Red Sox getting less and less from Lester

by Bill Chuck on July 30, 2012

Jon Lester, who had been 0-3 with a 10.42 ERA in his previous four starts, allowed four runs and four hits in six innings and watched his bullpen blow a lead he left with for the fifth time, but thanks to a fielding gaffe by Curtis Granderson, the Sox managed an 8-6 win on Saturday night.

Don’t be misled by Lester’s four-run six innings show. His performance this season, and this month, has been miserable for any pitcher, but particularly awful for a pitcher who has repeatedly over the last few years been touted as a Cy Young candidate.

Look at his season:

Split W L W-L% ERA GS CG IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
April/March 1 2 .333 4.65 5 1 31.0 28 16 16 2 14 23 1.355 6.7 1.64
May 2 2 .500 4.91 6 1 36.2 43 23 20 5 8 25 1.391 6.1 3.13
June 2 1 .667 4.01 5 0 33.2 38 17 15 3 5 31 1.277 8.3 6.20
July 0 3 .000 9.36 5 0 25.0 33 27 26 8 13 27 1.840 9.7 2.08
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

Lester did not suddenly get here. Jon Lester has been a consistently winning pitcher and a good pitcher, but when you look objectively at his numbers you can see that he has not been a great pitcher.

Year W L W-L% ERA GS CG SHO IP HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2006 7 2 .778 4.76 15 0 0 81.1 7 43 60 1.648 10.1 0.8 4.8 6.6
2007 4 0 1.000 4.57 11 0 0 63.0 10 31 50 1.460 8.7 1.4 4.4 7.1
2008 16 6 .727 3.21 33 2 2 210.1 14 66 152 1.274 8.6 0.6 2.8 6.5
2009 15 8 .652 3.41 32 2 0 203.1 20 64 225 1.230 8.2 0.9 2.8 10.0
2010 19 9 .679 3.25 32 2 0 208.0 14 83 225 1.202 7.2 0.6 3.6 9.7
2011 15 9 .625 3.47 31 0 0 191.2 20 75 182 1.257 7.8 0.9 3.5 8.5
2012 5 8 .385 5.49 21 2 0 126.1 18 40 106 1.441 10.1 1.3 2.8 7.6
7 Yrs 81 42 .659 3.76 175 8 2 1084.0 103 402 1000 1.307 8.4 0.9 3.3 8.3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

If you are looking for a pitcher to compare Lester to since he became a major league pitcher in 2006, don’t think Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, or Clayton Kershaw. A more appropriate comparison is Anibal Sanchez, just acquired by the Tigers.

Rk Player ERA WHIP GS CG SHO W L W-L% IP H BB SO HR BA OBP SLG OPS
2 Anibal Sanchez 3.78 1.356 133 6 4 44 46 .489 800.1 777 308 679 74 .254 .326 .391 .717
4 Jon Lester 3.76 1.307 175 8 2 81 42 .659 1084.0 1015 402 1000 103 .250 .321 .382 .703
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2012.

So what is going on this season? While BAA and BAbip are obvious differentials, take a look at the Total Bases and you see how hard Lester has been hit in his 21 starts.

Year G HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip TB
2006 15 7 43 60 .294 .381 .434 .814 .336 134
2007 12 10 31 50 .257 .339 .414 .753 .280 98
2008 33 14 66 152 .256 .320 .368 .688 .300 290
2009 32 20 64 225 .242 .301 .366 .667 .314 281
2010 32 14 83 225 .220 .303 .325 .628 .291 246
2011 31 20 75 182 .234 .316 .374 .690 .287 265
2012 21 18 40 106 .286 .341 .480 .821 .329 238
7 Yrs 176 103 402 1000 .250 .321 .382 .703 .304 1552
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

Lester is clearly not fooling anyone this season.

Year PA HR% SO% BB% XBH% X/H%
2006 367 1.9% 16.4% 11.7% 7.6% 31%
2007 275 3.6% 18.2% 11.3% 6.2% 28%
2008 874 1.6% 17.4% 7.6% 6.8% 29%
2009 843 2.4% 26.7% 7.6% 6.3% 29%
2010 861 1.6% 26.1% 9.6% 5.6% 29%
2011 799 2.5% 22.8% 9.4% 6.9% 33%
2012 549 3.3% 19.3% 7.3% 10.0% 39%
7 Yrs 4568 2.3% 21.9% 8.8% 6.9% 31%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

His home run percentage has climbed each of the last three seasons while his strike out percentage has decreased. And while his walk percentage has also decreased, we have to presume that batters are simply putting more balls in play. But it’s his extra-base hit percentage that is shocking and the percentage of hits that are going for extra base hits that is most damning.

While righties are having a strong season against Lester, lefties are also doing well:

Split PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
vs RHB as LHP 398 356 105 28 4 14 33 68 .295 .352 .514 .866 183 .326
vs LHB as LHP 151 140 37 4 1 4 7 38 .264 .313 .393 .706 55 .337
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

Lifetime, lefties are now up to .241 against Lester which includes this season and the .207 they hit against him last year.

Of course, the big question is what the hell has happened to Lester at home?

Year-by-Year: Home

 I

Year

W

L

W-L%

ERA

GS

GF

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

BF

WHIP

2006

4

1

.800

4.74

9

0

49.1

53

26

26

5

26

38

218

1.601

2007

1

0

1.000

4.30

4

0

23.0

23

12

11

4

12

21

102

1.522

2008

11

1

.917

2.49

17

0

115.2

103

32

32

8

35

86

470

1.193

2009

7

3

.700

2.86

14

0

91.1

82

32

29

5

28

94

375

1.204

2010

8

5

.615

3.67

15

0

95.2

87

43

39

10

39

88

406

1.317

2011

5

5

.500

3.49

13

0

80.0

76

33

31

7

32

82

334

1.350

2012

2

6

.250

7.39

12

0

67.0

93

58

55

12

24

56

312

1.746

Career Total

38

21

.644

3.84

84

0

522.0

517

236

223

51

196

465

2217

1.366

One of the things we can surmise is that Lester has been having a concentration issue this season. The greater the pressure on him, the better he has pitched:

I Split W L W-L% ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
0-2 Runs Scored 1 2 .333 2.02 5 35.2 28 8 8 1 8 31 1.009
3-5 Runs Scored 1 5 .167 7.85 8 39.0 54 38 34 7 19 38 1.872
6+ Runs Scored 3 1 .750 6.10 8 51.2 60 37 35 10 13 37 1.413
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/25/2012.

One of things that’s critical for Lester is getting ahead of the batter as his stuff/location doesn’t seem to be good enough to pitch effectively when behind:

Split AB R H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
First Pitch 52 8 18 2 1 1 .346 .352 .481 .833 25 .327
2-1 Count 37 12 16 3 0 4 .432 .432 .838 1.270 31 .364
1-2 Count 79 6 18 7 1 2 .228 .238 .418 .655 33 .364
Full Count 56 11 19 5 2 3 .339 .507 .661 1.167 37 .410
Batter Ahead 155 40 54 14 3 11 .348 .485 .690 1.175 107 .328
Even Count 180 16 47 9 1 2 .261 .262 .356 .618 64 .328
Pitcher Ahead 161 22 41 9 1 5 .255 .256 .416 .672 67 .330
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

Rick Peterson explained to me the importance of the 1-1 pitch and you can see the problems for Lester in the chart above with large differentials in OPS and difference in BAA between his 1-2 count and his 2-1 count. You can also see that there is about a hundred point BAA difference when Lester is ahead on the count versus behind.

Early innings are not any more of a problem for Lester than any other innings, but it’s hard to know since he has pitched deep into games so infrequently.

Split G IP ER ERA PA HR BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Innings 1-3 21 62.0 35 5.08 273 8 .282 .339 .457 .797 .324
Innings 4-6 20 51.1 31 5.44 216 9 .268 .327 .490 .817 .299
Innings 7-9 12 13.0 10 6.92 60 1 .368 .400 .544 .944 .444
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

Finally, we need to look at the “X Factor,” as to what might have affected Lester: while we can’t measure if Lester still misses John Farrell as his pitching coach, we can look at well he has responded to his catcher. We can see that he pitched better to catchers who are no longer with the team, the question remains however is that a reason or simply a reflection of the decreased quality of his pitching.

I Split G IP ER ERA AB SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Victor Martinez 27 169.1 61 3.24 623 2.86 .231 .310 .334 .643 .305
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 38 229.1 118 4.63 881 2.47 .268 .343 .439 .783 .324
Kelly Shoppach 6 42.2 19 4.01 157 4.43 .236 .265 .408 .673 .260
Jason Varitek 91 546.1 207 3.41 2039 2.40 .243 .315 .357 .672 .295
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2012.

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