Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jon Lester, settling in?

Like many of you, i've been disappointed with Jon Lester. Which is why last night's performance came as a big surprise - it's been a while since Lester has been able to blank an opponent, even one as offensively inept as the Giants. What I was more surprised to learn, however, was that Lester's season hasn't actually been that bad, as the fine folks at Over the Monster point out. There's a lot of great information in the post, but here's what I found most interesting:
In [three starts in June], Lester allowed 17 runs in just 15-1/3 innings of work, while striking out 14 batters against 10 walks. Six of his 18 homers on the year came in just those three games -- his home run rate the rest of the year looks very similar to that of Lester at his peak. Again, we're not scrubbing them from the record, but Lester packed together a significant portion of his awfulness into one teeny stretch -- 23 percent of the runs he's allowed all season came in these three contests.
 So, while Lester hasn't had a complete return to his dominant past, he's still been a highly reliable piece in the Red Sox rotation. Even with those three poor starts on his record, he has a 103 ERA+ and 4.09 ERA, and is on pace for over 200 innings for the fifth time since he became a full-time starter back in 2008 -- those innings are significant by themselves, as a look back to last year reminds: only 31 starters logged at least 200 innings, out of the 150 starting slots available around the league, and of the 286 pitchers who started a game. Even if Lester were only average when all is said and done, there's huge value in that volume of average.
Lester used to be an ace. He's not anymore, but he's still settling into performing as an above average pitcher - when he's not losing control of his mechanics like he did during those three awful starts in June. We just need to recalibrate our expectations of him.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ryan Dempster and Alex Rodriguez

Red Sox fans should be embarrassed by Ryan Dempster's intentional plunking of Alex Rodriguez last night.

I'm not sure that anyone saw this coming.  Dempster is generally known as a laid back, lighthearted guy.  While John Lackey was mouthing off about A-Rod's return to baseball, Dempster intelligently noted that even A-Rod has the right to play while he appeals his suspension.

But maybe, behind closed doors, the pitching staff convinced Dempster to do the job because he is the one that can most risk a suspension of his own.  Dempster is no late season pitcher, and this August he is particularly bad, with a 7.40 ERA through four starts.  Hell, it took him four pitches to plunk A-Rod.

Unfortunately, he also succeeded in getting the Yankees fired up.  They hit Dempster 9 times in 5-1/3 innings, including a towering home run by A-Rod.  With 3 hits last night, he was quite arguably the best player on the field last night.

So was it worth it?  The Red Sox benefitted from PED use during their two championship seasons.  Whether you think that's horrifying, or just part of baseball, it's more than a bit hypocritical to suddenly get huffy about A-Rod being on the field. 

More importantly, let's keep in mind that the Red Sox are only one game up in the AL East standings.  And if they fall behind the Rays, there is no guarantee of a wild card spot: the Orioles and the Athletics are both in heavy contention.  So, keep your eyes on the prize.  Let's play baseball, boys, not morality police.