Friday, September 25, 2009

Choice of Lester for Game 1 a no-brainer

Josh Beckett has the resume, but according to Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald, Jon Lester has the Game 1 start for the Red Sox when the playoffs begin in a couple of weeks.

The choice, really, was a no-brainer.

As well as Beckett has pitched all season, the numbers show that he's no longer the ace of the staff. Lester, the best lefthanded pitcher the Red Sox have had since Bruce Hurst, has been a more reliable and more consistent pitcher all season long. A sampling:

Beckett: 3.78
Lester: 3.33

ERA since May 1
Beckett: 3.22
Lester: 2.95

Playoff ERA a year ago
Beckett: 8.79
Lester: 2.36 in 26 2/3 innings
(Granted, Beckett was hurt -- but did you remember Lester was that good?)

Beckett: 8.4
Lester: 9.9

Beckett: 2.3
Lester: 2.8

Beckett: 0.89
Lester: 0.94

It comes down to this: If both Lester and Beckett win Games 1 and 2 in whatever order but Clay Buchholz loses Game 3, who do you want to pitch Game 4 to close it out before an anything-can-happen Game 5?

The answer is clear. It's Lester.

(Does that, then, set up Victor Martinez to catch Game 1 and Jason Varitek to catch Game 2? Maybe -- but given that there'll be a day off before Game 3, maybe not.)


Lester, by the way, remains in the same elite company he was in earlier this season, back when he had an ERA higher than 5.00. Back in early May, Lester was one of nine pitchers with a K/BB ratio of better than 3-to-1 who also was averaging more than a strikeout an inning.

That group is down to six:
* Javier Vazquez (2.91 ERA)
* Zack Greinke (2.08)
* Justin Verlander (3.41)
* Ricky Nolasco (5.34)
* Tim Lincecum (2.47)
* Jon Lester (3.33)

Back in May, both Lester and Verlander had outlier-type ERAs.

Now, though, Lester's ERA was right where it should be -- among the best in the major leagues.

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