Saturday, June 17, 2006

Note on Jon Lester

Having witnessed Lester struggle with command in spring training and at times in his first couple of starts, it reminds me a little of Papelbon struggling in the same way when he was called up last year. I find them interesting players to compare because they are both young, are both on the Red Sox (not known for developing young pitchers), both have exhibited superb command in the minors, and both have great fastballs. Here are their numbers for their first 10.1 MLB innings pitched (reminder, this is just a quick note, it's way too small a sample size to conclude anything from):

Sox Young Gun



Home Runs




10 1/3






10 1/3





We’ve all seen how quickly Papelbon has become a quality strike-throwing machine, so is it reasonable to expect Lester to follow the same path? Probably not, especially since Lester will only be a starter from here on out and won’t be throwing constantly at the same effort level. But I expect Lester to be a very good starter for the rest of this year based on his career trends in the minors of always having great command along with his stuff. What is certainly encouraging from his first two MLB starts is the ability of Lester to bear down and add a little with runners on against, something absolutely shown by Papelbon.

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Anonymous Pete said...

A couple of comments on Lester. I agree with you that he should have a very successful career ahead of him based on a great assortment of pitches (great fastball, good curve, cutter) and a changeup which should improve with time, not to mention his apparent ability to bear down in tight spots (though the normally patient Jeff Francouer certainly did him a favor swinging at the first pitch this weekend in ATL). However, I have to disagree with your assessment of Lester's command. I would argue that the biggest thing holding him back is his command.

I'll show you the stats from 2004 & 2005 for Lester and Papelbon, who you are comparing here:

2004 (A+): 97/37 = 2.62
2005 (AA): 163/57 = 2.86

2004 (A+): 153/43 = 3.56
2005 (AA-AAA): 110/26 = 4.23

I am not including Papelbon's 2005 major league numbers (~35 innings), but comparing their minor league numbers, I don't think it's true to argue that both pitchers have exhibited excellent command throughout their development in the minor leagues. Papelbon clearly exhibited excellent command to go along with his impressive strikeout totals. Lester struck out an impressive number of batters, but walked too many people for comfort.

I have seen Lester pitch three times in the minors. In two of those outings, his command was fantastic, and he dominated. In the third, his command suffered, and he gave up something like 5 runs in 3 innings.

Lester's strikeout numbers are fantastic, which is a testament to his great stuff. However, he does need to work on his control, as evidenced by his walk totals and his struggles when his command is off. However, if he is able to improve his command, with his stuff, the sky is the limit.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

those stats for Lester and Papelbon are K/BB ratio , by the way...

1:11 PM  
Blogger sabesin2001 said...

Good points Pete. It might be a bit of a stretch to say Lester exhibited "excellent" command in the minors, which Papelbon did in fact always show. Clearly Lester struggled with command at times this year in AAA, but going along with my blog he seems to have those problems sometimes when he first moves up levels, and along with the fact that he was on a ridiculously strict pitch count limit for a while this year, I throw a lot of those numbers out.

As for 2004 and 2005, Papelbon had better K/BB ratios than Lester, but Lester's were still very good. His 2.86 number in 2005 would put him 22nd in MLB for this year (and ahead of some guys with very good control and decent K numbers). Excellent, maybe not yet you're right. But the sky's the limit with his stuff, so we should hope he can at least reach those K/BB minor league ratios if not surpass them in the majors because pretty much the only time he has ever struggled is when his command has eluded him.

5:17 PM  
Blogger sabesin2001 said...

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5:18 PM  

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