Tag Archives: Jon Lester

James Shields?

I’ve read reports that the Red Sox talked to James Shields’ representatives at the winter meetings and that they were “in the picture” on Shields. I think Nick Cafardo reported this drivel in December.

Today, MLB.com reports, via Jim Bowden that the Sox have “not had much recent discussion with …” Shields. This is news?

I am fascinated about how “reporters” and former front office types come up with this nonsense. Is any of this really news? It seems as if these guys have to find something to write about so they write about the fact that people have or have not met with players. Really? That’s worth writing? They can’t come up with anything better? This tells me next to nothing. I wish they’d stop with this already.

Let’s look at Shields for a second. First, his nickname – Big Game James – annoys me. When has he performed well in a big game? He has started 11 games in the post season and gone 3-6. He lost both of his starts in the World Series last year allowing a total of fifteen hits in nine innings. That is not big game studliness. In his first two appearances in the post season in 2008 he went 6 1/3 and 7 1/3 innings. He won one game and lost the other. Since then, he has not pitched into the seventh inning in any of his remaining post season appearances. That is not big game material. Can we put that stupid nickname to bed?

The guy is, though, a solid regular season pitcher. However, he’s never struck me as ace material. He does have his days but if he were on the Red Sox and slated for the start I wouldn’t feel as if I had to watch him pitch. Pedro, you watched. Schilling, despite his moronic views on the world, you watched. Lester, I might watch and when he pitched I might think a no no possible, but I would not say Lester was much watch material. Kershaw, must watch. Verlander in his prime, much watch. Shields? I would not go out of my way. To me he’s not an ace.

Here is a comparison of the ERA+ for four pitchers pretty close in age over the past five years:

Pitcher A:

  1. 75
  2. 134
  3. 109
  4. 131
  5. 124

Pitcher B:

  1. 133
  2. 137
  3. 132
  4. 104
  5. 151

Pitcher C:

  1. 134
  2. 124
  3. 87
  4. 110
  5. 155

Pitcher D:

  1. 112
  2. 171
  3. 148
  4. 135
  5. 160

Who are these guys? A – Shields, B – Hamels, C – Lester, and D – Cueto. This surprised me a bit. I don’t see that much difference between Shields and Lester. Hamels seems a slight tick better than both, but Johnny Cueto surprised me. He is in another world. I hadn’t realized how well that guy has pitched. He had one injury year in 2013, but seems to have bounced back with a solid 243 innings of 2.25 ERA with 242 Ks in 2014. Clearly, I’d rather have Cueto than any of those other guys. If Cincy is dangling him, I’d be hard pressed not to respond. I might even give up Betts or Swihart for him. Cueto looks like a stud. Shields does not. Neither, for that matter does Lester. I think we are jaded by Lester’s post season performances and that is always a bad idea.

Admittedly, Shields may be better than I think. Yes, I probably discount his ability because I find his nickname annoying, but is he really worth similar contract numbers to Lester? I’d rather survive with what the Red Sox have now, unless we can wait Shields out and get him for a three or four year deal. I’d be loath to pay him beyond his age 35 season. He eats innings and that has significant value, just not ace value.

Are the Sox considering him? Probably. I doubt, though, that they are clamoring and climbing over themselves to sign him. Long term deals to pitchers in their thirties should be avoided. Cueto turns 29 next month, has been nothing but studly when healthy, and hits free agency after next year. He’s going to be looking at a $25 million dollar a year deal. He might be worth it. I used to want to Sox to acquire Jordan Zimmerman, but looking at him and Cueto side by side, I’ve come to the conclusion that I want Cueto. Plus, the irrational side of me looks at his windup and is reminded of El Tiante. I love that.

 

 

Near perfection!

Jon Lester was on last night, tossing his first complete game shutout in five years (Game Score was 90). In the history of the organization, there have only been four other 1 hit, no walk shutouts:

  • Pedro in 2000 v. the Rays (Game Score – 98)
  • Hideo Nomo in 2001 v. the Jays (Game Score – 99)
  • Curt Schilling in 2007 v. the A’s (Game Score – 89)
  • Josh Beckett v. the Rays in 2011 (Game Score – 91)

To put this game in perspective, there have only been 8 Red Sox games where a pitcher has only allowed one baserunner. Lester was not perfect, but he was good and hard hit balls were right at defenders. Isn’t it always the case that the lightest hitter on a team seems to be the one to break up a no hitter or a perfect game? Last night it was Maicer Izturis, who is hitting .219/.246/.333 in 120 PA this year. He’s not a bad hitter, but there seems to be some cosmic joke out there when the ninth batter breaks up a perfect game bid. Granted, it was only the sixth inning, but the game had the feel that something special was possible.

The Sox, though, still do not have a perfect game in their history.

The worry for me last night during the game was partly for Lester’s perfect bid but also for the Sox hitters against the pathetic Ramon Ortiz. He topped out at 89 and was throwing junk. They had lots of men on base but could not do much with their opportunities through the first six innings. It was not until their four run seventh that fans could breath easier. Some of the issues:

  • In May, Ellsbury’s OBP is .271. Victorino’s is .419.
  • In May, Ortiz is hitting .171/.237/.343.
  • In the last seven days, Napoli’s slash line is .182/.250/.227.

One good pitching outing can make the team look great. But, the problems have not been solved. I think Farrell needs to consider moving Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot. In his career, Ellsbury gets on at a .341 clip as a leadoff hitter. That’s acceptable, but not spectacular. This year he is getting on at a .318 rate as leadoff hitter. That puts the Sox 21st out of 30 MLB teams and 11 out of 15 in the AL.

The top 5 in the AL:

  1. Oak – .392
  2. Tex – .373
  3. Hou – .367
  4. Bal – .359
  5. Cle – .355

The bottom five in the AL:

  1. Min – .238
  2. Tor – .287
  3. CHW – .288
  4. Sea – .317
  5. Sox – .318

Farrell could put Victorino in there, but Victorino is only a career .320 OBP leadoff guy. Here is a novel idea – try Nava at leadoff. He has done it in 27 games and gets on at a .352 clip.

A new order for Farrell:

  1. Nava
  2. Pedroia (your best guy should bat second)
  3. Ortiz
  4. Napoli
  5. Salty
  6. Victorino
  7. Ellsbury
  8. Middlebrooks
  9. Drew

If Ellsbury wants his big free agent payday, he needs to start performing. A drop in the order might be the kick in the pants he needs. Since the start of the 2012 season he has done this:

.267/.314/.367 with 5 HR, 38 RBI

That is not a player you pay big money, even with Scott Boras’ help.

Pitching … it’s harder then it looks

If you have not seen the spot done by MLB about Justin Verlander and why he is so hard to hit, check it out. Hint, it’s all about the release point.

Once you’ve watched this, you’ll wonder how anyone manages to hit Verlander. Verlander is very good, but so is the Sox mound nemesis today, Yu Darvish. Here is a similar post about him.

Darvish leads the majors in strikeouts with 58 in 38 2/3 IP.  Major leaguers swing and miss a lot when faced with Darvish’s five pitch repertoire.

  • SO/9 rate is 13.5
  • SO/BB is 4.46
  • SO% is 38.4%

To put that in some perspective, his Sox opponent on the mound today is Jon Lester. His rates:

  • SO/9 rate is 7.9
  • SO/BB is 2.75
  • SO% is 21.3%

There have only been two pitchers in the history of baseball to throw more then 150 innings in a season and have a SO/9 rate of greater then 13.0 – Randy Johnson in 2001 (13.4) and Pedro Martinez in 1999 (13.2). Both won the Cy Young award in those years. If Darvish can keep this up, and this is the year of the strikeout, he will join some pretty elite company and be the front runner for the 2013 Cy Young award.

If the Sox are to avoid a Texas sweep they will need an outstanding outing from Lester and an off day from Darvish. So far the Texas staff has been anything but off and have lived up to their early season designation as the best pitching staff in the American league. In 18 innings the Rangers have held the Sox to 13 hits (just two extra base hits- both doubles) and 3 walks, while striking out 15 and allowing only 1 run. That’s a pitching buzz saw.

But, as Casey Stengel would say, “Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.” Lets hope for some vice-versa this afternoon.