Tuesday, July 09, 2013

I'm Sick of Jon Lester

The Red Sox are once again a likable team. They have plucky, determined players who are playing at 100% of their ability, in some cases more than 100%. And with few exceptions, the players themselves are easy to root for.

One person that still draws my dislike is Jon Lester. I am so tired of his act. It isn't just his poor performances on the mound, it's how he carries himself and how he dismissively excuses his failures.

When he struggles he becomes a diva on the mound, glaring at the umpire like a little kid in the grocery store checkout line who was just told by his mother that he can't get one of the candy bars from the side shelf. He pouts, he snaps his glove angrily, and then he'll throw the same pitch in the same location and whine about it again.

Do you think umpires appreciate that act? Do you think umpires get their assignments and see they're behind the plate for Lester and think good things about him? Maybe that's why you don't get those borderline pitches, Jon. Maybe the umps are sick of your mini-tantrums.

Lester fails to admit that he isn't that good anymore, and hasn't been for a long time. He seems to attribute every bad outing to a series of bad calls or a few lucky swings. But his quality is clearly not what it once was.

Hitters make much more contact against him than they did in 2010 and 2011. He strikes out fewer batters (225 in 2010, 182 in 2011, 166 in 2012, and he's on pace for about 176 in 2013). He allows more hits (166 in 2011, 216 in 2012, and a pace for 215 in 2013), and opponents hit much harder against him (14 HRs allowed in 2010, 20 in 2011, 25 in 2012, pace for 25 in 2013). From 2009 to 2011, he allowed 31 doubles every year. In 2012 he allowed 49, and in 2013 he's on pace to allow 51.

And instead of admitting that he has, over a significantly long stretch of time, struggled, he'll build himself up. He pumps his own tires. After last night's 5 inning, 5 run, 9 hit, 2 walk outing against the 3rd worst offense in baseball he said:

"I felt like I threw a lot of good pitches tonight. Maybe a handful of balls found the middle of the plate, they did a better job of fouling balls off to get to those pitches. It goes back to I felt like I threw the ball better than what the line score says."

No, Jon, you didn't. You fell apart last night. You needed 112 pitches to get 15 outs. You threw first-pitch strikes to only half of the 26 batters you faced. And while the Mariners did foul off 28 pitches, they hit 18 into play, 2 for doubles, 1 for a homerun, and 6 more for basehits. The M's hit .240 as a team, and last night they hit .375 off Lester, with an OPS of .961.

And that homerun came after your team had tied the game for you, against the great Felix Hernandez. And boom, to lead off the bottom of the 5th, you serve up a homerun. That's not what good pitchers do. And good pitchers don't pat themselves on the back after such outings and ignore their shortcomings. They acknowledge them, they take responsibility, and they work on them.

Lester is a throwback to the 2011 Collapse. It's never his fault. Other members of that incredibly unlikable team have either left town or reformed (see: John Lackey). Not Lester. His diva antics are the same on the mound. His performances are worse. His refusal to take responsibility is a vintage 2011/2012 attitude. Either he needs to change it, or the Red Sox need to change their roster.

Photo Credit:
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images