Re: Jon Lester must go
posted at 6/11/2013 10:01 PM EDT
The ever popular vent thread when we all get to blame Lester for our troubles.
First and foremost, it is crazy to declare "Lester must go" after a terrible outing or even after a series of mediocre outings. Unless, of course, something is physically wrong. But Lester is actually throwing harder than he was last year and the year before. He throws that sinker fastball 93 mph, sometimes 94, and can even throw it 95mph. His arm is fine.
His problem as I see it is he over-relies on the fastball. When he starts a game, he will avoid any breaking balls as long as possible, which these days means until he's given up some runs. He's got a curve and a changeup, but he doesn't trust either one. Consequently, especially on nights like tonight when his control is a little off, hitters can sit on that fast ball because he will not throw a breaking ball when he is in trouble because he doesn't trust either one--the curve or the changeup. Plus, amazingly, you can almost predict when he will throw a breaking ball--on an 0-2 count because he is wasting a pitch. That happened tonight, and he actually hit the outside corner with a curve against a righty, which should have worked. But the batter--Zobrist I think--was guessing curve for the reasons stated and hit it hard for a single.
At this point there is also very obviously a confidence issue. Lester is stuck on that fastball, opposing hitters know it, and he can't find a way out except to throw more fastballs. My fix would be to make him throw more breaking balls, especially early in a game, and to make him work on his changeup and curve (and slider if he has one) in his bullpen sessions.
FWIW, in Beckett's first year, 2006, in the AL he finished with an ERA of 5 even though he was hitting 97 mph on his heater, which he loved. Problem was opposing hitters loved it almost as much as he did.
I think Lester can still be effective, but he must relearn mastery of his pitches.