One of These Doesn’t Belong

Fishing around the Internet for some interesting AL leaderboards you don’t always see in USA Today or on ESPN, and had a realization: Jon Lester’s somewhat quietly turned into a dominant pitcher (tonight’s relative struggles aside).

Maybe it’s because I’ve been out of touch with most of the baseball world for the last week, but Lester has surprisingly joined Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett to present a formidable Top Three of the Red Sox rotation. Consider these leaderboards:

Short Shutouts (created by Dave Pinto, times starter went at least 6 innings allowing no runs)

  • t-1: Jon Lester, BOS — 5
  • t-1: John Danks, CHW — 5
  • t-3: Cliff Lee, CLE — 4
  • t-3: C.C. Sabathia, CLE — 4
  • t-5: 9 tied with — 3 (incl. Matsuzaka, Pettitte)

80+ Game Score

  • 1: Cliff Lee, CLE — 4
  • t-2: Jon Lester, BOS — 3
  • t-2: C.C. Sabathia, CLE — 3
  • t-2: Ervin Santana, LAA — 3
  • t-5: Brian Bannister, KCR — 2
  • t-5: Roy Halladay, TOR — 2
  • t-5: James Shields, TAM — 2

Highest Game Score

  • 1: Jon Lester, BOS, 5/19 — 94
  • 2. James Shields, TAM, 5/9 — 93
  • t-3: Cliff Lee, CLE, 4/24 — 90
  • t-3: Matt Garza, TAM, 6/26 — 90
  • t-5: James Shields, TAM, 4/27 — 89
  • t-5: Kevin Slowey, MIN, 6/29 — 89

Quality Start Pct. (kept by ESPN.com using traditional 6IP/3ER metric)

  • 1: Shaun Marcum, TOR, 73%
  • t-2: Zack Grienke, KAN, 72%
  • t-2: Tim Wakefield, BOS, 72%
  • t-4: Justin Duchscherer, OAK, 71%
  • t-4: Cliff Lee, CLE, 71%
  • t-6: Josh Beckett, BOS, 69%
  • t-6: Aaron Laffey, CLE, 69%

Average Game Score

  • 1. Justin Duchscherer, OAK, 61.7
  • 2. Cliff Lee, CLE, 61.3
  • 3. Shaun Marcum, TOR, 61.1
  • 4. Roy Halladay, TOR, 60.2
  • 5. Felix Hernandez, SEA, 57.6
  • 8. Josh Beckett, BOS, 57.1
  • 12. Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS, 55.1
  • 16. Tim Wakefield, BOS, 54.1
  • t-17. Jon Lester, BOS, 53.5
  • t-27. Chien-Ming Wang, NYY, 51.1
  • t-27. Mike Mussina, NYY, 51.1

Look especially at that last list. All four principal Red Sox starters average a quality start by game score (arguably a much better method) every time they pitch. Lester, despite his two shutouts and five times leaving a game with no runs allowed, is last among those pitchers — yet is still above every Yankee starter.

Also note that Tim Wakefield is the Sox pitcher with the highest QS%, a surprising fact in of itself. Yet he’s lost four times when he’s thrown a quality start (Beckett’s lost five and Justin Masterson three). The Red Sox’ bullpen and recently anemic offense have been stealing much of the credit the starting rotation deserves. No wonder none was selected for the All-Star Game, despite the league’s fourth-lowest starters’ ERA, and none has become a clarion call for snubdom (a la Mike Mussina, whose case rests almost solely on his gaudy win total).

With Beckett and Matsuzaka, we shouldn’t be surprised. Wakefield has had strings of dominance like this before. But Lester has cut down on the walks and as a result has made the non-trade for Johan Santana look downright brilliant. Lester also seems to have done something no Red Sox lefty has managed to do cnsistently since Bruce Hurst — succeed in Fenway. He leads all Sox starters in ERA and strikeouts at home.

John Farrell was mocked when he said he believed Lester could be a 15-win pitcher this season. He doesn’t seem so silly now.

48 comments… add one
  • For the record, Joba is not on these lists due to lack of starts. His avg game score is 54.14. His stats are clearly not comparable due to his pitch number controlled starts early on and his small number of full starts.
    That said, Id say there is a good chance he will be in the mix this year and for years to come. His season has been remarkable and were there a YF as willing to crunch numbers as Paul (I mean this as a compliment) we’d have seen a post on him by now…

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 12:51 am
  • We’re starting to realize that there’s no need to make a deal for a No. 2 starter; we had him in Lester all along.
    And now with the decision to send Masterson to P’tucket to transition to relief, and with Papi a couple of weeks away from a return, things don’t look so bleak.
    It had not occurred to me until recently that the one thing the Sox pen lacked this year that it had last year was a long man. Julian Tavares was superb in that role in the 2007 championship run. Putting Masterson in that slot provides the opportunity to give Lopez/Delcarmen/Hansen/Oki an extra 2-3 days off a week, thus relieving them of some of the pressure that’s been killing them.
    We could sense the panic a week ago after the sweep in chafe-stricken Tampa. And why? the Sox might be 3 back, but they’ve got the second-highest win total in MLB (granted they’ve played more games, too.)
    All-Star break on the horizon, followed by Papi’s return and the arrival of a reliable middle reliever, added to a dangerous offense and a terrific rotation.
    Yeah, we’re fine.

    I'mBillMcNeal July 9, 2008, 12:59 am
  • Good point, Sam. And Joba will get his props in the second half, especially if he can work deeper into games.

    I'mBillMcNeal July 9, 2008, 1:01 am
  • “Lester has somewhat quietly turned into a dominant pitcher”
    A no-hitter and a complete-game shutout of the Yankees are quiet?

    Kazz July 9, 2008, 1:24 am
  • I seem to recall a lot of poo-pooing of that no-hitter in some quarters. Besides, we’ve always known Lester had some talent. He’s thrown gems before. I think it’s the shutout of the Yanks that really made people take notice, in part because it was yet another dominant performance on a big stage.
    More to my point, though: If I had put the following stats up, would you — or anyone — have guessed “Jon Lester”?
    13 starts, 6-1, 2.41 ERA, 86 IP, 76 H (8.0 h/9), 22 BB (2.3 bb/9), 60 K (6.3 k/9, 2.7 k/bb), 1.14 WHIP, .238 BAA.
    Those were his numbers over the previous 13 starts entering last night’s game. The only two AL pitchers with better numbers in that span: Justin Duchscherer and C.C. Sabathia.

    Paul SF July 9, 2008, 3:18 am
  • “For the record, Joba is not on these lists due to lack of starts. ”
    Joba will get his due soon enough, Sam. Me, I’m satisfied by the Yankee record in his starts and the performance of the pen. Nothing like proving the haters wrong than winning games. How’s Masterson to the pen looking though? Or acquiring another crappy reliever by trading useful youth? [Silence from the hypocrites].
    “A no-hitter and a complete-game shutout of the Yankees are quiet?”
    No shit. The kid should be on the All-Star team.
    “Those were his numbers over the previous 13 starts entering last night’s game.”
    Spare us this selective sampling. For example, who would have guessed Justin Duchscherer, as you point out, had ridiculous numbers during the same stretch? Small samples are not the real story – you can find anything you want, as the TV and radio guys often do. You’re better than that, as evidenced from the post.

    A YF July 9, 2008, 6:06 am
  • 13 starts is by no means selective sampling. it’s a statement of a 3 month trend. factor in the sox winning 9 of those 13 starts and it’s roses you’re smelling. this is coming from a guy who was slotted as a 5th to start the season. unexpected pleasantness is the best kind.
    look…i understand the rush to get the joba yankeeography out as soon as possible, but lets at least give it 6 starts. that’s almost half a selective sampling.

    sf rod July 9, 2008, 7:08 am
  • Rod-
    You’re saying 13 starts is more than enough to make a statement in regards to Lester but 6 starts (although its actually 7 plus another 6 months of relief pitching) isnt enough to begin talking about Joba. That doesnt really Jibe.

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 8:41 am
  • Yeah rod, I think you’re kidding yourself if you think Joba isn’t the real deal.

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 8:49 am
  • Lester has been very strong–Andy Pettittesque in his prime, if you will. If he keeps this up, will Peter Gammons haters admit that it wasn’t just spin when he reported that the Indians thought he was the Sox’s econd best starter after Beckett? Probably not.
    Rod doesn’t care much for Yanks young players. Sometimes he’s right in his assessment. Sometimes he’s wrong. But let’s not get hung up on his very predictable position.

    Nick-YF July 9, 2008, 8:50 am
  • You had to know that you couldn’t say anything good about Lester without the “Joba is the next Nolan Ryan” comments whipping around.
    Paul, Lester is not that good. He’s on a hot streak right now. However, Joba, like Phil Hughes a year ago, is the next coming. The golden child. There can’t possibly be two great stories here.

    Brad July 9, 2008, 8:53 am
  • They’re both good young pitchers.

    Brad July 9, 2008, 8:54 am
  • “They’re both good young pitchers.”
    Joba is gooder!!!

    Nick-YF July 9, 2008, 8:56 am
  • Lester is gooderer!

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 9:03 am
  • This time next year Joba will be the Ace, well outperforming Wang (and CC, cause he’ll be a Yankee, though not Sheets too). Lester might still be flat out dominating, but I think it’s more likely he settles into a #3 spot, with 15-16 wins and an ERA just under 4.00.

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 9:14 am
  • “#3 spot, with 15-16 wins and an ERA just under 4.00”
    Also known as an Ace on about 20 other clubs.

    LocklandSF July 9, 2008, 9:19 am
  • John Farrell was mocked when he said he believed Lester could be a 15-win pitcher this season.
    Was Farrell “mocked”? Or was his comment met with a bit of skepticism? The latter, skepticism, was surely justified, since Lester will have to win another eight games in less than a full second half to win 15. I am still a bit skeptical that Lester will win 15, but at this point wouldn’t be nearly as surprised. “Mockery” implies something more than skepticism, something almost demeaning.
    I just don’t recall “mockery”, and I took a perusal through the archives, didn’t find much in the way of that, from either SFs or YFs. I found one stray comment that predicted a couple of years of 4.50 ERAs from Lester, but is that really a big deal?
    Sorry to nitpick, but the language you use seems a tad hot.

    SF July 9, 2008, 9:23 am
  • Also known as an Ace on about 20 other clubs.
    That’s why it’s nice to have Beckett and Daisuke ahead of him in the rotation ;-)

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 9:25 am
  • I thought wins don’t matter.. =P

    Lar July 9, 2008, 9:28 am
  • “You had to know that you couldn’t say anything good about Lester without the “Joba is the next Nolan Ryan” comments whipping around.”
    This is really not an accurate description whatsoever of what has gone down on this thread. I simply pointed out that Joba wasnt on the lists that Paul posted yet and he would be if he had enough innings to qualify. Paul specifically mentioned Yankees starters in his post so this was fair game. Further, you assert that people are writing off Lester when I dont see that at all from any of the YFs here. Please dont put words in our collective mouths. I think there is good deal of respect for Lester and what he has done this year. I think Joba should be well on his way to earning this same respect back. Plus he is the second coming of Cy Young not Nolan Ryan, get your hype straight.

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 10:00 am
  • Plus he is the second coming of Cy Young not Nolan Ryan, get your hype straight.
    Nolan Ryan > Cy Young

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 10:04 am
  • Sam is right, not sure why there is such a reflexively poor attitude towards Joba or his inclusion in the discussion here. His sample is short, but so what? We SFs would be drooling at his appearance in our rotation, and using his data to date to project out something damn good.
    Nobody is saying anything like “he’s the next Nolan Ryan”, it would behoove us all to be fair in representing the comments already made in the record.

    SF July 9, 2008, 10:04 am
  • “Nolan Ryan > Cy Young”
    Ath, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this one!

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 10:07 am
  • a quick look at career ERA+ says Cy Young > Nolan Ryan

    Nick-YF July 9, 2008, 10:07 am
  • a quick look at career ERA+ says Cy Young > Nolan Ryan
    Yeah, but Cy Young never headlocked Robin Ventura while simultaneously noogie-ing him. That automatically pushes Ryan to the top of the list, screw the stats.

    SF July 9, 2008, 10:08 am
  • I think Cy gave Urban Shocker the “Urban Shocker” during a particularly memorable donnybrook in Peoria.

    Nick-YF July 9, 2008, 10:12 am
  • Took the words out of my mouth, SF.
    Ryan was the most feared pitcher in history. To quote Reggie Jackson:
    “Every hitter likes fastballs just like everybody likes ice cream. But you don’t like it when someone’s stuffing it into you by the gallon. That’s how you feel when (Nolan) Ryan’s throwing balls by you.”
    “You don’t face (Nolan) Ryan without your rest. He’s the only guy I go against that makes me go to bed before midnight.”
    “(Nolan) Ryan’s the only guy who puts fear in me. Not because he could get me out, but because he could kill me. You just hoped to mix in a walk so you could have a good night and go 0-for-3.”

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 10:20 am
  • fear shmear. I’ll take Greg Maddux and his low 90’s velocity and smarts over Nolan Ryan any day of the week.

    Nick-YF July 9, 2008, 10:23 am
  • Nolan Ryan’s strikeout record is 5714. Randy Johnson is #2 with 4708. The gap is 18%. That’s the largest gap between a record and the next highest number in the history of sports.

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 10:24 am
  • Reggie Jackson never faced Cy Young.
    Look, Ryan was amazing. To me he isnt the greatest pitcher of all time. Not even sure if he breaks the top 5. Just because he was a head hunter it doesnt make him the best of all time.

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 10:24 am
  • Ryan may have the strikeout record by a great margin but that has alot to do with the 27 years he played the game. Not that it should be sneezed at but longevity isnt the only criteria to judge greatness. He wasnt even the best pitcher in his league during the years he played. He never won the Cy Young and finished in the top 3 only 3 times in those 27 years.

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 10:27 am
  • Ath – haha, I can make up stuff that isn’t, but that’s not the point.. =P

    Lar July 9, 2008, 10:28 am
  • Sam, I’ll answer that one for you. He was not in the top 5. He was amazing, undoubtedly, but in terms of controlling the prevention of runs he was not in the company of quite a few pitchers including PEdro, Randy, Roger, Tom, Cy, Walter, Greg, Melido and Pascual.

    Nick-YF July 9, 2008, 10:30 am
  • I think we’re talking about the difference between Lambos and Ferarri. Either way, you can’t really go wrong.

    Brad July 9, 2008, 10:31 am
  • “I think we’re talking about the difference between Lambos and Ferarri. Either way, you can’t really go wrong.”
    Agreed.

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 10:32 am
  • “”I think we’re talking about the difference between Lambos and Ferarri. Either way, you can’t really go wrong.”
    Agreed.”
    Can’t say I agree, not to be difficult:)

    Nick-YF July 9, 2008, 10:34 am
  • Yeah, but keep in mind Cy Youngs are won by win totals more often than not, and Ryan played for shitty teams. He had an ERA+ of 142 in 1987 and yet finished 8-16. ERA+ of 194 in 1981, but only won half of his games started. In 1977 11 of his 16 losses he pitches 8+ innings and gave up 3 runs or less.
    Deep down I know Cy Young was a better pitcher, but I love Nolan Ryan so much. Sure his high strikeout total has a lot to do with his 27 seasons, but Roger played for 24 and is still nowhere close. Plus, 7 no hitters? Cy only did that thrice.

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 10:36 am
  • OK i dont really either. I was just trying to end this since I really should be packing right now. Ive thought for many years that Ryan, while great, is overrated.

    Sam-YF July 9, 2008, 10:37 am
  • In any case, I’d say Joba is more similar to Ryan than Cy. He has the explosive fastball that’s offset by the breaking ball, like Ryan and his curveball. Cy Young was a contact pitcher.
    I guess that’s another reason I hold Ryan higher in my mind–swings and misses are tougher to achieve than groundouts, though strikeouts aren’t necessarilly more efficient.

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 10:44 am
  • Nolan Ryan’s strikeout record is 5714. Randy Johnson is #2 with 4708. The gap is 18%. That’s the largest gap between a record and the next highest number in the history of sports.
    Ath is from Texas, so anything he says about Ryan should be taken with that in mind. :-) Texans LOOOOOVE Nolan Ryan — to a level that far exceeds his actual place among the game’s elites.
    He’s kinda like Jeter in my book. Yes, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, one of the greatest of his generation, but still not the deity his fans make him out to be.
    And, Ath is wrong. Ryan actually holds the MLB walks record by a whopping 34 percent over No. 2 Steve Carlton. Funny how the Ryan supporters never mention that. ;-)

    Paul SF July 9, 2008, 11:51 am
  • Speaking of strikeout kings, where’s the love for Matt Kilroy, he of the 513 Ks in 583 innings for the 1886 American Association Baltimore Orioles?
    Poor guy could only manage a 29-34 record and a 101 ERA+ despite completing 66 of his 68 starts and posting that nifty all-time record strikeout total. He was actually better the next season (133 ERA+), despite giving up a monstrous 585 hits.

    Paul SF July 9, 2008, 11:58 am
  • He’s kinda like Jeter in my book. Yes, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, one of the greatest of his generation, but still not the deity his fans make him out to be.
    He was also the player with the 2nd-highest percentage of votes to get into the hall of fame–he missed a unanimous selection by 6 votes. Tom Seaver, who has the highest percentage, missed a unanimous selection by 5.
    Ryan is also 3rd in losses with 292, and 9th in HBP with 158 ;-)

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 12:03 pm
  • And yes Paul, since I’m from Texas I have a somewhat irrational love for Ryan. I was present for his 5,000th strikeout and 7th no-hitter.
    Paul, have you been to any Rangers games? I haven’t been to the new ballpark yet… do they still have the dot races?

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 12:05 pm
  • “Yeah, but keep in mind Cy Youngs are won by win totals more often than not, and Ryan played for shitty teams. He had an ERA+ of 142 in 1987 and yet finished 8-16. ERA+ of 194 in 1981, but only won half of his games started.”
    Exactly why ERA+ is the best overall stat to evaluate a pitcher today – across seasons and generations.
    Also why Ryan’s career 111 ERA+ speaks volumes.

    A YF July 9, 2008, 12:27 pm
  • Yeah, Ath. I try to make at least one Sox-Rangers game a year in Arlington. It’s a great, affordable trip in a really nice ballpark where every seat has a good view. And they do still have those ridiculous dot races. They make me laugh every time…

    Paul SF July 9, 2008, 12:49 pm
  • That’s probably one of my favorite childhood memories–the dot races. We had season tickets behind homeplate about 17 or 18 rows up, and there was an old retired couple who had season tickets next to us. When you came into the ballpark people would hand you a card with one of the dots on it, and if that dot won the dot race you could turn it in for a free Wendy’s frostee. Even if I lost the old couple next to us would give me their dot cards, so I got a frostee every time.
    That’s first on my list of things to do when I revisit Texas is to check out the new stadium.

    Atheose July 9, 2008, 12:56 pm
  • Ya think people should lay off the incredulity concerning Varitek’s All Star selection? He deserves some of the credit for those #s.

    JP SF July 9, 2008, 4:38 pm
  • I have given up being concerned about player/manager/coach-selected awards, like the Gold Glove, or this All-Star nonsense. Tek deserves to be there only insofar as there is an avenue for him to be selected and he was selected that way. But for his on-field play, does he deserve to be there? Not a chance in hell. But really, who cares, besides the guys with bonus clauses who didn’t get there?

    SF July 9, 2008, 4:49 pm

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