We entered 2009 anticipating great things from Jon Lester, but thus far he has not come close to reaching those lofty expectations. Is there any hope for him to save his season? Let’s take a look.
First, the numbers he’s posted thus far:
49 Strikeouts (10.67 K/9)
13 Walks (2.83 BB/9)
The first thing that jumps out at me is the strikeouts. Keep in mind that last season he posted a K/9 of 6.50 and had a minor league career mark of 8.3. Are we really to believe this type of drastic improvement?
Through all the bad that has plagued him, the one good item would appear to be a complete overachievement. Are we really going to point to his 9.9 K/9 over 148.1 Double-A innings in 2005 as proof that this could be more than just a mirage?
Really, the strong number comes off of two big games, a nine-strikeout performance against the Orioles and a ten-strikeout game against the Yankees. In his other five starts he has not exceeded seven strikeouts. Last season he struck out nine twice, but never more than that. Look for a regression to come.
The control, which many thought to be unrealistic last season, appears to be for real as he has repeated it in the early going this season.
The big red flag is the BABIP, which clearly is well on the high side. Last season he posted a .299 mark. In fact, no pitcher who qualified posted a number higher than .366 (Kevin Millwood) and only six were above .330. Does anyone not expect his number to come down significantly? That will, in turn, lower his WHIP and also help his ERA, meaning better times have got to be ahead.
One other number has burned him in the early going, increasing his ERA, which should come down as the season progresses. First, the home runs allowed. Thus far he’s yielded eight home runs, a HR/9 of 1.74. While the 0.60 he posted last season may not be believable, this year’s number is certainly on the higher side.
While a regression from his 2008 numbers is not a complete surprise, the fact that he’s been as bad as he has is. While he’s unlikely to post the same type of strikeouts he has in the early going, an overall improvement is going to be coming. If someone in your league is willing to sell low on him, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. I also wouldn’t make the mistake of giving up on him yourself. Things are going to get better, just have patience.
What does everyone else think? Will he be classified as a bust or will he improve? Would you look to acquire him?
To read the previous article, click here.
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