Providing Context to Lester and Beckett

Chip breaks down Obnoxious Boston Fan's latest article, and possibly uncovers his true identity.

Lester –’s Kelly O’Connor

Have you read the latest article by Obnoxious Boston Fan of yet?  If you haven’t yet, you really should.  It’s a doosy.  For this piece he focuses his lonely, angry eyes on Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.  Yeah, it’s absolutely shocking.  Of course, it’s filled with the deep analytical insight that we’ve all come to expect from…  Yeah, I’m not going to finish that sentence.  We all know he’s not being paid for insight.  He’s there to provide emotionally charged opinion pieces.  Sadly, I’ve fall into the trap every time.

“This season, the Red Sox are 13-23 in games started by Lester and Beckett. That means they are 35-25 in games not started by Lester and Beckett. Not spectacular, but more than good enough for that almighty second-wildcard. The Red Sox are 6-13 when Lester takes the ball and have not won a game he started since June 27. Wins and losses do matter. Don’t believe otherwise.”

The good news is that OBF can do simple math.  The bad news is that these stats are misleading due to their complete lack of context.

Let’s start with Beckett.  The Red Sox have scored three runs or fewer in 10 of his 16 starts, and have won exactly two of them.  This is not to say that he’s pitched well in all of these Red Sox loses, but he pitched well enough to keep the Red Sox within reasonable striking distance in six of those eight games.  In fact, during one four game stretch (all Red Sox losses), he went 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and a 15/5 K/BB ratio in 28 innings.  Those are some pretty solid numbers, but the inconsistent offense played just as much of a role in those losses.  Beckett couldn’t force the lineup to score runs, so why are we placing sole blame on him for the TEAM’s record in games he’s started.

In Lester’s starts, the Red Sox scored three or fewer runs in nine of his 20 starts.  One of those was an 18-3 shellacking by Texas in his third start of the season, and he definitely deserved the loss in that one.  In the other eight starts, Lester were 1-4 with a 3.29 ERA, and 49/11 K/BB ratio in 52 innings.  His average game score was 57.5 (average GS is 50) during that stretch.  Maybe it’s just me, but those seem like some pretty excellent numbers.  Despite the lineup’s inability to produce, he pitched more than well enough to keep the team in the game.  While the Red Sox may be 6-14 with Lester on the mound, seven of those losses came because the offense struggled to score runs.

I’m not saying that Lester and Beckett haven’t thrown some clunkers this year.  They definitely have.  Their overall performance has been below par, and they deserve some semblance of accountability for their production.  I’m merely trying to provide some degree of context to the stats OBF and several others have been sharing.  Despite our general understanding that W-L records are a terrible way to judge a pitcher’s performance, it’s amusing to see people grasp at this concept.

“Refreshingly, Lester took full responsibility for his lack of performance Sunday (“I’m not a big fan of sucking.”) and this season. He was also clean-shaven after the game, having ditched his idiotic Beckett-like goatee. A lone symbol of hope amid the train-wreckage of a pitching line that read: 4+IP, 9H, 11ER, 4HR, 5BB and 2K.”

Wait a second.  So what was the lone symbol of hope?  Lester taking responsibility, or his lack of the “idiotic Beckett-like goatee.”  It’s a little unclear.

“Lester made it clear he was not going to make any major changes, either off the field or in his pre-game preparations. ‘I’m not worried about my confidence or my mechanics. It sounds stupid, but I have to get back to basics, getting the ball down and changing speeds, everything would be different.’

He also played the ‘I’m a dad first’ card.

Aren’t we all?

When it comes to his pitching woes, Lester’s support system begins and ends with his teammates and coaches. ‘As soon as I walk out the door. I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I can’t worry about my performance here,’ Lester said.

Who said Beckett wasn’t contagious? Thank about that the next time your boss sends you 10 e-mails on your next day off because he can’t find the Thompson report on his computer. Of course, Lester is making only $7.26 million this season. Chump change on Yawkey Way. No wonder he doesn’t want to take his work home.”

Let me start with Lester’s comments before I dive into OBF’s rebuttal.

While it’s nice to hear him say that he hasn’t lost confidence in his abilities, I don’t know if the best course of action is to stay the course.  If his issues were as easy to fix as “getting the ball down and changing speeds,” I feel he would have done that already.  Clearly, there’s something wrong with Lester.  I don’t believe his issues are structural, but certainly mechanics and confidence (as evidenced by his mound demeanor) have to be at least considered.

I should note that some degree of the hits he’s allowing is likely luck related.  Still, that doesn’t account for the spike in line drives he’s experiencing.  Line drives are usually a sign of a pitcher catching a little too much of the plate with a pitch, and they fall in for hits 67-70% of the time.  This development isn’t entirely surprising because he’s been consciously trying to attack the zone in an effort to get his walk issues under control.  He’s certainly allowed fewer walks, but he’s allowed more hits (more importantly, extra base hits) as a result.  It certainly seems like a slight change in routine would be in order.

As for OBF’s rebuttal, I take serious offense to his assertion that Lester should put his baseball career above his family.  It’s absolutely ridiculous, and precicely the kind of out-of-whack priorities most writers and fans expect out of athletes.  They use high salaries as a way to hold players accountable for living and breathing baseball, but they seem to forget there are other things that are far more important in life.  Baseball careers are temporary.  Once they’re over, all players will have left are their families.

Furthermore, let’s change things up.  Instead of saying that he forgets about baseball once he leaves the park, let’s pretend like he said that all he did was spend time mulling over his recent performance.  How would we react to that statement?  My guess is most fans, writers, and sports radio talking heads would scream and whine about his lack of mental toughness and inability to get out of his own head.  They’d compare him to guys like Clay Buchholz, A.J. Burnett, and other big name pitchers who struggled to “handle the pressure of pitching in a big market.”  It’s all a load of crap.  Quite frankly, regardless of what Lester said, OBF (or someone else) would have found a way to turn it into a negative.

(Also, take note of the family comment.  I will tie back to it later on.)

“Update at 12:10 p.m. Monday — more evidence of the Beckett Contagion. So much for getting swept by the Blue Jays:)

Feels good to be in Texas!Will Middlebrooks (@middlebrooks) July 23, 2012

Ummmm…Middlebrooks grew up in Texas.  He graduated from Liberty Eylau High School in Texarkana, TX.  Isn’t it a normal feeling to be happy about being home?  Or at least relatively close to home?  Isn’t it possible his family drove out to Arlington to see him play for the weekend?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t seem like he’s caught the so-called Beckett Contagion and suddenly doesn’t care.  On the other hand, I do feel like I may have been infected with the OBF Contagion, and may have lost about 25 IQ points as a result of reading his article.

By the way, I found Middlebrooks’s high school information off of Baseball Reference in about seven seconds.  Too bad OBP doesn’t have access to the internet.  Otherwise, he would have found the same information.  Oh, wait…

“Beckett will make $17 million in 2012. He’d still be a bust at one-tenth the price. Dice-K. Lackey. Crawford. Gonzo. It’s not the money, it’s the mediocirty.”

Yup.  Total bust.  He’s only produced 4.3 fWAR in value last season, and has already produced 2.3 fWAR this season.  At $5M per win, Beckett only needs to produce 0.1 fWAR to justify his salary over the last two seasons.  Total and complete bust.

“Whatever momentum the Red Sox might have had off that spectacular win Thursday was crushed by Beckett’s four-runs-in-the-first-two-innings outing the next night. In case you forgot – the Texas Fluff Guy yielded five runs — four earned — and seven hits in his latest disappointing, lackluster, apathetic, fried-chicken fueled outing.”

Two things…  One, this guy has a lame nickname for everyone–including himself.  Two, how could his outing be “fried-chicken fueled” when that kind of food has been banned from the clubhouse?  Even if Beckett was giving the a big old eff-you to the clubhouse rules, I have no doubt that at least one blood-thirsty media member would have reported it.  Thirdly, it’s been almost ten months since the chicken-and-beer story broke.  Can’t you make a more timely joke at Beckett’s expense?  Hell, even a joke about Beckett playing golf would be better at this point.

“Larry Lucchino says Ben Cherington is “empowered” to make any deal he wants. The Braves are interest in Lester? Good. While we’re at it – how about Beckett for Tom House – straight up. Of course, Ben could not even hire his own manager, but now we’re supposed to believe he can trade anyone or everyone. John Henry’s real varsity Reds – Liverpool FC – come to Fenway this week. The scrubinies are headed to Arlington and the Bronx – facing the two best teams in the American League. The Red Sox remain leaderless and vision-less. It’s not “baseball ops” vs. “marketing” as much as it is “clue” vs. “clueless.” And if Carmine and Ben can’t come up with a decent deal which returns value and jettisons either Lester or Beckett – then wait and try again in the off season. The fan base may be treated as if it’s collectively 10-years-old, but it’s old and wise enough to know that the current pitching staff performing at current levels means no baseball worth watching in September, never mind October, this year or next.”

Ok.  Something seems really fishy.  OBF criticized the “family comes first” comment by Lester.  Then, he calls Boston “The Hub” a couple of paragraphs later.  (I did not include this, but it’s in the original article.)  Finally, in a single paragraph he’s alluded to a Cherington/Lucchino power struggle, criticized John Henry for owning the Liverpool Football Club, and mentioned Carmine in a negative light.  I could be crazy, but the only person who regularly mentions these things (and he does it in nearly every article) is Dan Shaughnessy.


Shaughnessy is Obnoxious Boston Fan.  Obnoxious Boston Fan is Shaughnessy.  Oh, my god.  I think I just had a real life Ace Ventura moment, you guys.  Excuse me for a moment while I take a plunger to my face and throw up.

*pauses for a moment*

Alright, I’m ok now.  Ok…OBF probably isn’t CHB, but he’s vying to be his replacement.  As far as ambitions go, that’s about the most terrifying and nefarious ambitions that come to mind.

I’m not going to bother responding to what OBF wrote because, quite frankly, it’s hot garbage that reeks of paranoia.  Lucchino and Cherington are not in a power struggle; Henry’s ownership of LFC has virtually no effect on his handling of the Red Sox; and Carmine is better at evaluating baseball players than 99% of the fanbase–if not more.

Before I finish this off, I have a few things to say about Beckett and Lester.

I understand the disdain Red Sox fans have for Beckett.  I really do.  He hasn’t pitched up to the unbelievably high expectations he set for himself, and comes across as a bitter malcontent intent on ruining everyone’s day.  (Hmmm…seems like Beckett and OBF should have a lot in common, no?)  Add to that, a group of baseball writers who have it out for the man who distrusts them and denies them interviews, and you have a perfect storm for fan outrage.  I may not agree with this sentiment, but I certainly get it.

The outrage for Lester is much more confusing, on the other hand.  Here’s a home grown player who given so much to the Red Sox.  He overcame cancer, won a deciding game in the World Series, threw a no-hitter, nearly carried the Red Sox pitching staff into the World Series in 2008, and pitched like an ace for each of the last three seasons.  It appears that all it took for Red Sox Nation to turn their collective backs on Lester was an overblown scandal (for which he was the only one to formally address with contrition) and a rough patch on the mound.  Rather than provide him with the respect and support he deserves, we boo him.  We demand the Red Sox trade him.  With fans like these, who needs fans?  Seriously.  When Lester does eventually turn it around, the Nation will take their cue from noted Massachusetts politicians John Kerry and Mitt Romney, and flip-flop their position so quickly it’ll almost be comical.

Keep that in mind the next time you think about booing one of our players.  Whether you like them or not, they’re ours.  We have a lot more to gain by supporting our players (with some skepticism) than we do tearing them down.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Jon Lester Josh Beckett Will Middlebrooks

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

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