Monday, February 25, 2013
Lester pitching for contract?
By Jason A. Churchill
By most conventional numbers, Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester struggled in 2012, evidenced by his ERA (4.82) and win total (9). The underlying metrics, however, suggest Lester was better than that, and he'll need to rebound if he wants to cash in on looming free agency.
Lester's contract runs through this coming season, but the Sox have a $13 million option for 2014 that is both affordable and reasonable for the club, even if Lester doesn't get all the way back to his previous form. If he does get close, however, he could present a good case for a contract extension with Boston, one that takes him beyond his option year.
Lester's one statistical anomaly of sorts is a rather large dip in strikeout rate. He posted rates of more than 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 2009 and 2010 and over 8.5 in 2011. That sunk to just 7.28 last season, ranking him No. 17 in the American League and tied for No. 44 in all of baseball, behind the likes of Joe Blanton and Gavin Floyd. Lester's fastball was still above-average at 92 mph in 2012, though that's down from 93.5 in both '09 and '10.
In a piece by ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes, Lester says he "revamped" his delivery to where it should have been, and new skipper John Farrell -- Lester's pitching coach during his best years -- said this week that Lester is doing "some of the things within his delivery that are consistent with what he was a couple of years ago."
Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus writes for ESPN Insider that the lefty could improve his stats now that he's back to full health.
Another tough year for Lester in 2013 may impact the option, and it will certainly impact the southpaw's next contract.