Jon Lester makes his final start of the season tonight with a chance to win 20 games for the first time in his career.
In this, the age of statistical enlightenment, we know that a pitcher’s win-loss record is not necessarily an indication of how well he pitched. Exhibit A being the beleaguered Felix Hernandez, who has a 2.27 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 232 strikeouts and is but 13-12 thanks to the pack of bums (and Ichiro) he has on his team.
(As an aside, it would be a crime were Hernandez denied the Cy Young Award because he played with said pack of bums. The Mariners aren’t merely a bad offensive team, they have scored 91 fewer runs than any other team in the American League. 91!)
Lester would surely prefer to end his season 20-8 instead of 19-9. The only other pitchers to win 20 games this season are Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia and Adam Wainwright and nobody is suggesting they got lucky.
What’s amazing to me is how well Lester is finishing. He has a 1.76 ERA and an 0.76 WHIP in his last six starts. Opponents are hitting .163 and he has struck out 54 over 41 innings. He enters tonight’s game having thrown 15 shutout innings in a row.
Take away his usual poor start (he had an 8.44 ERA in his first three starts) and Lester is 19-6 with a 2.49 ERA. Good news for Lester, the Sox open in Texas next season. It should be at least fairly warm.
It doesn’t appear Lester can win the Cy Young this season. Hernandez is the favorite and Sabathia and David Price will get support because they were best starters on playoff teams. But the day is coming when Lester will put a few of those awards on his mantle.
The Sox will play their A lineup tonight to try and help Lester finish on a high note. It should be interesting to watch.