2011 Projections: Jon Lester

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester throws a pitch in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York City on September 25, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Late last night, it was reported that Cliff Lee had decided to accept an offer from one of his former teams, the Philadelphia Phillies. Lee, though he took a little less money to return to Philly, will be paid like a king and be locked up until 2015 (option for 2016). In 2014, Jon Lester will be 30 years old, or five years younger than Cliff Lee. He’ll also be making somewhere around $10M less than Lee*, but likely be a far better pitcher.

*Lester has a $13M club option in his contract that is voided if he finishes first or second in Cy Young Award voting (via Cot’s Contracts), which is a good possibility.

For now, I’ll save looking further into Lester’s future for another time. Instead, let’s take a look at what to expect in 2011.

Jon Lester 2011 Projection:

The one thing that Lester struggled with in 2010 was inconsistent command/control, mostly in April, August and September. Since he was extremely consistent with his walk rates from 2008 to 2009 (2.82 BB/9 and 2.83 BB/9), I have him projected to come back toward those numbers in 2011. That bounce-back in walk rate will be fantastically paired with another season of top-notch strikeout numbers. For two straight seasons now, Lester has posted a whiff rates over 23 percent.

One of Lester’s big adjustments in 2010 was the increase in use of a cutter and two-seam fastball. He also complimented his fastball by using more changeups and fewer sliders. This change in approach led to an increase in ground ball rate to over 50 percent for the first time in his big league career. Also, for the second straight season, Lester lowered his line drive rate against.

With an improved offense and a solid all around defense to support him, Lester has a very good chance to break the 20 win mark in 2011.

Combine all of the factors above and you have a pitcher primed to stare down the American League Cy Young award. Not that Lester was that far off in 2010 — he finished fourth in the voting. The sky may truly be the limit for Boston’s new ace.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Jon Lester

Charlie first started writing about baseball back in 2008 when he opened Fantasy Baseball 365. Since graduating college with a degree in English, he has spent time coaching baseball as well as working in several minor league front offices. He also writes for The Outside Corner and contributes to Project Prospect and ESPN's Sweet Spot. Writer from August 3, 2010 - May 6, 2012

8 Responses to “2011 Projections: Jon Lester” Subscribe

  1. Anonymous December 14, 2010 at 6:13 AM #

    The Red Sox need help in the BULL PEN, Duh. Even a few starters could help. Pitching last year was a joke only Buckholtz and Bowden did well, Lester was OK.

    • Darryl Johnston December 14, 2010 at 9:22 AM #

      Yeah, this was a well thought-out comment by you. Good call on that.

  2. Bob December 14, 2010 at 6:56 AM #

    I think that this is the year where Lester finally gets the type of recognition he deserves with a Cy Young award. I know I'm a bit of a homer, but FWIW, all things considered, age, injury history, performance, I'd take him over any other lefty in the game.

    • Charlie Saponara December 14, 2010 at 1:49 PM #

      I think Lester was better than both Sabathia and Price last year.

  3. mattymatty2000 December 14, 2010 at 8:18 PM #

    What are your projections based on? Is this a complicated algorithm, an educated guess, or something in between?

  4. Gerry December 14, 2010 at 8:52 PM #

    Jon Lester seems to have put it all together over the past few years. He's a mature pitcher entering his prime (like a lot of Red Sox this year) and the next few years belong to him. His Cy candidacy will be helped by how he leads the Sox into the WS, a feat supported by the fantastic offense & defense the team promises over the next few years.

    Wonderful irony if a maturing Clay, taking the next step, and an embarrassed Beckett are also Cy candidates.

  5. Charlie Saponara December 16, 2010 at 3:05 AM #

    Something in between. I have a formula that helps me gauge risk/luck/regression/progression/etc…but I also have to take into account real life situations such as age/injury/playing-time/etc…

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