Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Game 2: Banzai!!!

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 1, Oakland Athletics 5


1. Japanese war-cry, 1893, lit. "(may you live) ten thousand years," originally a greeting addressed to the emperor, from ban "ten thousand" + sai "year."
2. The sound made by balls thrown by Jon Lester as they flew off Oakland bats.

As we've observed in the past, Lester is a wild man with the pitches; his (unfortunately) "classic" appearances flirt with disaster like a drunk man on a tightrope with no safety net in sight. Usually he escapes with too many walks and too many pitches over too short of a period of time but no run damage; other times, the offense catches up with what he's offering on a silver platter and forces the runs down his throat.

Today was the latter scenario: three walks, five hits, and one very damaging home run killed Lester's Japanese good time and knocked him out after four innings and 83 pitches. With Rich Harden doing his level best to keep the Sox in the yard and off the bases, it was only a matter of time until Oakland sealed the win.

Once again, this appearance begs the question: how much rope does Jon Lester get to play with before he hangs himself out of the rotation? In his favor: thanks to Schilling's injury, for the first time in Lester's career, he's not only healthy, but has the opportunity to pitch once every five days until he either self-corrects or self-destructs. Now's the time where he can work out the massive kinks in his repertoire and prove that he belongs at the major league level without any pressure except his own failure. Against his favor: we've seen Lester pitch 28 times since 2006, and in that time he hasn't proven himself to be anything more than a league-average pitcher (ERA+ score of 101, which is about as average as you can get). He averages a little over five innings a game, gives up as many walks as he does runs, has a WHIP approaching 1.6, and overall appears to be destined for a career as a fifth starter, comparable with someone like Julian Tavarez.

And maybe that's all Lester's meant to be: a back of the rotation guy who will learn to eat innings and save the bullpen from work while carrying an ERA of 4.80. It'll be sad to watch someone so highly touted fail to live up to expectations, but I guess I'm ready to accept Lester's mediocrity as more than an unlikely possibility. Hopefully he'll prove me wrong.