Where Have You Gone, Jon Lester?

Is it an injury? Is it mental? Is it stress? Is it age?

Jun 11, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) hands the ball over to manager John Farrell (53) as he is taken out of the game during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Something is just not right with Jon Lester. This is extra panic-inducing for fans given Buchholz‘s possible up-coming DL visit.  Perhaps Lester’s current struggles just look worse because we’ve seen him do so well. Are we expecting too much of him? Could it be that he’s really a number three starter who is just misunderstood?

That’s hard to believe. He’s only 29 years old. He made the All Star team in 2010 and 2011. He had two shut outs in 2008, most in the AL. In 2008 and 2009 he had the third most strike outs in the league. His 19 wins in 2008 were second most in the AL. All these stats reinforce our feeling that Lester is a great pitcher, that he’s the guy you can count on for a good performance.

So, what’s going on? His ERA for June is a jaw-dropping 8.62. He hasn’t earned a win since May 15 (though the validity of the win-loss stat is debatable). Is is the time of year? Last July he didn’t get a single win and had an ERA of 9.36.

We can start the debate about whether the Sox should keep him around next season or not, but that doesn’t help us now. With only a 1.5 game lead over Baltimore and the Yanks a mere 3 games back, the Sox are clinging onto a slim lead. We need the old Lester back and we need him back now. Will a visit to the DL be helpful? Maybe skipping a start to give him a break? I’m no sports psychologist, but perhaps Lester should sit down with one.

Wherever you are, Jon Lester, know that we’re pulling for you. (At least those of us fans who haven’t started the “Let Lester Walk” campaign.)

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester

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  • Willy W

    Ive been talking about this same thing & actually the rotation as a whole. If Ben doest make a move not only will we not hold onto 1st place but we may miss a playoff berth.

    Here’s a copy of my Blog, thi article isabout our Starting Rotation. When done reading part 1, click on the bottom link & it wil bring yo to part 2. Thanks!

    http://willysteamstarters.blogspot.com/2013/06/red-sox-starting-rotation-thegood-bad_16.html

    • John Fahrer

      None of the top four AL East teams will run away and hide in this division race. It’ll be a dog fight until the very end.

      I have total confidence that Cherington will make the right moves in terms of addressing current needs. Pitching-wise, it’s not like they’re completely bare down on the farm like they were in 2010. There are alternatives in guys like Rubby DeLaRosa (probably best to use him in a setup role), Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo (should be promoted to AAA very soon). If the asking price for a Cliff Lee or Matt Garza is too high, maybe it’s best to go from within.

      If Xander Bogaerts does well in AAA, there’s a good chance we see him before the year is through.

      • Willy W

        I hear ya John, I just dont have the faith in Ben that you seem to have. Ive seen little to no indication that he plans on doing anything, which as a life long Sox fan is very frustrating… Personally if they cant get a set up man or Closer they should do what Ive been saying all along & often talk about on Twitter, IE converting Rubby to a Closer. I believe he would do well in this role, more so than a Starter because he has 2 excellent pitches, which as a Starter you typically need 3 or more.

        The Sox rotation has managed to get by in many games because of the offensive output but as soon as the offensive stops putting up 4 or more runs we lose because the Starters arent as good as they should be(IE Lester, Doubront mostly) ( just see the O’s series for what Im referring). They need to send Doubront down IMO, move Lester down in the rotation, or even DL him to get him “right” again. Acquire a SP, because 1. I dont want to rush anyone, especially Webster who’s been good & bad in his Major & Minor league starts. 2. Beyond Webster the only other Starters are Aceves or Morales, neither pitches long into games typically & they both have the same problems as Webster, IE- good 1 start, horrible the next.

        The Sox also need to either get WMB straightened out or trade for a new 3rd basemen(RH, Power hitter). Once again I dont want to rush Bogey, cause if we ever screwed up this very talented kid Id go nuts… I have serious doubts about WMB, not sure he can cut it & Iggy doesnt have the Power typical for 3rd base. I actually wrote about these things in my blog if your interested.

        Here’s 1-

        http://willysteamatss.blogspot.com/2013/06/ourred-sox-short-stop-i-dont-give-damn_14.html

        Here’s the other-
        http://willysteamat3rd.blogspot.com/2013/06/iswill-middlebrooks-answer-at-3-rd-base.html

        • John Fahrer

          Doubront is out of options, so sending him down really isn’t an option. They would have to DFA him and hope he passes through waivers to outright him, which won’t happen.

          When Cherington blew the roster up last August and didn’t sacrifice a single draft pick this past offseason (look how Adam LaRoche and Josh Hamilton are doing and they’re guys many pundits wanted the Sox to sign), it was a definite sign of a guy who knows what he’s doing. He’ll be keeping tabs on potential acquisitions, but the cost will determine the decision. If he can get Lee without sacrificing any top ten prospects, he’ll pull the trigger on the deal (Phils really shouldn’t be picky with that contract as well as considering Lee’s age).

          3B-wise, there’s really not much of a trade market out there. There’s a reason why Bogaerts will be playing 3B and 2B in addition to SS. I have my doubts about Middlebrooks too. There just isn’t much of a superior alternative currently out there though.

          • Willy W

            I do agree there arent a ton of alternatives for 3rd base. Some of the names that we have been throwing around include Headley, A.Ramirez, Cuddyer & Willingham. Cuddyer would probably be the best choice given the year he’s having vs the poor year the others are having. Whether Colorado would trade him is another story, I guess it would depend on whether their still “In it” come the dead line. He has 1 more yr beyond this one at a reasonable $10.5m.

            As for SP that they should be looking at we have talked mostly about Lee, who as you said & I agree could be had for 1-2 prospects if we took on all the money.

            As for a Closer, there have been rumors that the Sox are interested in Papelbon again, not so sure I buy that. I wouldnt be completely against it but I think they may already have the answer in house. If I were going to trade for a closer Id want to take a long hard look at either Perkins(Minn) or Gregorson(SD).

            Though I doubt Ben does ant “Big” trades there is the possibility ( I guess) of a Willingham/Perkins from Minny for ? or a Headley/Gregerson from SD for ? type trade.

            Neither trade would answer the SP issue but would help to solve the other 2 big issues with this years team.

            Personally Id love to see them acquire Cuddyer(1st choice, then Headley), Cliff Lee & either take my chances with what we have Closing or re-acquire Pap’s since he’s the only 1 that has shown he can handle the AL East. Unfortunately I only see Ben acquiring a relief pitcher & nothing else.

          • John Fahrer

            Highly doubt the club trades for an outfielder given that they don’t want to roadblock Bradley and Brentz who are near MLB-ready (possibly Bogaerts too as LF is a real possibility down the road). The cost for Headley will be too steep. Add the fact that the last-time we acquired a slugger from San Diego, it didn’t work out well. Very weary on guys from low-pressure environments.

            Cherington won’t be trading for a reliever unless one comes very cheap. In the situation last season, they wound up dealing for Breslow because the cost was minimal (Matt Albers) and it provided flexibility to move Morales into the rotation. The bullpen hasn’t been too bad. They just need the starters ahead of them to be more consistent in going deeper into games.

            Save for a couple of rocky outings, Bailey’s been okay. He’ll be fine and will have a huge incentive in 2014 with him due to become a free agent. DeLaRosa will be playing a role similar to Rivera in 1996. I understand the way they’re handling him now since he’s coming back from Tommy John and want him to be 100% effective once up with the big club.

            Have no desire to reacquire Papelbon. At all. Last time I checked, he wasn’t handling the AL East all that well in his last game in 2011.

          • Willy W

            Outfielder? All the guys I mentioned can play 3rd base, if they play a 2nd position then all the better but I/we are targeting a 3rd basemen most of all.

            I understand why you feel the way you do about Pap’s, Im sure you could see in my responses that I’m not completely “behind” re-acquiring him But if it came down to the Sox doing Nothing ( including trying Rubby at set up or Closer) then Id just assume make a move even if it’s for Pap’s. Dont forget he did Save a game against us this year. I am no longer a fan of his but there was a reason why Ben acquired Hanrahan & wanted 2 Closers, dont see why that philosophy would change now.

          • John Fahrer

            Sorry, looked at the latter two names over the previous two. Willingham has actually never played 3B at the big league level. Doubtful him or Cuddyer will be made available and if they are, they won’t be cheap. Ditto Ramirez and Headley. Middlebrooks would likely have to be included in a potential trade package. Despite his struggles (and I’ve been very vocal in my frustrations over them), we’ve seen what he can do at his best as well. It’s a sophomore slump. Bad reason to give up on a guy with plus power and under club control.

            There was another reason behind trading for Hanrahan: the possibility of hitting a double jackpot with Hanrahan hitting free agency after 2013 and Bailey after 2014. Obviously, Hanrahan will be nothing but a reclamation project. But Bailey’s still in play. They’re hoping he can depart Boston as a qualifying offer-eligible free agent instead of departing as non-QO eligible setup guy or as part of a trade package. Rubby will be up for good eventually. But there’s still some work to be done in the minors. His strikeouts have gone down and the walk rate is still a little high. Once he exorcises those demons, he’ll be ready.

            I’m aware Paps saved a game against us this year and am not accusing you of being 100% on board with re-acquiring him, but he wouldn’t be pitching to us if he’s our guy again. The double-whammy of paying that salary AND parting with talent to obtain it is bad business. Have a feeling if the Phils do deal him, it’ll be to Detroit who’s flat-out desperate for a closer.

          • Willy W

            I agree about Detroit, theyll be desperate to acquire a Closer & will probably pay dearly for one.

          • John Fahrer

            That they will.

            For all the criticism Cherington gets, his big picture view is actually the same as Theo’s of eventually fielding a successful home grown team. Even if this club falters and misses a postseason berth, they’ve improved vastly from last season and are headed in the right direction. Cherington will keep his eye on potential upgrades, but will be mindful of the cost. If they could get Michael Young and Cliff Lee for a low-cost package, they’ll definitely do it. But if they have to sacrifice too much to obtain a short-term fix, it’s probably best to walk away.

          • Rick M

            John and Willie

            Middlebrooks will stay put. Nothing to prove in 3A as he has already shown. June will say it all for his July playing time. The Young option could be reasonable.

            Lester will continue to get starts until it really gets bad – think Lackey in 2011 bad.

            Bailey is the closer. He does a Heathcliff the rest of the month you may see Koji take over.

            I would not trade any of our top prospects. Philly would be nuts for not taking anything less than our top two prospects for Lee. Think Boston fans are tough? .

          • John Fahrer

            I don’t think Lester’s spot’s in jeopardy either as far as this season goes.

            If Lee was 27 and under club control, I could understand that high of an asking price. But we’re talking about providing salary relief for a pitcher who will be 35 in a couple months. Granted they won’t just hand him away either. But there could be a perfect medium that both sides might agree on.

          • Willy W

            I dont agree that WMB doesnt have anything to prove in AAA and it isnt so much about proving anything in that league but more about trying to regain what he had for parts of last season. IF he cant regain himself then they may hae to make a move, either trading for a 3rd basemen or by the end of the year promoting Bogey, which Im against rushing any prospect.

            As for Lester, personally Im done with him & they could trade him for a bag of balls, I wouldnt care but thats just my own feelings talking, I know they wont just give him away.

            But regardless of what they do with Jon they need to acquire another solid SP if they want to see & have luck in the post season IMO. Cliff Lee is my target but I’ll take any #1 to #2 SP.

            As for the Closer position, No Uehara cannot close as he can only pitch every other day & ay should only be used every 3rd day at his age & with his injury histouch much more effective the lessor he is used.

            As for trading prospects, I never said top prospects (other than Barnes) who I would deal in the right trade. We have a ton of excellent prospects now & we Can afford to trade 1 or 2 of them to help this years team. This is a Good team but could be a great one with 3 additions, IE SP, 3rd basemen that hits for Power-IE a #3 to #5 Hitter & a Closer or solid Set up man that can close on occasion. My 1st picks would be Lee (Philly) for SP, for 3rd my 1st pick is Cuddyer, for Closer my 1st pick would be any of Papelbon, Perkins (Minny) or Gregerson(SD).

          • Rick M

            I’m basing it on his recent performance in 3A and – of course – his previous year. Sending him to 3A without an extended trial of the next 3-5 weeks will do nothing. All 3A will do is show he can consistently hit 3A pitching. WE all know that. IMO I’d rather play WMB than Drew since WMB. Baseball is a game of patience and you don’t quickly give up on young talent with an upside. WMB has a problem with pitch recognition. His swing is fine but his selection sucks.

            Koji has pitched back to back 6 times. In those second time appearances he has given up no runs.

          • Willy W

            Sending WMB to AAA to straighten himself out, isnt giving up on him. Do you want to carry a struggling player on a team that has post season hopes?
            As for Uehara, I know him very well & Im telling you (& the Sox knew this before acquiring him), that he should only be used every other or every 3rd day because of his age & injury history. The Sox have over worked him & Tazawa, it will catch up to them at some point, just wait.

          • Willy W

            Agreed. We have talked about Young as well but he isnt hitting for much Power so… I guess if Ben really wanted to make a “Bold” trade (with Philly) I could see a Lee, Young n Paps for lets say Barnes, WMB, Britton type of swap,
            Id do it, as I believe that would make us a legitimate playoff contender and we have a ton of solid prospects in the pipeline, to the point we can afford to trade a few & not even make a dent.

          • John Fahrer

            Phils will want more for that package even if it’s just for two of the three.

            I’d offer Doubront, Michael Almanzar, Keury DeLaCruz, Sean Coyle, and two of Britton/Workman/Lavarnway (all three if the Phils kick in some cash) for Lee and Young. They can then send Middlebrooks down to work on his swing some more and he’ll be good to go in 2014.

            They won’t trade both of their biggest chips (Lee and Papelbon) in the same deal unless the haul includes two or three of the club’s top five prospects.

          • Willy W

            I’m not concerned with what we offer & you may be right about the pieces, I was just throwing some names out there. Barnes is highly rated, thats why I thought he may make sense & be more of “Value”… I’m not as high on him as some are, so I’m more willing to part with him then some would be. I any event…I would be willing to make a Bold trade like that to get the 3 pcs I believe the Sox need to have a post season run.
            P.S., Im not against trading Doubront or Lester either.

          • John Fahrer

            Barnes is looking like the 2012 version of Anthony Ranaudo right now. Only difference is Ranaudo had arm fatigue while Barnes is in the process of adjusting to the upper levels. He’s still a potential second or third starter for a contending team and a commodity worth holding onto. But he probably won’t be up until September 2014 at the earliest. Ranaudo on the other hand could see Boston by season’s end.

          • Willy W

            Agreed.

  • John Fahrer

    I’m not in the “Let Lester Walk” camp yet. There’s still time for him to turn things around. But with his recent struggles the past two-plus seasons, I am definitely weary about extending the relationship beyond 2014. The club really hasn’t had the best of luck in extending pitchers who have already established themselves in Boston. I’m thinking Josh Beckett in 2010 and Clemens in the 1992-1993 offseason.

  • Rick M

    Lester is beginning to mirror 2012 statistically and performance wise. The good thing is the Sox have some minor league options and Aceves has actually contributed. What this staff may eventually round out to be is four lower rotation guys and a Tiffany Egg at the top of the rotation.

    Xander will be interesting to watch at 3A as his performance could dictate other moves.