If I were a sociologist studying the Sox nation, I would assume that we all thought that Lester and Buchholz were going to be Pedro and Curt going forward. They haven't been. In the post-steroid era, not being at that level seems to be just a step below elite to me.
This is a dubious metric to evaluate them since truly we traded for Pedro as he was becoming PEDRO, and Schilling after he became SCHILLING.
Lester and Buchholz are in that process of becoming when they are good-to-great pitchers capable of dominance but without the mastery that comes with experience. The stuff in both of their cases is there, but they haven't put it all together. Either way, asking them to be comparable to two of the greatest pitchers of all time at their peak is crazy.
I don't think Lester is elite for one reason and one reason only: his walk rate. He is the only pitcher mentioned with a BB/9 over 3, and while Felix is close at 2.8, Felix is two years younger and has done it for longer having pitched over 400 more innings. Felix's walk rate over his entire career is a tick less at 2.7 BB/9 and has a much lower ERA for his career and for the time period shown in this thread. That walk rate is what is contributing to his WHIP which is the only one on that list in the 1.2's.
For me the elite pitchers in the AL are Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Verlander.Before this year, I think Verlander was in a lower tier with others on this list.
Framing it in the context of the beginning of my post, this year VErlander has been unbelievable and his process of becoming VERLANDER is over. He can still throw 100 but he can also pitch with unbelievable control. He has lept forward into the elite tier.He can still throw 100 but he can also pitch with unbelievable control.
Lester and others are right there, but even then I think that Lester is last in line behind Weaver and Greinke right now.
If he lowers his walk rate to their levels, he could leap past them. Really, Lester's control has been an issue all throughout his development. He has made enough progress to be an All-Star, but not enough in my opinion to be considered an elite pitcher.