Saturday, May 21, 2011
Jon Lester: Winner, Strikeout Machine
With his win against the Yankees last Saturday, Jon Lester improved his career record to 66-26, giving him a .7173 career win percentage. That surpassed former Yankee Spud Chandler (.7171) for the highest in baseball’s modern era among pitchers with 50 decisions.
Though he had a bit of a rough start last night, allowing a career-high 12 hits, two walks and five earned runs, Lester kept on winning, improving to 6-1 this season.
However, there are a few concerns. Lester has allowed 14 earned runs over his last 16 1/3 innings, his worst three-game stretch in more than a year.
Despite those recent struggles, Lester hasn't lost since April 12. And though his ERA has been rising, it's still a respectable 3.68.
However, one thing Lester continues to do with great consistency is strike out opposing hitters.
On May 3, Lester struck out at least 10 batters (11) for the 15th time in his career, the most ever among Red Sox lefthanders.
Only Pedro Martinez (72), Roger Clemens (68) and Smoky Joe Wood (18) had more double-digit strikeout games than Lester.
And last night, Lester struck out five more batters, giving him 775 in his career. In the process, Lester passed Dutch Leonard (771) for second place all-time among Red Sox lefthanders.
Earlier this season, Lester passed the great Lefty Grove (743) on that list as well.
The 27-year-old Lester has entered some elite company in team history. The only lefty who struck out more batters in his Red Sox career was Bruce Hurst, who fanned 1,043 hitters from 1980 to 1988.
Before this season is over, Lester will almost certainly have entered the Red Sox Top 10 in strikeouts.
Lester fanned 225 batters in each of the last two seasons, joining Smoky Joe Wood and Cy Young, each of whom struck out at least 200 in two different seasons.
Over 10 starts this season. Lester has fanned 63 batters. Should he reach 200 again this year, he would become just the third Sox pitcher to accomplish the feat.
In Red Sox history, only two pitchers have reached the 200 K mark in more than two seasons; Roger Clemens (8 years) and Pedro Martinez (6 years).
The Red Sox are quite fortunate to have a big, lefthanded power-pitcher just entering his prime.
Over parts of six season, Lester has already joined an elite list of Red Sox pitchers and begun etching his name in the club record book.
It's safe to say that Jon Lester is on his way to becoming the greatest lefty in Red Sox history, and within just a couple of years the statistics will clearly bear this out.
Should he remain healthy, Lester will likely become one of the five greatest pitchers in club history, righties included.
Most importantly, Lester is a winner who gives the Red Sox the likelihood of victory every time he takes the mound.