Lest We Forget

Jon Lester is having the worst season of his career.

While Lester’s batted ball statistics are mostly close to his career norms he currently sports a career-high line drive rate of 23.3% which is up 7% on 2011.  Fangraphs tells us that “In numerical terms, line drives produce 1.26 runs/out, fly balls produce 0.13 R/O, and ground balls produce only 0.05 R/O.” So an increase in this rate is clearly bad news.

However, Lester’s xFIP (3.81) and BABIP (.332) show he’s been a little unlucky but it might be hard to convince anyone of that after Sunday’s game vs the Toronto Blue Jays.

Lester gave up a career high 11 earned runs in 4 innings.  His previous career high was in 2010 when he gave up 9 runs in 3 innings also against the Blue Jays.  He also walked a career high 5 batters and allowed 4 home runs before Bobby Valentine would take him out of the game with no outs recorded in the 5th inning.

One concerning trend over the last 3 seasons is the steady decline in his K/9 rate.  In 2009 it was 9.96 but it has dropped each year since and currently sits at 7.81.  Balls are being put into play more than last year on Lester’s 4 seam fastball, sinker and cutter.  His sinker is being air mailed a career-worst 22.8% of the time.  It’s been noted that Lester’s arm slot is dropping which is causing his pitches to flatten out and pitching coach Bob McClure is said to have been working on a more ‘over-the-top’ delivery to fix this issue.  Clearly it’s not going to be resolved overnight.

Lest we forget that he has pitched like an ace within recent memory and another Red Sox pitcher, Clay Buchholz, has bounced back from similar struggles already this year.  Lester has it in him to improve but it might all be too late for the Red Sox to play October baseball in 2012.

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