He is throwing the cutter less often and less effectively, in part because he has been making big mistakes with its location. Fangraphs has the cutter dropping from 28% in 2011 to 16% in 2012. Pitchfx has the cutter dropping from 25% to 12%. The data are fuzzier than usual this year because of persistent horizontal and vertical movement errors that throw off automated pitch identification, but Lester has had a significant number of starts like May 30 against Detroit where he throws just a handful of cutters.
I used the data from Jnai's site that (if I understand correctly) Harry Pavlis hand-sorted, so it should be one level better than the Fangraphs pF/X data (which is still the auto-classification). That seems to imply the errors you mention are enough to cause people to believe the Lester has abandoned the cutter to RHB this year (which, at first glance at the game logs as well, he has not).
My post from 2010 draws a conclusion about Buchholz's maturation from his composure on the mound, so I am arguing for observation as the first indicator of change, including observations of facial expressions. It can be confirmed or refuted later in the results and data. In the case of Buchholz 2010, I would argue that it was confirmed.
The difference in the Lester case is that I am not imposing an old narrative on Lester. Instead, I think we are seeing something new that we haven't seen in Lester when things were going well. If you want to stick entirely with the peripherals, then consider the declining K-rate; if the fundamentals, then consider the declining fastball velocity.
Like I said, we'll have to agree to disagree here. Your own words were "most of what we read on the board about their mindsets and maturity levels is psychobabble
" in reference to people who tried to ascribe good/bad pitching stat lines to mannerisms on the pitching mound. That seems to me like what you are doing here. And "confirmed or refuted later in the results and data
?" Seriously? We draw conclusions based on what the player looks like in brief snippets on our NESN telecast and then
we go to the numbers to support or refute our "uh oh, Lester looks like me when I'm pitching beer league softball!" thoughts?
We've already gone over the peripherals a page or two ago. The K rate slumped from 2011 during the first two months but was way up (21.7%, right at career average) in June. Once considered his biggest issue, his BB% (6.3) is at it's lowest point it's even been (career 8.7). The fastball velocity is
down a tick or two (1.1 or 1.5 mph depending on your velocity source) from a couple years ago, but that's to be expected since pitching velocity peaks early (21-22) and only holds through 27-28
. It has also stabilized the two years, so let's not toss out "declining velocity" like he's dropped a mph each of the past 4 years. Every ERA predictor has him right in line with last year (actually most are a hair better) and in the top 15 AL SP. He has 2.5 fWAR at the break which puts him (even if he continues pitching this poorly, which he shouldn't) right around 5 at the end of the season. Last year a 5 fWAR would have put him 8th in the AL.
Outside of perhaps the cutter weights (which aren't delucked), you really haven't produced any objective evidence that Jon Lester is A) a vastly (or even slightly) worse pitcher than 2011 and/or B) someone the Sox should be tremendously concerned about going forward.
He's not 2009-2010 Jon Lester, but probably never will be. Most pitchers never get back their mid-late 20's peak years. But Jon Lester is certainly not an "ordinary pitcher" and is way, way down the list of this team's problems.
Edited by czar, 10 July 2012 - 03:07 PM.