Despite an atrocious start on Thursday, Jon Lester has been stupendous this year. He is locating his fastball well, his cutter has a ton of life, and he’s keeping his curveball and changeup down in the zone. The assortment of effective pitches, has led him to compile a stellar 3.36 ERA and 2.56 FIP in ten starts.
His consistency is a breath of fresh air (sorry, John Lackey, I did not mean to generalize) for a rotation that collectively has accumulated the sixth highest ERA in baseball. Boston’s struggles were unforeseen, to say the least, and the inconsistency of the pitching staff has strongly contributed to those scuffles.
Now, placing blame on one facet would be ludicrous. An influx of injuries, struggling position players, inexperienced youngsters, and players falling back down to earth all deserve credit, too. More — a lot more — wrong than right has developed for Boston.
Some teams you can easily pinpoint why they aren’t living up expectations. It’s all over the place with the Red Sox and that’s an issue. That said, it’s conspicuous the talent is there (i.e. Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, David Ortiz, John Lackey) and the potential for a bounce-back is plausible. But, what if that does not happen? What if the defending World Series champions are out of contention come mid-July? Would Ben Cherington have the audacity to deal beloved Red Sox ace Jon Lester?
It’s a conversation that has to be had. Lester is a free-agent after this year and reports suggest the two sides remain far apart in striking a long-term extension. Nice start and playoff prosperity aside, he was a mediocre pitcher in 2012 (4.82 ERA) and the first half of 2013 (4.58 ERA Pre All-Star break). He’s had notable concentration and command issues in the past, but Juan Nieves and John Farrell really seemed to alleviate that last year.
One thing that is still prevalent and disconcerting for Lester, is the ineffectiveness of his slider. According to Pitch F/X, opposing hitters have mashed an imposing 1.110 OPS off his go-to-breaking ball in 2014. It was not nearly as bad last year at .809, but was the worst of any of his five pitches. He has a tendency to leave that pitch up in the zone, resulting in mammoth home runs over the Green Monster and into Lansdowne street.
It may appear I am just searching for flaws to prove my point, but the veracity is, blemishes in his craft exist. He’s not a Clayton Kershaw or Adam Wainwright, and what good are the postseason numbers without making it to the postseason?
It does not seem likely they are reunited after this season so it’d be wise for Boston to explore trades at the deadline — if they are out of it — and get something back for his services. I imagine a lot of contenders would be interested in a veteran southpaw with an impressive playoff track record. As painful as it may be, this is the only way to ensure Boston gets something back for Jon Lester.
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