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Jon Lester

Born: 01/07/1984 (Age: 30)
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Height: 6-4 Weight: 240

Mechanics
Stands tall, uses height well; gets good extension towards the plate; smooth delivery, no urgency whatsoever, same tempo throughout; lands soft on right leg; repeats mechanics exceptionally well; finishes facing plate, in good fielding position;


Evaluator Jeff Moore
Report Date 10/12/2014
Arm Angle High 3/4
Windup Simple, no
Rubber Middle
Present Role Years expected to
perform at current level
Future
7; no.1/2 starter 3-4 Same as present. At age 30, Lester has no projection left in his game, but there is no reason to believe he can't maintain his current level of success for 3-4 more years. Even at that point, he should remain a highly effective pitcher into his late-30's, based on his command, ability to spin the ball, and ability to change speeds. Even with diminished skills, he should still be a role six or high role five pitcher, even at the end of what will be a long contract.

Pitch Type Present Grade Sitting Velocity Peak Velocity Report
Fastball 55 92-93 Pitch has above-average velocity for a left-hander, but not premium-level; plays up a grade because of pinpoint command; four-seam variety does not feature much downward movement; generates more fly balls than ground balls; used pitch less and less frequently as season progressed.
Cutter 70 88-90 Primary fastball; doesn't lose much velocity from four-seamer to cutter; pitch has plus-plus movement, running in on right-handed hitters; comfortable throwing it to either side of the plate and to batters of either hand; will run it in on the hands of right-handed hitters or throw it backdoor for called strikes; highly effective pitch against right-handers.
Sinker 60 91-93 Two-seam fastball/sinker that he goes to in double-play situations; features good sinking action, highly effective at generating ground balls and initiating weak contact; doesn't throw the pitch often but has it when he needs it.
Curveball 65 75-77 Most effective swing-and-miss pitch; features 11-to-5 movement with hard downward break; will throw it in any count to any hitter; uses it effectively against right-handed hitters on the outside portion of the plate.

Pitch Usage*
vs LHH vs RHH
FA FC CU SI CH FA FC CU SI CH
Usage 45.83% 30.90% 14.81% 7.52% 0.93% 41.28% 30.77% 16.90% 7.91% 3.13%
Strike 68.69% 62.17% 61.72% 60.00% 62.50% 66.30% 66.96% 63.57% 64.25% 59.76%
Swing / Miss 9.34% 9.74% 16.41% 6.15% 12.50% 6.20% 13.29% 19.00% 2.42% 19.51%

* Only showing top 5 pitches by pitch count. Stats are for the 2014 season

Approach

Lester is an extreme strike thrower whose walk rate has declined for six straight years and got under the 2.0 BB/9 mark this season, though he's not afraid to work from behind in the count. His first pitch strike percentage was 61.4 percent on the season, only slightly above the league average of 60.6 percent and lower than you'd expect for a pitcher as stingy with free passes as Lester was this season. He features primarily a fastball/cutter/curveball repertoire but keeps hitters off-balance because he will throw any pitch at any time and throws them all for strikes. The result is a lot of weak contact and a large number of called strikes.

Makeup

Everything you'd want from a number one starter. Works quickly, keeps teammates engaged. Projects confidence on the mound.

Strengths

Command, throws a ton of strikes. Mixes pitches exceptionally well; will throw any pitch at any time. Has pitched in every possible scenario so he's well-versed in pressure situations. Handled large market very well.

Weaknesses

Nothing glaring. Doesn't have a major swing-and-miss pitch to lean on in a situation where a strike out is absolutely necessary.

Means of Exploitation

Attack him early in the count. He's going to throw strikes so you know he'll be around the plate, but once he gets ahead of you, he has too many weapons to attack hitters with. The best bet is to jump on anything hard early before he sets the hitter up.

Overall

Lester is a premier pitcher, good enough to anchor just about any rotation in the majors. He is as durable and consistent as any pitcher in baseball. He still has a few years left of his prime, but even after that, he should remain a competent big league starter, though likely not one worthy of the contract he will receive on the free agent market. Still, in the generally ill-advised free agent landscape, Lester is as sure of a bet as will be available.


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beeker99
10/28
I love these reports and eagerly await more!

One question, Jeff. Wouldn't "lack of ability to hold runners on first" be a weakness for Lester? A small one, to be sure, but it surprised me when I found out he hadn't made a kickoff throw all year, particularly because he's a lefty.
moore315512
10/28
Full disclosure, that info became public after I had already submitted this report and I didn't research his pickoff tendencies. That was quite a find by whoever unearthed it before the Wild Card game. That said, I'm not sure that he's unable to hold runners. He does have a pickoff move, right? Why he didn't use it all year is beyond me, and it's certainly a tendency worth noting jn an advanced report, but it doesn't seem terribly prevalent in terms of whether or not teams will be interested in him.

It's certainly interesting though.
blindeke
10/28
the Twins will sign him
gjhardy
10/28
I believe there is suspicion about a mental block with throwing to first base on bunts as well.
moore315512
10/28
That's interesting if that's true. I hadn't heard that but it would explain a lot. Does make it worth watching going forward. Do you have a link that expands on that?
beeker99
10/28
IIRC, there were some articles in the Boston Globe about it, both earlier this year and in years past.

Here is a quote from one:

"A few scouts were surprised by Jon Lester’s inability to make a good throw to first base in his start Wednesday in Toronto.

“That could be a very serious situation if you’re in a playoff situation and he can’t make the throw,” one AL scout said. “I know he’s had this for a while, but it sure came out [Wednesday]. This isn’t the best timing for this. It’s out there now and teams will likely try to exploit it.”"

http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/08/17/baseball-year-shutout/dUeB9y9bETNTM7Q5aPC6oL/story.html?event=event12
oldbopper
10/29
As a life-long Red Sox fan I have watched Lester for years and it was always understood that he did not like to throw to first. The broadcasters never covered up that fact but I do not recall Lester having a problem throwing to first on bunts and similar squibbers, unlike the long forgotten, but unbelievably bad, Matt Young, who simply could not make a throw if it wasn't a pitch.
onegameref
10/31
Would a NL team, say the Cubs, prefer Lester or Scherzer? It sounds like Lester has an inside track with Boston group in Chicago, but I wonder if the Cubs would prefer the sheer power game of Scherzer. It would be nice to have a strong LH presence and Lester offers that for the Cubs. But oh what a steep price they will pay to make it so. I hope not more than 4-5 years.