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As many people know, Jon Lester is the #1 starter, and likely the ace, for the Boston Red Sox. His contract, however, runs out at the end of 2014. In 2008, Lester signed a $42.75 million contract for six years. Of course, there have been some extension talks between him and the Sox.
Jon Lester has spent his 8 year career with the Red Sox, and has done them well. At the age of 22 in his first year, he posted a 7-2 record. He was a bit off the radar the next year, however, only starting 12 games, going 4-0. That World Series winning team consisted of Josh Beckett (20-7), Tim Wakefield (17-12), Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12, when he was good), Curt Schilling (9-8), and Julian Tavarez (7-11). Lester was not even a primary starter on the roster, and look at how far he has come. I may have spoke too soon… Lester was one of the 11 pitchers who made the World Series roster. However, in the 63 innings Lester pitched that year, he recorded the sixth-most wins. That’s saying something for a team that won the World Series, because they must have been doing something good.
In his tenure with the Red Sox, lester has been named an All-Star twice (2010, 2011) and tied for fourth in Cy Young Award voting (2010). He also has a career 100 wins, with a 64.1% winning percentage.
In the postseason, Lester has a 2.35 ERA, comparatively lower than his regular season 3.76. His postseason WHIP– 1.043, is also notably lower than his regular 1.304.
At the age of 29, Lester is still in his prime. Were he to re-sign, Lester would return to the top of a rotation consisting of John Lackey (Click here to read The Case for John Lackey), Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront. With Ryan Dempster sitting out the 2014 season, who knows how well he will do after 2014? John Lackey underwent Tommy John surgery not too long ago, and has frequently been battling health and shoulder issues. Clay Buchholz missed approximately 39 start last season battling shoulder problems and other ailments. The veteran Jake Peavy is also only signed through 2014, and may be past his prime in his 12 year career. Felix Doubront is a bit underrated, seeing as he is the fifth man for Boston. He has only played in 86 games in his four-year MLB career (also all with Boston), but at the age of 25 he still has plenty of time to work his way up in the rotation. Doubront is eligible for arbitration in 2015, and is a free agent in 2018, so he could be with Boston for a while.
Going back to extension talks, here is what Lester said at spring training:
“If it’s something we do get done in Spring Training, great. If it’s not, I think you have to take everything as it comes. If that involves going through the season still talking or getting it done early, you have to play it by ear.” He also made clear that he stands by earlier statements that he hopes to reach a deal to stay in Boston, but did not promise a breezy negotiation. “I’m not going to go back on what I said,” Lester explained. “I said what I said from the heart and I mean it. We’ll see where it goes from there. We’ve still got a long way to go. It’s going to be a tough process.”
In an interview with CBSSports.com, Lester said:
“I don’t like change. I like being where I’ve been. I like the people. I like the surroundings. It feels like home. If it takes the first couple weeks into the season, it takes the first could weeks into the season.”
Obviously, Lester has the desire to stay with the Red Sox, and is intent on it. He is willing to do whatever it takes to stay in Boston.
When you think of Red Sox pitching, you think of Jon Lester and Koji Uehara, due to their outstanding performances of the 2013 season. I mean, what isn’t there to love about them, Koji Uehara was the best closer baseball has seen in years, in terms of statistics (Mariano Rivera is another story). He had the lowest ERA, the lowest WHIP, least earned runs, the list goes on. Jon Lester is the number 1 starter for the Red Sox and tied for the fifth most wins of 2013. He also tied for sixth in innings pitched, and was consistent throughout the year.
But what about John Lackey? Words like “dominant” and “ace” don’t come to mind when his name is mentioned. Words like “inconsistent” and “degrading” come to mind, and understandably, at that. Of course, by no means is Lackey bad. He is still the number 2 man for the Red Sox. He is just… under-credited. John Lackey posted a 10-13 record last season, a career second-worst (He had a 10-16 record with the Anaheim Angels in 2002), which was tied for 4th most losses of any pitcher in 2013. He had a decent ERA of 3.52, but nothing outstanding.
To give him some credit, John Lackey had Tommy John surgery in 2011, missing most of 2012, and has clearly made a great recovery. Now here is where some stats show why he is underrated and under-credited.
John Lackey had the fifth worst run average behind him in the second half of the season, with the Red Sox averaging less than 2.5 runs per game while he was on the mound.
In Lackey’s 11 starts after June 7, the Red Sox scored a total of 13 runs in the game’s first 6 innings. In 6 of those games, the Sox scored 0 runs in the first 6 innings.
That goes to show that stats can’t tell the full story, you need some background knowledge to fully understand how good a pitcher is. If you put Lackey’s performance with any other team in baseball, he would easily have been a 15+ win pitcher, but due to his teams offensive performance, he received the losses for it.
I suppose the next topic pertaining to this is inevitable: Pitching Performance vs. Overall Performance. The most common debate amongst this topic is ERA vs. Record.
The Case for Record
Win-Loss record shows a lot of things about a pitcher. Okay, not really. It shows how many times a pitcher wins and how many times a pitcher loses. Not even that. It shows how many times a pitcher receives a win for their team winning and how many times a pitcher receives a loss for their team losing.
According to Wikipedia…
“In Major League Baseball, the winning pitcher is defined as the pitcher who last pitched prior to the half-inning when the winning team took the lead for the last time.
There are two exceptions to this rule. The more common exception is that a starting pitcher must complete five innings to earn a win (four innings for a game that lasted five innings on defense). If the starting pitcher fails to meet the innings requirement, the official scorer awards the win to the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment, was the most effective.
The second exception applies only to a relief pitcher who makes a “brief appearance” and is himself later relieved. If, in the official scorer’s judgment, the relief pitcher was “ineffective”, the win is awarded to the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the official scorer’s judgment.
The losing pitcher is the pitcher who allows the go-ahead run to reach base for a lead that the winning team never relinquishes. If a pitcher allows a run which gives the opposing team the lead, his team comes back to lead or tie the game, and then the opposing team regains the lead against a subsequent pitcher, the earlier pitcher does not get the loss.
If a pitcher leaves the game with his team in the lead or with the score tied, but with the go-ahead run on base, and this runner subsequently scores the go-ahead run, the pitcher who allowed this runner to reach base is responsible for the loss. This is true, regardless of the manner in which this batter originally reached base, and how he subsequently scored. If the relief pitching successfully completes the half-inning without surrendering the go-ahead run, the departed pitcher cannot receive a loss.”
In all honesty, win-loss record is a ridiculous way to measure how good a pitcher is. I will give some extreme examples of what could happen.
Example #1: A pitcher could be throwing a perfect game. It is the bottom of the 9th inning, score is 0-0, and the pitcher gives up a walk. Their manager takes them out of the game (this is hypothetical, bear with me). The relief pitcher then comes in and gives up a home run to the next batter. The starting pitcher is credited with the loss because the man on first base was his fault, and the man on first base score the run that broke the tie to win the game. In the record books, it goes down as a loss for the pitcher, just as any other loss would go down.
This example could happen the same way except that instead of a blown save, a fielder lets the ball go through his legs and allows the man on first, whom the pitcher is responsible for, score. The pitcher will still receive the loss, since the man he is responsible for scored the winning run. However, if the man on first gets on base due to an error, then he scores because of a blown save, the pitcher will not receive the loss because he was not responsible for the man on first base or the blown save, so he had 0 earned runs. The loss would be credited to the reliever and the pitcher would receive a no decision.
Example #2: A pitcher can be pitching awful, just awful. If it is late in the game, and for some reason he is still in the game, he could have given up 23 runs on 33 hits. But it turns out his team, on the offense, is playing just as well as the other team, and has scored 25 runs. The pitcher will receive the win for the game, because his team won. But did he really win? Yes and no. Technically, he won. But in reality, his team won, not him. In the record books, it goes down as any other win.
The Case for ERA
This is where sabermetric-like statistics can help, to differentiate the near-perfect game pitchers who receive a loss and the terribly-performing pitchers who receive a win. A very basic sabermetrics is ERA, earned run average. Earned run average is what it sounds like, it is how many earned runs a pitcher gives up per nine innings. ([Earned Runs / Innings] x 9) So if a pitcher gives up 3 earned runs in 9 innings, he has an ERA of 3. I believe that ERA does a better job of displaying a pitcher’s abilities, because it won’t lie. If he pitches poorly but still receives the win, the record books will show that he pitched poorly. If he pitches well but receives the loss, the record books will show that he pitched well.
Going back to Example 1: The pitcher’s ERA would be 1, which is a very good ERA. Anibal Sanchez had the lowest ERA last season of starting pitchers, with 2.57. So, despite the pitcher receiving the loss, the record books show he still pitched phenomenally.
Example 2: Assuming the pitcher was taken out in the 6th inning, since he was pitching very poorly, he would have had an ERA of 34.5, which is above astronomical. Joe Saunders had the highest ERA of starting pitchers last season, with 5.26.
Of course, there are many sabermetrics which can likely tell you how much a pitcher weighs or what flavor gum he chews based on his stats and whatnot, but I’m not going to get into those. Those are my thoughts on the ERA vs. Record debate, but I would love to hear what yours are in the comments below!
Boston Red Sox
Projected Lineup: Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, David Ortiz, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Xander Bogaerts, A.J. Pierzynski, Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bench: Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, Grady Sizemore, Jonathan Herrera
Starting Rotation: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster
Bullpen: Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, Alex Wilson, Brandon Workman, Burke Badenhop
Offseason Grade: A-
This offseason, the Sox have stayed away from big money deals, and took value instead (Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop). Also, a low risk, high reward deal for Grady Sizemore.
With Spring Training only weeks away my next few blogs will be predictions for the 2014 season. The Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles are all in the AL East.
The first place team in the east will be the New York Yankees. They have spent over $500 million this winter, and not done yet. Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka are the major editions to the Yankees organization. The Yankees can’t have a ton of trust in Derek Jeter, and they know that. There has been rumors to bring in former Red Sox player Stephen Drew. If they can add Drew and trade Ichiro Suzuki for maybe JJ Putz they Yankees are locked in for a playoff spot.
The 2013 World Series winners, Boston Red Sox will be the second place team in the division. They have lost one of the best center fielders in the game in Jacoby Ellsbury. With top prospects Jackie Bradley Jr he can man the outfield. Can the Sox trust a rookie? Maybe not. Bringing back Mike Napoli was a key move for them to contend. The Red Sox roster will look the same as there championship team, but with a big subtraction.
The Toronto Blue Jays will finish in third place. 2013 was supposed to be there year. They brought in RA Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Josh Johnson. They were the favorites to win the World Series. 2014 will be a better year for the Canadian team, hopefully team chemistry will be a key figure for them to place third.
Will the Tampa Bay Rays finish fourth in the AL East? After finishing in second place last year and going to the ALDS, they will not contend this time around. This off-season has been around former Cy Young award winner David Price and the trade rumors. They have added some minor pieces but nothing for them to be a contender. If the Rays aren’t doing so well around the trade deadline(which they won’t) you will see Price elsewhere. But don’t count them out yet, if there bullpen actually does what it can do, and David Price returns to his 2012 form, Evan Longoria can stay healthy, and there outfield can perform to what they actually can, you may see the Rays finish with more wins.
The Baltimore Orioles will finish last in 2014. There really isn’t much to say about the O’s. Chris Davis will hit 50 homeruns, Manny Machado will hit 50 doubles, and Adam Jones will drive in 100 RBI’s. If the rest of the teams in the division play as I project them to, the Orioles will finish in last place.
So, as many of you hopefully know by now, there was a very controversial ending to Game 3. here is a slight recap:
Tied up, 4-4, bottom 9. 1 out
Yadier Molina singles off Brandon Workman.
Allen Craig doubles, men on second and third.
Infield in. Jon Jay hits hard grounder to Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia makes a diving grab, throws home. Jarrod Saltalamcchia applies the tag to Molina. Craig advancing to third. Saltalamcchia makes an errant throw to Will Middlebrooks at third, whom dives for the ball, but it gets past him. Craig tries to advance home, but gets tripped up over Middlebrooks’ outstretched body. Daniel Nava from right field throws Craig out at the plate, but third base umpire Jim Joyce ruled obstruction on Middlebrooks, awarding Craig home. Cardinals win, 5-4, taking 2-1 lead in the World Series.
Here is the official definition of obstruction:
OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered in the act of fielding a ball. It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the act of fielding the ball. For example: If an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
Here is the full video of the play
According to the rulebook, Middlebrooks was obstructing the play, even though it was not intentional, nor did he have anywhere to go. Also, Craig was out of the base path when he tripped over Middlebrooks, but in a post game press conference, umpire Jim Joyce stated that the base path is the direct path from the play to the base.
There were many factors that led to this ending, many of which could have been avoidable.
These are some, mentioned by Matthew Pouliot of NBC’s HardballTalk.com:
– Craig scored because Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom manager John Farrell forgot to take out of the game, made a wild throw to third that Will Middlebrooks, a mid-game replacement, couldn’t grab because he was more concerned with staying on the base than getting in front of the ball.
– Craig drew the throw to third because he got a terrible jump off second on Jon Jay‘s grounder, freezing on the play even though he wasn’t supposed to be involved at all; he should have simply ran to third as soon as he saw Yadier Molina take off ahead of him. Had that happened, there’s no throw at all.
– Molina, who had the first hit of the inning, got his hit because Shane Victorino was playing no-doubles defense in right field. Had Molina hit the same ball in the sixth inning, there’s a good chance it would have been caught.
– Molina’s hit came off Brandon Workman, who actually got to hit in the top of the ninth in a tie game. Because manager John Farrell forgot to double-switch in the bottom of the eighth and have David Ross replace Saltalamacchia.
– And that’s because Breslow gave up an infield single to Matt Carpenter on a ball that might have been handled by Stephen Drew at shortstop, except Drew had just replaced by a pinch-hitter. Breslow then hit Carlos Beltran on the elbow pad with a pitch. Beltran made no motion to avoid it, yet was awarded the base anyway. Had things turned out a bit differently in that frame and Breslow had stayed in, perhaps Craig would have pinch-hit then and not even have been available for the ninth. And had Farrell been able to get through the seventh using only one of Breslow or Tazawa, there’s a good chance Uehara finishes the eighth or is at least in there to start the ninth, since Farrell would still have one more guy he trusted in reserve.
– Middlebrooks was in the game because left-hander Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh. Had Siegrist not given up a homer to David Ortiz in Game 1, he’s probably the choice to pitch to Ortiz and Daniel Nava in the sixth rather than Randy Choate. Because while manager Mike Matheny definitely wanted a lefty to face Ortiz, he didn’t want to risk Choate on the switch-hitter Nava; Siegrist would have been a much better choice to face him. And had Siegrist pitched then, Drew likely stays in to hit against a right-hander the following inning.
– Should I keep going? If Kolten Wong doesn’t steal second on a 2-1 pitch in the eighth, Beltran isn’t intentionally walked to send up Matt Holliday. Either Beltran could have done something good or he would have made an out, meaning Holliday would have started the ninth and the whole dynamic would have changed again.
– Blow it all up… the Cardinals were probably one hit away from knocking Jake Peavy out in the first inning tonight. Had that happened, not only might they have cruised to a victory, but it would have affected the whole Game 4 dynamic as well.
Farrell had Ross, Napoli, and Berry available to pinch hit, yet decided to stick with Workman to bat in the top of the 9th inning, who, as surprising as it is, struck out.
This is the first time in postseason history that a game has ended on an obstruction call. According to an unofficial look by Baseball , obstruction has been called twice in the postseason. Game 4 of the 1986 NLCS between the Mets and Astros and in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS between the Athletics and Red Sox. They found one game that ended on an obstruction call: a 2-1 victory by the Devil Rays over the Mariners on August 6, 2004.
All of this is very interesting. Controversial? I don’t think so, according to the rulebook. I’m sure many people find controversy over it, but they have not read the rulebook or Rule 2.00 at the least.
Please feel free to leave you thoughts in the comments and take the poll.
The Cardinals sure weren’t flying high in Boston. The Redbirds lost 8-1 on Wednesday night.
Sloppy mistakes by the defense and the Red Sox capitalizing on them gives the Sox momentum heading into Game 2.
Cardinals SS Pete Kozma made the most notable errors of the game. Passive mistakes like misplaying a ball hit to his backhand and not catching the double-play flip left St. Louis playing from behind.
In the second inning, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina gave another example of how the team was not on the same page. A high hit pop-fly to the mound fell in between the two due to a lack of communication.
“I don’t think it could have gone stranger,” Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter said, “or any worse.”
The Cards uncharacteristic play was not the only theme of the game. Boston came up in big spots, such as Mike Napoli’s big double, and David Ortiz’s more subtle sacrifice fly.
“At least I got an RBI and we were up four and got the momentum,” Ortiz said.
MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds said before the series that he prefers the Cardinals’s talent over the veteran presence of the Red Sox. That turned out to be false when the young pitchers of the Cardinals collapsed under pressure.
Cardinals relief pitcher Kevin Siegrist was the best example of youth on the mound, as he left a fastball up for David Oritz, something you do not do.
Overall, the moral of the story in Game 1 was that it is good to have a certain approach against your opponent. Boston had one by battling all night long, forcing Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to go to his bullpen 4 times.
Game 2 is 7:30 PM Thursday night in Boston, with John Lackey going against rookie Michael Wacha, who pitched in college just last year. Can the Red Sox take advantage of the rookie mistakes, or will the Cardinals raw talent wipe that away?