sprowl


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 04:58 PM

They made it sound like a 2 seamer (FB), modified into the "one seamer". Instead of the fingers slightly spread, and therefore touching both seams, he shifts his middle finger to the right to touch the other finger, and uses that middle finger to apply the most pressure - I believe that was the description they gave. Produces a cutting action I believe.

Thanks, Yaz. Along the same lines, lurker bstoker7 writes:

They didn't really say what movement trends it showed, but they specifically mentioned that all the pressure was on the middle finger. The grip looked similar to a cutter/slider. They mentioned he learned it from Tim Hudson during offseason workouts.



#297 Eric Van


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 05:07 PM

That strikezone chart is non-normalized to the height of the batter. It's true that the strikezone was terrible*, but the proper place to look for that is here:

Jnai, are you simply taking where the ball entered the strike zone, or are you calculating its best (most strike-like) position during the time it passes over the plate?

If the former, I have accurate formulas for the corners of the plate and a decent approximation for the high strike as it breaks down (I'm working on a better one), which I'd gladly share.

#298 Sprowl


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 05:45 PM

A slightly different interpretation of the one-seamer, from lurker Fum:

It is gripped with the middle finger laid parallel along one of the four long seams - the seams usually gripped perpendicularly for the four-seam fastball - and the index finger is tucked right next to the middle finger, touching only leather. It is thrown like a fastball, but most of the pressure is placed on the middle finger as the ball rolls straight off the one seam. It should spin much like a two-seam fastball - which also rolls straight along the fingers more than it is guided by the fingertips - right in line with the arm angle. This is unlike many four-seamers that are sent off center due to being guided more by the fingertips, although this effect depends on the length differential between index and middle finger. And this is the opposite of cutters which embellish this differential by cocking the fingers and getting even more fingertip contact.

I think the idea is when you have the ball spinning in line with two of the large seams, youíll have even less of the seams catching the air perpendicularly when compared to the two-seamer, and it might give you a little more of a sinking action, with maybe a little less of a horizontal tailing action. Iíve actually seen replays of Lester throwing this pitch, and you can usually see a line in the ball, like one big seam around the middle. Anecdotally, it does seem to have less horizontal tail than a usual two-seamer, although Iím not sure if it has more sink. I see people have responded to you indicating that the pitch it has a cutting action, but I donít think that this is the case - if thrown properly. It might not have so much tail as the two-seamer, but it shouldnít be cutting. I might be wrong, of course...



#299 Jnai


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Posted 04 October 2008 - 11:48 AM

Jnai, are you simply taking where the ball entered the strike zone, or are you calculating its best (most strike-like) position during the time it passes over the plate?

If the former, I have accurate formulas for the corners of the plate and a decent approximation for the high strike as it breaks down (I'm working on a better one), which I'd gladly share.


Just the coordinates from the system.

If you email me your formula ([email protected]) I'll get a page with it up and running by early next week.

#300 TheYaz67

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 03:07 PM

Just a bump to have a place to discuss Lester's awesomeness for the next 3 days while we await the ALCS. My ongoing concern, the 210.1 regular season innings, plus 14 in ALDS, probably another 14 in ALCS, and if fate is on our side another 7-15 in the World Series - that would have him up around the 250+ innings neighborhood (where CC usually resides)....