There was a time when I thought Jon Lester was a future Cy Young candidate. The year was 2008. Lester had just come back after missing most of the 2006 and 2007 seasons battling cancer and helped pitch the Red Sox to a 4-0 World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
In that ’08 season he went 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA over 210.1 innings and was still building back strength. In 2009 Lester went 15-8 with a 3.41 ERA but raised his strikeout rate almost 50% to 9.96 K/9. He was one of the American League’s best young, dominant starting pitchers, and he seemed ready to take the next step and become a perennial name at the forefront of the Cy Young conversation.
Lester’s 2010 season only strengthened his case as he won 19 games, dropped his ERA to 3.25 and maintained his elite strikeout rate. The wheels came off in September of 2011 when Boston’s infamous collapse signaled the beginning of almost two years of infighting, mismanagement, and a lot of losing.
The players are the ones who win and lose the games, but I blame ownership for creating the toxic environment that poisoned the careers, reputations, and relationships of many of the team’s most recognized stars. Under new manager John Farrell, Lester and the rest of the Red Sox will look to return to the kind of play we saw from them as recently as August 2011, back when Boston was a contender and Lester was one of the game’s best pitchers.
At a Glance
Strengths: K, QS, IP
Neutral: W, L, ERA, WHIP, BB
Best-case scenario: Zack Greinke (LAD)
Likely scenario: Yovani Gallardo (MIL), Matt Moore (TB), Tim Lincecum (SF)
Worst-case scenario: Derek Holland (TEX)
Jon Lester 2013 Fantasy Projection
Admittedly, much of the optimism in our Lester projection is based on intangibles and gut feeling, something I really try to avoid on our site. That said, the drama that unfolded in the Red Sox organization beginning in September of 2011 is so incredibly shocking that I can’t just ignore it. I can’t wait to read Terry Francona’s tell-all book, Francona: The Red Sox Years.
With Farrell back in the clubhouse, a figure that even the petulant Clay Buchholz found intimidating by his own admission, I have a hard time imagining this team, specifically the pitching staff, succumbing to the poor conditioning and general apathy that plagued them in the final days of Francona’s reign and the entirety of Bobby Valentine’s perpetually contentious tenure.
Lester has all the tools, and I’m willing to gamble on him closely resembling what we saw just two years ago.