Sports Q

Sports Q: Who was the better Red Sox lefthander, Jon Lester or Bruce Hurst?

Debate the answer with Chad Finn and other Boston sports fans at The Sports Q.

Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester, in 2013. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

Welcome to’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through TwitterFacebook, and email. He’ll pick one each weekday to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation. 

Who was the better Red Sox lefthander: Jon Lester or Bruce Hurst?

Figure this is a good one to take on today in our ongoing, informal Who Was Better? series here at the Sports Q, since Lester pitched five no-hit innings for the Cubs Monday and therefore must be considered the heavy frontrunner for the NL Cy Young award.

I think I have a pretty good idea how this either/or is going to go, but let’s check the tale of the tape:

Hurst (1980-88): 88 wins, 73 losses, 4.23 ERA, 217 starts, 1,459 innings, 1,043 strikeouts, one All-Star appearance, one top-five finish in Cy Young balloting, 19.5 WAR, 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA in seven postseason starts, MVP of 1986 World Series if not for You Know What.


Lester (2006-14): 110 wins, 63 losses, 3.64 ERA, 241 starts, 1,519.1 innings, 1,368 strikeouts, three All-Star appearances, two top-five Cy Young finishes (including partial 2014 season with A’s), 29.0 WAR, 6-4 with 2.11 ERA in 13 postseason appearances (11 starts), two World Series rings with Red Sox.

Pretty easy call for Lester here, I’d say – and that comes from someone who considers Hurst his second-favorite Red Sox pitcher of all-time, after one Pedro Jaime Martinez. When Lester came up in ’06, he reminded me a lot of Hurst – big, rugged lefty, similar delivery, though Hurst was a little more over the top. They had different repertoires, though. Hurst had a killer curveball and developed an out-pitch forkball, while Lester was more cutter-reliant, sort of like Andy Pettitte.

Both were tremendous pitchers for the Sox, especially in big moments, but Hurst got a later start in part because Don Zimmer tried to ruin him like he did pretty much every other young Sox pitcher of that era. Lester was fortunate to come up with Terry Francona as the manager.

One other thing in common among Hurst and Lester: The Red Sox should never have let either one of them depart as a free agent.

Looks pretty clear to me that Lester was the best of the two darned good, easy-to-root-for lefties. But what does everyone else think? Who was the better Red Sox pitcher, Lester or Hurst? I’ll hear you in the comments or poll below.



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