Jon Lester is supposed to be the Boston Red Sox ace. He is supposed to take the mound every five days and shut teams down. He’s supposed to put a halt to losing streaks and set an example for the rest of the pitching staff. Lester is supposed to do a lot of things that he is simply not doing right now.
Every player hits a bump in the road during the marathon they call a baseball season. The difference with pitchers is that they don’t get to come out the next day and make the adjustments like a batter would. Instead, they get about 30 starts to exert their will onto an opponent and have to make the most of each one. Normally, as a fan, I try to stay on an even keel with the players and not get to high or to low on them, but Lester is making that a challenging feat.
He hasn’t won a start since May 15th against Tampa Bay.
His ERA for the month of June is a whopping 8.62.
In his last 35 innings pitched, Lester has given up 47 hits and walked 18 batters.
He’s closer to the bottom of the American League in the WHIP category with a 1.32.
The list goes on and on for whatever stats you want to compile for Lester since his hot start to begin the year. Everything we saw in his first 7 or 8 starts when he was 6-0 was credited to the return of John Farrell. Now that he hasn’t won a game in what feels like years, who gets the credit for that. Lester’s pitched poorly, the fans know it, Farrell knows it, and you best believe that Lester himself knows it. I’ve tried to come up with a concrete reason for the struggles, but I can’t. I looked at his pitch count, and while he has thrown over 100 pitches in all but two starts this year, fatigue shouldn’t be a factor this early on in the year.
ESPN Stats and Information had an interesting note on their website that highlighted Lester’s struggles with hitters in 3-ball counts over the last couple weeks. Here is what they said, “Over the last two weeks, opponents have improved their discipline against Jon Lester, only chasing 18 percent of the time compared to 29 percent before May 30th; this has been magnified in 3-ball counts, where opponents have only a 13 percent chase rate (vs. 46 percent previously).” This can be used to explain the walks Lester has issued over his last several starts.
But you look at stats until your blue in the face and there just isn’t one thing that’s the problem here. There’s no need to search for something that’s not there. Lester is experiencing a culmination of difficulties that he needs to fight and work through, and that’s it. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. He is not washed up, he is not injured, he is just struggling, it happens. If Buchholz needs to go on the DL, Lester needs to dig deep and shake this off because that could end up being a crucial stretch for Boston. Everyone should be alarmed by Lester’s regression since April, but not panicked. As the baseball gods would have it, his next start will come against the Detroit Tigers, one of the best hitting teams in the AL. So let’s all take a deep breath, and say “Lester will be fine.”