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Is there something wrong with Jon Lester?


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#1 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:08 AM

0-4 over his last 4 starts with a 4.39 ERA (which ain't bad, of course).

The good: he's K'd 30 batters over those four starts (26.2 IP) while walking only 8. His BABIP over those 4 starts is .370, meaning he may well be running into a stretch of bad luck.

The bad: well, he keeps losing, for one. He's been hit very, very hard in the last two starts. He's doing things like walking .195 hitting Andy Marte and getting into trouble because of it. And to my untrained eye, his arm angle has dipped just a little bit in his last two starts (hopefully, the pitch f/x guys can confirm or deny this).

This guy is considered to be the best pitcher on the starting staff, so seeing him go into an extended losing streak at a time when the team's season is slipping away and they badly need him to step up is very discouraging.

Any thoughts on what's going on with this guy?

#2 mr_smith02

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:14 AM

0-4 over his last 4 starts with a 4.39 ERA (which ain't bad, of course).

The good: he's K'd 30 batters over those four starts (26.2 IP) while walking only 8. His BABIP over those 4 starts is .370, meaning he may well be running into a stretch of bad luck.

The bad: well, he keeps losing, for one. He's been hit very, very hard in the last two starts. He's doing things like walking .195 hitting Andy Marte and getting into trouble because of it. And to my untrained eye, his arm angle has dipped just a little bit in his last two starts (hopefully, the pitch f/x guys can confirm or deny this).

This guy is considered to be the best pitcher on the starting staff, so seeing him go into an extended losing streak at a time when the team's season is slipping away and they badly need him to step up is very discouraging.

Any thoughts on what's going on with this guy?


It really looked liked he "tweaked" something during last night's game...not sure if he's been pitching through some pain or if it's something else going on. Nevertheless, it seems like he's given up more HRs lately too.

#3 luckysox


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:15 AM

In all seriousness - and I know people don't want to believe that this might affect a top tier athlete - the guy is a brand new father. His last 2 starts were the night before his wife gave birth and 4 days after his wife gave birth. His focus, which is pretty damn important to a major league pitcher, may not be at its best right now. He is likely exhausted, stressed (hopefully stressed but happy) and he may not even want to be out there. He may be thinking of the little one and his wife in the back of his mind and it may well be affecting his performances.

I can't comment on his arm angle - but his stuff is ok. It seems more like it's his focus to me. Hell, 4 games go he was perfect, literally un-hittable for 6 innings, and then after a lousy play by a fielder, he lost focus. My money is on the mental part if his game being off, and not the physical.

Edited by luckysox, 05 August 2010 - 08:16 AM.


#4 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:16 AM

Well, his wife just had a kid on Saturday, so he could be tired, distracted, etc. Probably a combination of factors, and perhaps its worth giving him some extra rest down the stretch, realizing the reality of the Red Sox situation and balancing long term goals with short term.

#5 The Four Peters


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:20 AM

It really looked liked he "tweaked" something during last night's game...not sure if he's been pitching through some pain or if it's something else going on. Nevertheless, it seems like he's given up more HRs lately too.

It was only a cramp. I think the newborn would be the Occam's Razor explanation for his last couple starts. Link

He left the game with a cramp in his left hamstring. It was a product of the humidity and a lack of sleep as his wife had their first child last week. He was checked out after the game and seemed to be fine.



#6 Paul M


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:24 AM

I wouldn't worry too much though since Patterson misplayed that ball in Seattle, he's looked less than Lester-like with well over a hit per inning and 4 home-runs in those 12 innings. This can be the time of year when guys have to fight through. Hopefully it's just a blip and that the leg injury was a cramp. Not that means much, but agaisnt Cleveland back in June he allowed 6 runs and 9 hits then as well.

#7 Dummy Hoy


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 09:24 AM

This can be the time of year when guys have to fight through.


I'd put my money on this. It's august, dude's been a horse, has had a few rough starts. I can't imagine the kid has helped either. If we see the same problems in a couple of weeks, I'd more inclined to worry. Of course if we're seeing the sam problems in a couple of weeks, it may not be a season worth worrying about.

#8 Lose Remerswaal


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 09:33 AM

I wouldn't worry too much though since Patterson misplayed that ball in Seattle, he's looked less than Lester-like with well over a hit per inning and 4 home-runs in those 12 innings. This can be the time of year when guys have to fight through. Hopefully it's just a blip and that the leg injury was a cramp. Not that means much, but agaisnt Cleveland back in June he allowed 6 runs and 9 hits then as well.

2008 he missed one start all year (mid July). 9 starts in June/July, 6W, 0L, lowering ERA from 3.67 to 3.17
2009 he missed no starts all year. 10 starts in June/July, with 5 W, 2L, lowering his ERA from 5.65 to 3.90

#9 yecul


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 09:38 AM

Pedroia, Lowrie, Varitek, Martinez, Lowell, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Hermida, Beckett, Cameron...

And we're asking if Lester has an injury?

Of course he does. Is there any doubt?

#10 Savin Hillbilly


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 09:39 AM

Looking at the PitchFX pages from last night compared to July 3 vs. the Orioles, his last dominating start at Fenway:

1. Release points look pretty indistinguishable to me.

2. No major differences in velocity, unless you call the difference between 93.6 and 93.1 major.

3. Control was much better on 7/3. He was missing the zone more often last night, and by larger margins--and it hurt him. On 7/3 he got 6 swinging strikes and 7 fouls on balls outside the zone. Last night those numbers were 1 and 2. On 7/3, only 2 of the 26 PA vs. Lester ended with the batter ahead in the count (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1). Last night it was 9 of 25.

4. Looking at the H-Mov/V-Mov charts, all his pitches had lower V-mov last night than on 7/3--they sank more, or didn't rise as much. Because this phenomenon appears across the board, though, it seems likely to be an anomaly--I'm not sure why an issue in his delivery that would make a 4-seamer lose its rise would also make a curveball drop more. The other thing I notice is that the clustering on this chart was tighter on 7/3, meaning that each pitch was behaving more consistently each time he threw it.

Overall it just looks like poor command. And that does make the distracted-by-fatherhood hypothesis seem plausible. Either that, or he's just tired, hitting the August wall. (August is his worst month by ERA for his career, which surprised me--I figured it would be April.)

#11 86spike


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 09:43 AM

You know what else is probably adding to the grind for our starters? Knowing that the injury-depleted lineup really needs the starters to step up and execute in order for wins. There's a ton of pressure on these guys to be lights out. That's probably not the sole cause of him losing a bit of his edge, but I would bet it's a part of the whole foul tasting cocktail that is late 2010 in a Sox uni.

#12 TomRicardo


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 09:53 AM

Terrible defense and even worse catching. Kevin Cash is not a major league player. There is zero reason for him to be on our roster. I can only assume Cash has blackmail photos of Theo Epstein and Francona.

Every day Kevin Cash remains a Red Sox, an angel is plowed down by a Yankee flying an airplane.

#13 Philip Jeff Frye


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 10:12 AM

You know what else is probably adding to the grind for our starters? Knowing that the injury-depleted lineup really needs the starters to step up and execute in order for wins. There's a ton of pressure on these guys to be lights out. That's probably not the sole cause of him losing a bit of his edge, but I would bet it's a part of the whole foul tasting cocktail that is late 2010 in a Sox uni.

Not only that, but we're all in a funk that this team that looked so promising at various points is dying a slow death - why wouldn't the players who are intimately wound up in this go through the same funk? It would certainly explain some loss of focus.

#14 24JoshuaPoint


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 11:14 AM

Sooo... badluck, new baby, possible minor dehydration due to aforementioned arrival of baby, Kevin Cash factor, minor injury, pressure to perform, and subpar defense. Sounds about right.

He could probably use some rest for the stretch but sooner than later the stretch will be meaningless. I think the big run in 04 started sometime around the second week of August with a Schilling start IIRC.

#15 luckysox


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 12:33 PM

Terrible defense and even worse catching. Kevin Cash is not a major league player. There is zero reason for him to be on our roster. I can only assume Cash has blackmail photos of Theo Epstein and Francona.

Every day Kevin Cash remains a Red Sox, an angel is plowed down by a Yankee flying an airplane.

Thank you for making me laugh, TRic. I can't believe Cash is still here. I would love to know what the pitchers really think of Cash because there don't seem to be many ways in which he helps them, either behind the plate or as a hitter.

Edited by luckysox, 05 August 2010 - 12:33 PM.


#16 strek1


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 01:30 PM

Lester's latest problems may just be another piece to the frustrating team stuff this year. Beckett is back and looks good so wouldn't you know one of our other guys would hit a rough patch. Doesn't have to be physical. These guys are human. It's hard to be consistently excellent all year.

#17 drtooth


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 03:33 PM

It probably doesn't help that the Sox have scored 9 runs in the 4 losses (5 in the Detroit game alone).

#18 xjack


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 07:09 PM

The only thing wrong with Lester is bad luck.

His xERA over his past five starts is 3.13, which is a run lower than his actual ERA. His K rate and BB rate over those five starts are actually better than his season averages.

The problem is that his BABIP over those 5 starts is .350 vs .290 for the year. And even though his flyball rate is 54%, the same as his season average, he's giving up 2.5 times more home runs. That won't continue.

Edited by xjack, 05 August 2010 - 07:28 PM.


#19 Sprowl


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 07:46 PM

4. Looking at the H-Mov/V-Mov charts, all his pitches had lower V-mov last night than on 7/3--they sank more, or didn't rise as much. Because this phenomenon appears across the board, though, it seems likely to be an anomaly--I'm not sure why an issue in his delivery that would make a 4-seamer lose its rise would also make a curveball drop more. The other thing I notice is that the clustering on this chart was tighter on 7/3, meaning that each pitch was behaving more consistently each time he threw it.

Fenway seemed to have a problem of exaggerating vertical rise earlier in the season for several Red Sox pitchers (and probably for every pitcher), so I think you're right in considering it an anomaly. Some of the impressive vertical rise from Bowden's first relief appearance evaporated in later games (from +15" to +10"). I don't know exactly when the exaggeration was corrected, but last summer's pitchfx data normalized considerably after a long road trip, and I suspect the same thing happened this year some time in July.

#20 FelixMantilla


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Posted 05 August 2010 - 08:20 PM

He threw a lot of pitches after the all-star break. I think he's tired.

June 10, 109 pitches
June 16, 103 pitches
June 22, 90 pitches
June 27, 103 pitches
July 3, 100 pitches
July 9, 96 pitches
July 18, 118 pitches
July 24, 124 pitches
July 30, 116 pitches
August 4, 99 pitches

#21 amh03


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Posted 06 August 2010 - 03:58 PM

Did anyone else hear on EEI this afternoon, a reference to Lester being seen limping today? I cannot find anything online about it, but one of the hosts mentioned it during the 1:00-3:00 p.m. time period. My apologies for not backing this up with anything concrete...I'll keep looking and post something if I can find it.

Edit - well, it must have not developed into anything serious, since there hasn't been a peep about it since that mention on EEI yesterday.

Edited by amh03, 07 August 2010 - 10:28 AM.


#22 Plympton91


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Posted 08 August 2010 - 10:53 PM

Lester needs to come up huge tomorrow in the Bronx. If he's the number 1 starter so many here believe him to be, he needs to show it now by shutting down the Yankees and extending the season by at least another few games.

#23 czar


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Posted 09 August 2010 - 11:37 AM

His July xFIP was actually his lowest of the season and other metrics (FIP, tERA) are pretty close to sharing the same distinction. His K/9 has actually been up lately (10.13) and BB/9 (2.34) has been down. Batted ball profile has been almost exactly the same minus an uptick in HR/FB, but when working with in-season splits, it's of almost no concern unless it persists for a more significant period of time. As others have pointed out his BABIP is up over the last 6-7 starts and his strand rate is down.

He's been almost exactly the same pitcher he was in April-June, if not a hair better. He's just been A) a bit unlucky with regard to batted balls and runners on base and B) unfortunate that the Sox offense went in the tank during the same stretch.

#24 Rasputin


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Posted 09 August 2010 - 12:03 PM

Lester needs to come up huge tomorrow in the Bronx. If he's the number 1 starter so many here believe him to be, he needs to show it now by shutting down the Yankees and extending the season by at least another few games.


No. This is just wrong. One game, no matter how important it is, does not overrule the rest of his body of work.

#25 JMDurron

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 04:20 PM

Lester needs to come up huge tomorrow in the Bronx. If he's the number 1 starter so many here believe him to be, he needs to show it now by shutting down the Yankees and extending the season by at least another few games.


Ask and ye shall receive. It is 2-1 in the 9th as I type this, so I hope we can agree that Lester met your expectations, even if the bullpen ends up blowing his W. 6.1 IP of shutout pitching in the Bronx is exactly what I'd call "coming up huge."

Edited by JMDurron, 09 August 2010 - 04:20 PM.


#26 Plympton91


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Posted 09 August 2010 - 09:47 PM

Ask and ye shall receive. It is 2-1 in the 9th as I type this, so I hope we can agree that Lester met your expectations, even if the bullpen ends up blowing his W. 6.1 IP of shutout pitching in the Bronx is exactly what I'd call "coming up huge."


Yup. And let's tip the cap to Francona for knowing exactly when to get him out of there given that he had his 2 major league relievers ready to finish the game.

#27 Sprowl


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Posted 09 August 2010 - 10:04 PM

Is there something wrong with Lester? No, nothing at all. Against the Yankees, his velocity was intact (add +2, to compensate for the Bidet's fastidiousness),

Posted Image

his repertoire formidable (5 pitches, all for strikes whenever he wanted, or for waste pitches when he didn't), and this strike zone chart is splooge-worthy -- this is a beautiful donut, with a well-defined hole (make your own joke).

Posted Image

This was an ace performance, with a "thing" (also known as a Voldemort) going into the 5th inning. Playoff Tito took him out after 99 pitches because he was visibly tiring, but this performance was...







...fookin brilliant.

#28 mfried

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 07:08 AM

Is there something wrong with Lester? No, nothing at all. Against the Yankees, his velocity was intact (add +2, to compensate for the Bidet's fastidiousness),

Posted Image

his repertoire formidable (5 pitches, all for strikes whenever he wanted, or for waste pitches when he didn't), and this strike zone chart is splooge-worthy -- this is a beautiful donut, with a well-defined hole (make your own joke).

Posted Image

This was an ace performance, with a "thing" (also known as a Voldemort) going into the 5th inning. Playoff Tito took him out after 99 pitches because he was visibly tiring, but this performance was...


...fookin brilliant.

Lester had 6 strikeouts yesterday, as compared with the 13 in his recent performance vs. the Mariners. He tired in both games, but probably tired more dramatically in the Seattle game. My impression, observing both games, is that there was a certain amount of rationing and conservation in the Yankee game. In some ways I saw the NY game as a case of "mistake avoidance" while the Mariner game was a case of "blow them away". The first strategy will work more consistently because the variety and quality of his stuff is so good even when he's holding back slightly.

#29 smastroyin


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Posted 10 August 2010 - 07:20 AM

Lester had 6 strikeouts yesterday, as compared with the 13 in his recent performance vs. the Mariners. He tired in both games, but probably tired more dramatically in the Seattle game. My impression, observing both games, is that there was a certain amount of rationing and conservation in the Yankee game. In some ways I saw the NY game as a case of "mistake avoidance" while the Mariner game was a case of "blow them away". The first strategy will work more consistently because the variety and quality of his stuff is so good even when he's holding back slightly.


If he had been pulled after 99 pitches in Seatlle, it would have been a 7 inning, 12 K performance giving up only the HR to Saunders and Patterson's error.

He "tired more dramatically" in that game because he was left in to give up 3 runs on pitches 100-125, including poorly fielding a squeeze bunt and missing a soft line drive back to him. He gave up solid contact on the triple and then again on his 124th pitch with the double. This is a case where Tito tried to let him finish the 8th and it cost the Red Sox quite a bit as he was visibly different in his next two starts. Maybe without those extra pitches there would not have been too much effect from losing sleep to his newborn. Sure, 124 isn't egregious but probably the last 7 or so were high fatigue, high stress pitches.