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In the last two seasons, the Red Sox have handed the ball to Jon Lester on opening day, indicating that he is the ace of the staff. In 2010 he pitched close to the ace status with 19 wins and an era of 3.25, but even that doesn’t really scream ace. Now sitting at 5-8 for the 2012 season with an era north of 5.00, people are wondering what is wrong with this guy.
Could it be that he just is not meant to be the leader of a staff and the ace pitcher of a winning team?
There is a lot less pressure as the number two guy, like Lester once was when Josh Beckett still cared about baseball. The 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons were Lester’s three best and in all three of those seasons, he did not pitch in the opening day game. Coincidence?
Going out there every game thinking that he needs to get the win and turn his season around has really taken a toll on his stuff and command. Opponents are hitting .290 off Lester this season. The 23rd best average in the American League is .290; that is just unacceptable for a top of the rotation pitcher.
Lester is averaging 103 pitches per game, but only 6 innings per game. A true ace gives his team at least 7 strong innings, giving his manager the luxury of skipping middle relievers and just shutting the door with the set up man and closer. Aaron Cook threw 81 pitches in a complete game this season and it takes Lester 100 plus pitches to go through 6 innings.
With three starts in a row having been chased without making it through the fifth inning, maybe its time to skip a start for him or send him down. Sunday’s game was the worst game of the season for him and should be the tipping point causing the Red Sox to do something with him. His four innings pitched with 9 hits and 11 earned run (plus 5 walks) make you wonder how Bobby Valentine could consider giving him the ball in his next start.
Lester’s name has come up a few times in trade rumors in recent weeks and one has to wonder if that is getting to him as well. He once was untouchable, but now it would make some sense to see what he is worth with teams looking to add pitching for the playoff push. Even though he has had a horrible season, he is still a young lefty that could bring a nice return Sox.
If the Red Sox have any chance of saving the season and getting into the playoffs, Lester needs to be the Lester of old. The Red Sox have lost 13 games that he has started this season. If they had won half of those, then they would be a playoff team.