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April 20, 2012
Lester's Long Inning
On Tuesday, Jon Lester threw a 92-mph fastball to Michael Young for a strike, and then some other things happened, and then Jon Lester threw a 94-mph fastball to Michael Young and got a groundout to shortstop. The other things that happened were 47 pitches, and also this thing,
which counts as a pitch in my book. Which makes it a 50-pitch inning for Jon Lester. Fifty pitches got Jon Lester into the sixth inning of this 2010 game, and it got him three outs against Texas on Tuesday night. Fifty pitches takes nearly a half hour. It takes in the neighborhood of 15 authenticated baseballs to get through 50 pitches. Fifty pitches is how many times Christopher Nolan had to explain Inception before anybody got what he was talking about. Fifty pitches is a profane amount of pitches.
As it turns out, some things change over the course of 50 pitches, and some things don’t.
It’s reasonable to think it was taking Lester more effort to keep that velocity. He kept the first 20 pitches of the inning low, then let a very high fastball get away from him on the 21st. That was followed by high fastballs on pitches 36, 47, and 48. But Lester kept his velocity, through 50 pitches.
He mostly kept his control. Of his final 20 pitches, 15 were strikes. And he did manage a 12-pitch at-bat against Adrian Beltre where he lived pretty consistently on the edge, or just off the edge of the strike zone:
I'm not even going to get into the issue of command.
Lester’s pace stayed the same. Again, it’s hard to conclude anything definitive, because the time Lester took to throw a pitch included a bunch of variables: whether the previous pitch was fouled off, whether there were runners on base, whether the batter took longer to adjust his gloves or get signs, etc. But when Lester faced Michael Young, the 10th batter of the inning, he took 26 seconds between pitches. When he faced Mike Napoli, the third batter of the inning, also with runners on, he took 27 seconds between pitches, and when he faced Craig Gentry, the fifth batter, and Ian Kinsler, the sixth batter, both with runners on, he took 26 seconds per pitch. An exception is Lester’s 12-pitch matchup against Adrian Beltre, during which both players slowed way down. Approximate time between pitches: 19 seconds, 24, 29, 46, 31, 36, 47, 33, 35, 29, 47, for an average of 34 seconds per pitch.
The second-base umpire, meanwhile, did get tired. Here he is for no reason being all, "hate this, let's go."
Lester’s mechanics changed. His leg kick began to vary, for instance, even when there was no need to worry about baserunners trying to steal: here are two GIFs, with an early pitch on top and a late one on the bottom:
Jon Lester’s sweatiness changes. Before/After:
No sweat in the first one. Also notable: Lester Sweat and Lester's Wet are homophones. Notable is probably the wrong word there.
Stage one: watching the game.
Stage two: watching the game, doing Johnny Carson impression.
Stage three: watching not the game.
Where did he go? Where do you think he went? Did he go somewhere amazing, like a palace in his own kingdom? Or did he go somewhere terrible, like the inferior seats that his parents actually paid for? Or was he just a hologram all along? We’ll never know.