Stats & Info: Jon Lester

Lester a huge add for Athletics

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31

AP Photo/Michael DwyerJon Lester has been one of the best left-handed pitchers in Red sox history.
The Boston Red Sox traded pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Yoenis CÚspedes.

The A's are getting a pitcher enjoying the best season of his career. Lester was awful in 2012, but managed to post a 3.75 ERA last season. This year though, Lester is on pace to set career highs in ERA, Fielding Independent Pitching, innings per start and walk rate.

Lester has harnessed his arsenal – he’s increased his strikeout rate while decreasing his walk rate each of the last three seasons. In fact, he’s improved his walk rate each season since 2010.

Beware The Curveball

Lester’s curveball has been a dynamic pitch for him this season, getting far more swings-and-misses and swings out of the zone than it did last season.

About twice as many of Lester’s strikeouts are coming via the curveball as last season. Batters are chasing every other two-strike curveball that’s thrown out of the zone – they chased less than one-third last season.

Postseason Success

He can not only help them during the regular season, but if his past success is any indication, he'd really help in the Fall Classic. Lester has a 0.43 ERA in his World Series career. According to Elias, that's the lowest of any starter with at least 20 career World Series innings in MLB history.

Overall in the postseason, Lester has a 2.11 ERA. According to Elias, that's the fifth-best of any starter with at least 75 innings since 1913.

Lester’s 11 career playoff starts are one less than the A’s current starting rotation combined – Scott Kazmir (seven), Jason Hammel (three) and Sonny Gray (two). Jeff Samardzija and Jesse Chavez have never started a postseason game.

Lester looks like he's locked in

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
If Jon Lester had appeal to a team contending before postseason, he's done nothing but increase that over the last few weeks. Lester is 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his last nine starts (and has an 0.85 ERA in his last seven) after throwing eight scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. In his last six starts at Fenway Park, he has allowed three earned runs in 44 innings, with 49 strikeouts and five walks.

Lester is now 7-3 with a 1.43 ERA in 11 career starts against the Royals. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that his ERA is the lowest for any active pitcher with at least 10 starts against an opponent (Clayton Kershaw ranks second with a 1.48 ERA in 22 starts against the San Francisco Giants).

Lester now has four starts against the Royals in which he held them scoreless and pitched at least eight innings, including his no-hitter in 2008. All of those starts have been at Fenway Park, where Lester is 6-0 with a 0.86 ERA in seven starts lifetime against the Royals.

What’s going well
One of the pitches that has been money for Lester has been his fastball, particularly when it has been located in the middle or upper-third of the strike zone (or above it).

The Royals were 0 for 7 with four strikeouts (with a walk and hit by pitch) in their plate appearances against it on Sunday.

In this nine-start run, opponents have made 80 outs and reached 18 times via hit, walk, error or hit by pitch against that pitch in that area.

Prior to that, they had made 76 outs and reached base 31 times.

Lester has also gotten great mileage out of his curveball. He has 22 strikeouts on the last 66 two-strike curveballs he’s thrown (a 33 percent “putaway rate” after striking out 12 with his first 60 two-strike curves (20 percent “putaway rate”).

Lester had not allowed a hit with his curveball in his last five starts, but did give up two on Sunday (he also got seven outs with the pitch).

The other big difference for Lester is in how he’s fared with runners in scoring position. Opposing hitters started the season 20 for 60 against him in those situations. They are since 6 for their last 48 and 3 for their last 34.

Stat of the Day
Lester has also matched a career best by allowing two earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts.

Lester now has a pair of streaks of seven straight starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer. This is his first one since 2006.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Lester is one of three Red Sox lefties to have multiple such streaks of at least seven straight starts. The other two are Dutch Leonard and Babe Ruth.

Sunday's stars: Great pitching abounds

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
Sunday was one of those days that featured the best of what major-league pitchers had to offer. Rather than focus on one of the many well-pitched games, we decided to take a snapshot look at all of them.

Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays
Buehrle became the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins. The Elias Sports Bureau noted that he’s the fifth Blue Jays pitcher to be first in the majors to 10 wins. The others are Dave Stieb (1983), Roger Clemens (1997), David Wells (2000) and Roy Halladay.

Buehrle had a good changeup and curveball on Sunday. Royals hitters were 0 for 6 in at-bats ending with each of those pitches.

Yu Darvish, Rangers
Darvish struck out 12 against the Nationals, making him the fourth pitcher this season to have multiple games with at least a dozen strikeouts (Jon Lester, David Price and Corey Kluber are the other three).

Darvish got misses on a season-high 37 percent of swings against him. Right-handed hitters were 2 for 16 against him with eight strikeouts, missing on 14 of 31 swings (45 percent).

Roenis Elias, Mariners
Roenis Elias
Elias earned his first career shutout, holding the Tigers to three harmless hits. The Tigers have now been been the victims of three pitcher shutouts in which they recorded three hits or fewer in their last 54 regular-season games. The other two were by Henderson Alvarez of the Miami Marlins (no-hitter to conclude 2013) and Andrew Cashner of the San Diego Padres.

Elias won with his curveball, a pitch he threw 28 times that netted him 26 strikes and 13 outs, without yielding a baserunner.

Tim Hudson, Giants
Hudson allowed no runs over seven innings for the second straight start in a win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hudson’s key was escapability. The Cardinals went 0 for 10 with a walk with men on base against Hudson.

Phil Hughes, Twins
Phil Hughes
Hughes allowed two runs in eight innings as the Twins came from behind to beat his former team, the New York Yankees.

Hughes has a 1.68 ERA and only one home run allowed in his last seven starts. He averaged 93 mph with his fastball on Sunday, his best average fastball velocity of the season. Hughes also had great success with his cutter, netting 11 outs on the 19 he threw against the Yankees.

Jon Lester, Red Sox
Lester gave the Red Sox their seventh straight win with a 12-strikeout gem against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Lester matched his season high for fastball velocity, averaging 92.6 mph with the pitch. Rays hitters were 1 for 13 with six strikeouts and a walk against that pitch on Sunday (the only hit was an infield hit).

Kyle Lohse, Brewers
Lohse pitched a three-hit shutout to beat the Cubs, his eighth career shutout.

This was Lohse’s third-straight walk-free start. In fact, Lohse has struck out 39 and walked only three over 56 innings spanning his last eight starts.

Chris Sale, White Sox
Sale pitched a two-hitter and recorded his sixth career complete game in beating the San Diego Padres.
Chris Sale
Chris Sale
Since the start of last season, only two pitchers have thrown more complete games than Sale's five (Adam Wainwright with seven and Price with six).

Sale had an injury issue earlier this season, but has returned as strong as he ever was. Opponents are 4 for 78 against him in his last four starts.

Sunday, Sale’s offspeed stuff was terrific. He threw 54 changeups and sliders, netting him 13 of his 18 swings and misses, and 13 outs, without yielding a baserunner.

Steve Martinez also contributed to this article

Ortiz, Lester continue producing, winning

October, 29, 2013

David Ortiz has been impossible to get out this World Series.
There were no wacky endings this time around, just a clean, well-pitched baseball game between the teams that entered Game 5 of the World Series with the same number of wins this season and in this matchup.

And in this game, the Boston Red Sox were just a little bit better than the St. Louis Cardinals, edging them 3-1 to take a three-games-to-two lead in the Series.

With a win on Wednesday, the Red Sox can clinch a World Series at home for the first time since beating the Cubs to close out the 1918 World Series.

Lester the better pitcher again
Red Sox starter Jon Lester became the second left-hander in team history with three World Series wins, joining Babe Ruth.

Lester became the fifth pitcher to allow one run or fewer in at least three straight World Series starts to begin his career, the first whose career began after World War II ended in 1945.

Elias noted that Lester’s streak of 16⅓ scoreless innings in the World Series was broken by Matt Holliday’s fourth-inning home run. That’s the third-longest scoreless innings streak to begin a career in World Series history. Christy Mathewson holds that record; he began his career with 28 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series; Jim Lonborg ranks second with 17 straight for the Red Sox in 1967.

He also became the first Red Sox pitcher with at least seven strikeouts and no walks in a World Series game in 98 years. The last was Rube Foster against the Phillies in 1915.

Lester had a great cutter for the second straight game. He threw the pitch 30 times, netting 21 strikes. Lester got four strikeouts with his cutter in the first four innings, then got three groundouts and a popout with it in the last four innings. It yielded only one baserunner -- David Freese's eighth-inning double.

Ortiz delivers again
Red Sox first baseman David Ortiz was 3-for-4 with an RBI double in the first inning.

Ortiz became the third player to reach base safely in nine straight plate appearances in the World Series, joining Joe Gordon (1939/1941 Yankees) and Billy Hatcher (1990 Reds). Ortiz and Hatcher are the only two to do so in a single World Series.

Ortiz has 11 hits, two shy of the record for most in a World Series, which is shared by Bobby Richardson (1964 Yankees), Lou Brock (1968 Cardinals) and former Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett (1986 Red Sox).

Wainwright tough in defeat
Adam Wainwright’s first six outs came via strikeout. He finished with 10 strikeouts in seven innings.

He is the third different pitcher with at least 10 strikeouts against the Red Sox in a World Series game, joining Deacon Phillippe (who had 10 against them in the very first World Series game) and Bob Gibson (who reached double figures in Games 1 and 7 of the 1967 World Series).

Wainwright had the first 10-strikeout game by a Cardinals pitcher in a World Series game since Gibson against the Tigers in 1968. Gibson had five 10-strikeout games in the World Series for them. Grover Cleveland Alexander and Mort Cooper had one each.

At-bat of the game: Matt Adams vs. Koji Uehara
The Red Sox pulled Lester with two outs in the eighth inning, bringing in a right-hander, closer Koji Uehara, to pitch to left-handed hitting Matt Adams.

John Farrell did this knowing that Adams entered the day with a .292 batting average and .502 slugging percentage against right-handed pitching between the regular season and postseason, and a .219/.384 split against lefties.

But Uehara was the choice because of his numbers. His strikeout of Adams made left-handed hitters 17-for-151 against him in 2013.

Uehara’s seven saves this postseason ties a record for a single postseason. The four pitchers with whom he shares the record are John Wetteland (1996 Yankees), Troy Percival (2002 Angels), Robb Nen (2002 Giants) and Brad Lidge (2008 Phillies).

Did you know?
The Red Sox have twice gotten a go-ahead hit in the seventh inning or later of a World Series game from their catcher. The first was Carlton Fisk's game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The other was by David Ross in this game.

The challenge for the Cardinals
The Cardinals have to win Game 6 and Game 7 on the road to win the World Series. The last team to do that was the 1979 Pirates against the Orioles.

Top stats to know: World Series Game 5

October, 28, 2013
After exciting finishes to each of the last two games, The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals faceoff one more time at Busch Stadium in Game 5 Monday night.

With the series tied 2-2, Game 5 will be crucial for both teams. According to Elias, teams to win Game 5 in a best-of-seven World Series tied 2-2 have won 26 of 40 series.

Although AL teams are 4-12 away from home in the last six World Series, the Red Sox have won five of their last six road World Series games and are 14-4 all-time in postseason Game Fives, winning the last four.

As for the Cardinals, they lost at home Sunday, but have won seven of their last nine home games in the World Series and haven’t lost back-to-back home World Series games since 2004.

Wainwright’s Curve

The Cardinals’ Game 5 starter, Adam Wainwright, struggled in his Game 1 outing. What does Wainwright typically do well that he failed to do in Game 1?

Effectively use his normal out-pitch, the curveball, to put batters away.
Adam Wainwright

Batters hit .357 off him in Game 1 in two-strike counts, compared to .160 in the regular season and first two rounds of the postseason. Prior to the World Series, Wainwright got ground balls 53 percent of the time he threw the curve, compared to 27 percent in Game 1.

Opponents hit .500 against his curve with two strikes in Game 1, compared to .118 against the pitch prior.

As you can see in the heat map below, he left too many two-strike pitches in the center/upper part of the zone.

ESPN Stats & Information

Jon Lester stats to know

Jon Lester
Lester is looking to join Babe Ruth as the only other Red Sox lefty with three World Series wins. He is 2-0 in 13 1/3 IP with no runs allowed in two World Series starts.

If he continues his shutout streak he would be the second pitcher in MLB history to allow zero runs in each of his first three World Series starts (Christy Mathewson). If he wins, he would be the first pitcher to win his first three World Series starts since Jack Morris and the first lefty since Ron Guidry.

In game 1, Jon Lester dominated the Cardinals with his cutter, finishing the game with eight strikeouts, five of which came off the cutter. But can Lester have the same kind of success with that pitch in game 5?

This postseason the Cardinals are batting .348 with an OPS of .957 and two home runs against the cutter, compared to a .211 BA with an OPS of .586 and seven homers on all other pitches.

Cardinals Postseason RBI

Yadier Molina has 12 career RBI in the World Series, the second-most in Cardinals franchise history behind Lou Brock’s 13.

Over the years, Cardinals batters have racked up a lot of postseason RBI and Carlos Beltran is climbing the charts. His 40 postseason RBI with the Houston Astros, New York Mets and Cardinals are the fourth-most in NL history. He also has 16 career postseason homeruns, the ninth-most in MLB history.

Game 1 a familiar story for Red Sox

October, 23, 2013

Jon Lester dominated the Cardinals with pitches on the outer half of the plate.
A lefty pitching a gem, a big first inning and a David Ortiz homer.

The Boston Red Sox have seen it all before. And it all added up to a World Series-opening rout.

Lester mows Cardinals down
Jon Lester became the third Red Sox southpaw to start Game 1 of a World Series.

The other two: Babe Ruth (1918 against the Cubs) and Bruce Hurst (1986 against the Mets) set a precedent, each with a scoreless effort.

Lester matched that, giving the trio a combined 24 2/3 scoreless innings pitched.

He became the first pitcher with seven or more scoreless innings in a World Series opener since Jose Rijo for the 1990 Reds against the Athletics.

Lester became the third pitcher to not allow a run in each of his first two career World Series starts (allowed no runs in 5 2/3 IP in 2007).

The others are Christy Mathewson (first three) and Madison Bumgarner (first two).

Lester made quick work of the Cardinals in the first inning, thanks to a very effective cutter, which netted him three strikeouts in the first two frames.

Lester finished with eight strikeouts, five with his cutter. The latter matched his season high for strikeouts with that pitch.

In real time, the Cardinals' at-bats in the first two innings lasted only 8 minutes, 41 seconds.

First things first
The Red Sox made Adam Wainwright work in the first two innings. They batted for a combined 38 minutes, 13 seconds.

Boston's big first inning was nothing new.

They scored four runs in the first inning of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series and three runs in the first inning of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series.

Ortiz goes deep again
Ortiz hit his 16th career postseason home run, tying Carlos Beltran for eighth-most all time.

The three runs batted in gave Ortiz has 11 RBIs in his World Series career. Only Dwight Evans (14) has more with the Red Sox.

The Red Sox are 9-1 at Fenway Park in postseason games in which Ortiz homers.

Turning points
The game hinged on two early bases-loaded at-bats. One resulted in a three-run double for Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. The other resulted in a 1-2-3 double play by Cardinals third baseman David Freese.

Napoli is the first player to have a three-run double in a World Series game since Garret Anderson had one for the 2002 Angels against the Giants in Game 7.

He’s also is the first player with a bases-loaded double in the first inning of a World Series game since Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson for the Orioles against the Reds in 1970 and the first player ever with a bases-loaded double in the first inning of Game 1 of a World Series.

The Freese double play was the first 1-2-3 double play in the World Series in 40 years. The last was by John Milner for the Mets against the Athletics in 1973.

The Beltran impact
Beltran left Game 1 with a rib injury after robbing Ortiz of a grand slam.

Beltran has averaged a home run every 10.3 postseason at-bats, the third-lowest rate in history trailing Babe Ruth (a homer every 8.6 at-bats) and Nelson Cruz (every 9.0 at-bats).

Beltran hasn’t robbed a player of a homer in a regular-season game since he snagged one from Ryan Ludwick against the Cardinals in 2008.

Did you know?
This was the ninth straight World Series win for the Red Sox, tied with the Reds for the longest current World Series winning streak and the fourth-longest winning streak in World Series history.

The Red Sox have now won five straight World Series Game 1s and five straight World Series games against the Cardinals. The only team against whom they have had a longer postseason winning streak is the Angels (11 games, 1986-2008).

A continued omen for Thursday?

The Red Sox are now 5-0 all time on Oct. 23 and 24. The Cardinals are 2-7 on those dates.

Top stats to know: Cardinals vs. Red Sox

October, 23, 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will meet in the World Series for the fourth time, starting with Game 1 tonight at Fenway Park. It's a matchup of the teams that shared the best record in baseball.

Each has 104 wins, including postseason. The team that gets to 108 will be crowned champion.

Here are some of the notes and numbers you'll see and hear discussed on Baseball Tonight and on the ESPN Radio game broadcast with Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser.

Game 1 pitching matchup
Adam Wainwright is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in three starts this postseason. He has 20 strikeouts and one walk in 23 innings.

Wainwright won't be fazed by the big stage. He's allowed exactly one run in five of his seven postseason starts and is one of two pitchers who pitched in 2013 to have at least four postseason wins and four postseason saves in his career (the other being Mariano Rivera).

Jon Lester is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA this postseason. He'll be the third Red Sox lefty to start Game 1 of the World Series. The other two -- Babe Ruth (1918 against the Cubs) and Bruce Hurst (1986 against the Mets) pitched a combined 17 scoreless innings.

Key returnee: Allen Craig
The Cardinals get Allen Craig back after he missed the first two rounds of the postseason due to a foot injury.

As the heat map above shows, a good chunk of Craig’s value is how he fared in prime RBI opportunities, as he hit .454 with runners in scoring position during the regular season.

Only two players fared better in that situation in the last 40 seasons- George Brett (.469 in 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.459 in 1997).

The Cardinals as a team hit .330 with runners in scoring position during the regular season (the best mark ever recorded for a team since 1961, the first year for which full play-by-play data is available). In the NLCS win over the Dodgers, they bumped that to .349.

Endgame: The unhittable Uehara
American League Championship Series MVP Koji Uehara will try to finish off what has been an amazing run to the end of the 2013 season.

Since he became the closer on June 26, Uehara has posted a 0.51 ERA (three earned runs in 53 1/3 IP) and 0.39 WHIP (19 hits, two walks) in 49 appearances.

None of the Cardinals have seen Uehara before in the regular season or postseason, save for Carlos Beltran, who is 1-for-3 in his career against him.

The heat maps below show that Uehara has had success with pitches thrown almost anywhere.

Did You Know?
• This is the third time in the Wild Card era that the team with the best record in the American League has faced the team with the best record in the National League in the World Series. The other instances were 1995 (Braves defeated Indians) and 1999 (Yankees defeated Braves).

• There are three World Series matchups that have taken place more often than the Red Sox and Cardinals-- Dodgers versus Yankees (11 times), Giants versus Yankees (seven times) and Cardinals versus Yankees (five times).

• The Red Sox have reached the World Series a season after finishing in last place in the AL East.

They are the third team in the last seven seasons to go from last place to the World Series, joining the 2007 Rockies and 2008 Rays. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the most recent team to go from last place to winning the World Series is the 1991 Twins.

• The Cardinals have 18 homegrown players on their roster (acquired either via the amateur draft or signed as an amateur free agent). That's the most on any team's World Series roster since 1995, the year of the first World Series in the Wild Card era.

Napoli gets going, going ... gone

October, 18, 2013
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Mike Napoli's big beard didn't get in the way of his big swing in Game 5.

The Boston Red Sox are one win away from their first World Series appearance since 2007.

In a series in which four of the five games have been decided by one run, the Red Sox got their third one-run victory of the series, edging the Detroit Tigers, 4-3.

Difference-Maker: Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli was 3-for-4 with a home run, coming up a triple shy of the cycle.

He’s the first Red Sox player with a single, double and homer in a postseason game since Jason Bay in 2008.

Napoli’s homer was a monstrous one—calculated at 460 feet to straightaway center.

He has four home runs this season of at least 460 feet. No one else in the majors has more than two.

The last player with that long a home run in a postseason game was Prince Fielder for the 2008 Brewers (also 460 feet). The last player with a longer homer was Manny Ramirez, who hit a 479-footer for the Red Sox in 2007.

Napoli is 6-for-12 with four extra-bases hits in his last three games.

All six of the hits have come against pitches in the upper half of the strike zone or above the top of the zone.

In the six games prior to this hot streak, Napoli saw 51 pitches in that area. They resulted in 10 outs, two walks and no hits.

The Bambino’s name is no longer a curse
Babe Ruth found his way onto a couple of items of note from this game.

Red Sox starter Jon Lester earned his fourth career postseason win. That’s the most by a left-handed pitcher in Red Sox history, surpassing Ruth and Bruce Hurst.

Xander Bogaerts had a hit, a walk and a run scored, and started a key double play. He surpassed Ruth as the youngest player to start a postseason game in Red Sox history (age 21).

Key double plays
The Red Sox turned three double plays, including huge rally killers in the sixth and seventh innings.

Dustin Pedroia made a great pivot on the one in the sixth inning against Austin Jackson, with Tigers catcher Brayan Pena barreling into him.

Baseball Info Solutions, a video-review service for major-league teams and media credited Pedroia with 7 "double plays despite aggressive slide" in the regular season. That was tied for second-most among second basemen in the majors with Brandon Phillips, one behind Mark Ellis.

Over the last 3 seasons, Pedroia has 20 such double-play turns, the most by a second baseman in that span.

Uehara shuts the door again
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara got the final five outs, giving him as many saves of at least five outs in this postseason (one) as he had in the regular season.

It was the first five-out save by a Red Sox pitcher since Jonathan Papelbon got one to close out the 2007 World Series against the Rockies.

Uehara has a 1.13 ERA and four saves this postseason. He has 11 strikeouts and no walks. The postseason record for most strikeouts without a walk is 14 by Kevin Millwood of the 2002 Braves, Mariano Rivera for the 2003 Yankees and David Price for the 2010 Rays.

Elias Sports Bureau: Did you know?
The four one-run games matches the most in a single ALCS series (the LCS expanded to best-of-7 in 1985). In 1997 the Indians and Orioles also played four one-run games in a six-game series

The LCS record for one run games is five by the Mets and Braves in 1999. The postseason record is six by the Athletics and Reds in the 1972 World Series.

5 stats to know: Red Sox vs Giants

August, 19, 2013

Michael Ivins/Getty ImagesJon Lester has looked good recently but has struggled through 2013.

After playing the New York Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball, the Boston Red Sox won't have any time to rest as they travel west to face the San Francisco Giants (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, ESPN2).

Here's a look at some of the stats our broadcast crew of Dave O'Brien, Rick Sutcliffe, Doug Glanville and Tim Kurkjian will be talking about tonight.

1—- The starting pitching matchup of Jon Lester and Tim Lincecum is the same as the last time these teams met on June 27, 2010. In that game, Jon Lester threw a complete game five-hitter and Tim Lincecum only lasted three innings as the Red Sox won 5-1. Boston has won five of the last six meetings between the teams.

A lot has happened since then. The Giants have won two World Series but are currently 55-68 (.447 winning percentage). If that mark holds for the rest of the season, the Giants would have the second-worst winning percentage of any defending World Series champ, better than only the 1998 Marlins (.333).

2-- Lester had a 3.43 career ERA through September 6, 2011, but has a 4.79 ERA since, with a significant spike in his homer rate from 0.8 to 1.1 per 9 innings.

Lester has been better recently, with a 3.19 ERA in his last five starts, though his slashline numbers are almost identical to what they were earlier this season.

The three noteworthy differences: Lester has reduced the number of cutters he throws per 100 pitches by half (from 22 to 11), his strikeout-to-walk rate has more than doubled to nearly 5-to-1, and he’s repeatedly escaped trouble with runners in scoring position.

The chart on the right shows the differences.

3—- Tim Lincecum has made five starts since pitching his no-hitter on July 13. Two rate awful from a statistical perspective, with Bill James Game Scores of 12 and 35. The other three have been very good (with an average Game Score of 74).

The common thread between the three good ones was his offspeed stuff, which netted him 37 outs and yielded only five baserunners. In the two rough starts, Lincecum’s offspeed stuff got battered for 10 hits (including two homers) and netted only 11 outs.

4-— The Red Sox hitters will make Lincecum work. They’ve seen almost 900 more pitches than any other team and rank second in the majors in pitches per plate appearance (4.02, trailing the Twins 4.04). Six Red Sox regulars are in the Top 50 in the American League in pitches per plate appearance.

5—- The Red Sox will be calling up top prospect, 20-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts today. The Red Sox have not played a younger player at shortstop since 19-year-old Luis Alvarardo in 1968.

As long as Bogaerts gets his first hit within the next dozen days, he’ll be the youngest Red Sox player to get a hit since 20-year-old Dwight Evans in 1972.

Bogaerts does enter in a mini-slump. He’s 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in his last three games at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Fastball has been key to Lester's rebound

May, 15, 2013

Jason Miller/Getty ImagesAfter losing a career-high 14 games in 2012, Jon Lester is unbeaten in eight starts this season.
Jon Lester goes for his sixth win of the season on Wednesday when the Boston Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays (7 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN).

In 2012, Lester didn’t earn his sixth win until Aug. 12 -- 24 starts into the season.

Lester’s return to form begins with his fastball. Last season when Lester threw his fastball, he allowed 198 total bases against 279 outs, a ratio of 1.4 outs to bases allowed. This season he’s allowed 28 total bases against 85 outs, a 3:1 ratio.

Opponents last season hit over .300 against Lester’s fastball. This season they are hitting .160 against the pitch; left-handed hitters have had almost no success against Lester’s fastball (see graphic).

In 23 career starts against the Rays, Lester is 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA, but on the road he’s 4-1 with a 3.51 ERA and has allowed just one home run in his last five starts at Tropicana Field dating to the start of 2009.

Lester is off to a fast start, but the same cannot be said for Rays' pitcher David Price.

Last year’s Cy Young winner was 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA in 2012. In 2013, he has just one win with a 4.78 ERA, and the Rays are 2-6 in games started by Price.

While Lester is having success with his fastball, Price is not and the biggest difference has been a decrease in velocity. In 2012, Price's average fastball was 95.4 mph, fastest in the American League among pitchers who threw at least 1,500 pitches.

This season, it’s down to 93.3 mph, and opponents are hitting .318 against the pitch compared to .244 last season.

Another reason Price has struggled seems to be entirely out of his control.

He’s allowed a major-league leading 28 groundball hits; more than one-third of his grounders have resulted in hits. From 2009-12, the Rays converted roughly three-quarters of groundballs hit against Price into outs.

Wednesday’s game will be the fourth time that Lester and Price will be opposing starting pitchers, and history says the first team to score three runs will win. That's because a total of 12 runs have been scored when Lester and Price start in the same game.

Kernels: An amazing week for pitching

May, 12, 2013
Our weekly review of interesting and notable stats you might have missed.

Theme of the Week: Great pitching abounds
After allowing a leadoff single, Shelby Miller retired the next 27 Colorado Rockies batters, throwing a one-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts.

Only one other pitcher in the past 30 years has allowed a leadoff hit and then set down the next 27 batters-- John Lackey for the Angels against the Athletics in 2006.

Jon Lester also recorded a 28-batter shutout on Friday night, allowing only a sixth-inning double to Maicer Izturis.

There haven't been two 28-batter, nine-inning shutouts on the same day since July 3, 1984, when Jim Gott (Toronto Blue Jays) and John Candelaria (Pittsburgh Pirates) both did it. And they both allowed multiple hits, retiring the extra batters on double plays or pickoffs.

Adam Wainwright followed Miller's performance with a two-hit shutout on Saturday. The Cardinals as a team have seven shutouts this season, the most in the majors. Four of those have been complete-game shutouts by individual pitchers. The other 29 teams in the majors had nine shutouts combined through Saturday.

Chris Sale then threw a 28-batter one-hit shutout against the Angels on Sunday Night Baseball. He's the first White Sox pitcher to throw a one-hit shutout vs the Angels since Britt Burns in 1983. Both Sale and Burns were wearing the same style uniforms, as the White Sox were wearing throwback jerseys.

Earlier, Matt Harvey put together one of the most dominating no-decisions ever on Tuesday, allowing just one hit with no walks and 12 strikeouts while pitching the full nine innings against the Chicago White Sox.

It's been well-covered that Harvey was the first pitcher in the modern era (1900) to hit all of those marks (nine scoreless, no walks, 12 strikeouts, and a max of one hit) in a no-decision.

But just allowing zero runs made Harvey the first Mets pitcher to pitch at least nine scoreless innings, and NOT get the win, since Bret Saberhagen in 1994.

And even ignoring the one hit, the last pitcher in the majors to throw nine or more scoreless, with a dozen whiffs, in a no-decision, was ESPN's Mark Mulder (against Anaheim) on September 17, 2002.

Amazing Pitching Statline of the Week
Although he allowed five hits, two walks, and three runs on Friday night, Alex Cobb of the Tampa Bay Rays managed to record 14 outs before getting pulled. He also recorded 13 strikeouts-- 12 swinging-- including the rare four-strikeout inning when Will Venable of the San Diego Padres reached on a wild pitch.

According to Elias, Cobb is the first pitcher in the modern era (1900) to record 13 or more strikeouts in an outing of less than five innings.

As notable as that was, Cobb's name appeared in quite a few other sections of that box score-- he also balked and hit a batter.

No pitcher had gotten 13 strikeouts while also hitting a batter, throwing a wild pitch, and committing a balk, in exactly a quarter-century (Mark Langston 1988 Mariners vs Blue Jays on May 10, 1988).

Comeback of the Week
Trailing 4-3 with two out in the bottom of the 9th on Tuesday, the Reds pulled off another comeback when pinch hitter Devin Mesoraco and leadoff batter Shin-Soo Choo hit back-to-back homers off Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. The Reds are tied with San Francisco for the most walk-off wins in the majors (five). They ranked third last year with 11.

It was Kimbrel's third blown save already this season, matching the number he had all of last year.

It also meant the Reds were the first team to walk off on back-to-back homers with two out in the 9th, since the Braves' Nick Green and J.D. Drew drove in four runs against the Montreal Expos on June 1, 2004.

The Reds hadn't done it since Dan Driessen legged out an inside-the-parker to tie the game, and Johnny Bench then homered to win it, against the Phillies' Tug McGraw on August 27, 1977.

Team feat of the week: Double your fun
On Tuesday the Blue Jays pounded out six doubles and three homers on the road against the Rays. They hadn't had six doubles in a road game in nearly two years (August 2011 at Baltimore).

That was just the start of the week's outburst, however.

The Twins then had six doubles on Wednesday in their win against the Red Sox, and also scored 11 runs in the first two innings (their most in the opening two frames since putting up 11 vs the Mariners).

Their 15 runs were the team's most runs scored at Fenway Park since a 17-5 win in 1965.

On Friday night, three teams hit the six-double mark in a game, just the second day where that's happened in the past three years. The Cubs had seven doubles among their 10 base hits in Washington, yet scored only three runs and lost the game 7-3, They then posted six more doubles in Saturday's 8-2 win over the Nationals.

Before Saturday the Cubs had never had back-to-back six-double games in the Live-Ball Era.

A day of pitching (almost) perfection

May, 11, 2013
Friday marked a historic day in the sport, as the Elias Sports Bureau noted it to be the first in baseball’s modern era (which began in 1900) in which two different pitchers-- Shelby Miller and Jon Lester-- each pitched a one-hit shutout with no walks.

What made each performance so special? Let’s run through the statistical highlights.

Shelby Miller’s dominance
Elias came through with some amazing notes on this one, most notably that Miller is only the second modern-era pitcher (ie: since 1900) age 22 or younger to throw a one-hit shutout with at least 13 strikeouts and no walks.

Also of significance:

Miller became the first Cardinals pitcher in the modern era to throw a shutout with one hit or fewer allowed, no walks, and at least 13 strikeouts. That’s something never done by the likes of Hall of Famers Dizzy Dean or Bob Gibson.

Miller is only the second pitcher in the last 31 seasons to allow the first batter to reach base, then retire every hitter after that for a nine-inning complete-game win, joining John Lackey (2006 Angels against the Oakland Athletics).

Miller finished with a Bill James Game Score (a metric that rates starts on a scale usually of 0 to 100) of 98, the highest for any start this season, topping the 97 by Mets rookie Matt Harvey earlier this week.

Harvey and Miller are the fourth and fifth pitchers to have a nine-inning, one-hit (or fewer), 12-strikeout, no-walk outing in the last two seasons.

There had only been 10 such outings from 1920 to 2011, with none coming in the seven-year period from 2005 to 2011.

What made Miller so good? His key was how he pounded the strike zone.

Miller threw 61 percent of his pitches inside the strike zone. He got called strikes on 51 percent of taken pitches, with eight of his strikeouts being looking. That tied Kris Medlen for the most in any start in the last two seasons.

Jon Lester makes it look easy
Lester’s one-hitter marked his first shutout since 2008 (a year in which he threw two, with one being a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals).

Lester is one of five Red Sox pitchers in the Live Ball Era to throw a one-hit shutout with no walks. The rest of that quintet is Pedro Martinez (2000), Hideo Nomo (2001), Curt Schilling (2007), and Josh Beckett (2011).

Elias’ spotlight stat on this start dealt with the rarity of a Red Sox lefty to throw a one-hit, walk-free shutout. The only other one to do so was Ray Collins against the Chicago White Sox in 1910.

Lester was not as dominant as Miller. He finished with only five strikeouts. The Red Sox infield defense was helpful to this win, with Lester netting a season-high 12 ground-ball outs.

Getting ahead in the count helped too. Lester, like Miller, threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 hitters he faced.

It turned out not to be their only common bond this evening.
Even with Jon Lester’s win on Saturday against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox still are 10 games under .500 (14-24) in games started this season by Lester and Josh Beckett, 36-27 in all other games.

On Sunday (8 ET on ESPN), left-hander Felix Doubront gets the start for Boston. At 10-5, Doubront has as many wins as Becket and Lester combined (10-17).

In Doubront’s 19 starts this season, the Red Sox are 13-6. One reason for that is that Boston has scored a lot of runs; Doubront's run support of 6.5 ranks second only to Jered Weaver (6.6) among qualified starting pitchers.

Although Doubront struggled in his last start, a 9-1 loss at Texas, he has pitched well on the road: 3.83 ERA with an opponent batting average of .236. At Fenway Park, Doubront’s ERA is 5.20 with a .283 opponent batting average.

As is the case with most pitchers, Doubront’s been at his best when he’s ahead in the count (see chart). His best pitch has been his curveball. Opponents are hitting .127 against his curve, that’s the second-lowest average among qualified American League pitchers behind Justin Verlander (.124). Doubront’s 48.2 strikeout percentage with his hook ranks third in all of baseball among qualifiers.

Teams have taken advantage of Doubront when they’ve been able to get on base. With the bases empty, Doubront’s opponent batting average is .247; however, with runners on it jumps to .279, and .327 with runners in scoring position.

Doubront will face Hiroki Kuroda, who has won his last four decisions. The Yankees have won each of Kuroda’s last six starts and are 8-2 since June with Kuroda on the mound.

In fact, Kuroda has lost only once in his last 11 starts, lowering his ERA from 4.56 to 3.34. His effectiveness can be attributed to the fact that he's keeping the ball in the park. After allowing 10 home runs in his first nine starts, Kuroda has allowed only five HR in his last 11.
(Jon Lester is scheduled to start on Sunday for the Boston Red Sox against the Toronto Blue Jays.)

From 2008 to 2011, the Red Sox Jon Lester was among the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, he ranked behind only four pitchers, who combined to win four Cy Young Awards, over those four seasons in Wins Above Replacement (see chart below). This year? Lester’s WAR is below zero.
Jon Lester
Part of the issue has been Lester's steadily declining strikeout rate. After ranking first among all qualified starting pitchers in 2010, he was 18th in 2011 and has dropped to 54th this season. He’s actually closer to the bottom than the top among qualifiers.

The effectiveness of Lester’s curveball also has diminished noticeably over the last three seasons. Opponents are hitting .327 against his hook this season, compared to .200 last season and .136 in 2010. The .904 OPS opponents have registered against Lester’s curveball is the third-worst among starting pitchers who have thrown at least 200 curveballs this season.

Lester has been able to maintain his effectiveness against left-handed hitters -- his numbers this season are not all that different from 2009.

However, it’s against right-handers that Lester is regressing, and in a big way. In 2010, right-handed batters hit .219 against Lester. That average increased to .244 last season and in 2012, righties are hitting .286 with an .805 OPS.

It appears that Lester has lost the ability to pitch hard and inside to right-handed hitters. When looking at his fastball and cutters against right-handers, he’s generating fewer swing-and-misses with such pitches. Lester’s swing-and-miss rate has dropped from 22.0 last season to 16.4 in 2012.

Fewer swings and misses mean right-handed hitters are teeing off on Lester’s fastball. They’re hitting .351 against his fastball and cutter, up from .241 last season.

Nova shining behind Yankees' run support

July, 8, 2012
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesAmong active pitchers with 35 career decisions, Ivan Nova has the best win percentage.

Ivan Nova takes the mound Sunday night for the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox (ESPN, 8 ET), looking to improve on an already impressive road record (12-1 with a 3.24 ERA in his past 17 road starts). What's more, Nova is 26-7 through the first 50 starts of his career, the third best win percentage in MLB history (and second best since 1900).

Oddly enough, the all-time series between the Red Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park is tied 460-460-4.

Yankees notes

Entering Sunday, the Yankees score 49.7 percent of their runs via home runs, the most in the majors. Since 2011, New York's offense has also been providing ample run support when Nova starts, tallying 5.67 runs per start.

That ranks third in baseball in that span, behind only Derek Holland and Colby Lewis (min. 40 starts). Overall, however, the Yankees are averaging 4.82 runs per game which would be their lowest since the 1992 season (4.52).

New York has struggled in the clutch this year, batting only .231 with RISP and .190 with the bases loaded. Compare that to the past two seasons, when Yankees batters posted a .337 average in 2011 and a .344 average in 2010 with the bases full.

Red Sox notes

Boston, meanwhile, has been suffering from the injury bug. The Red Sox have had 20 different players hit the DL this season, six more than any other AL team. Of those 20, 11 are former All-Stars.

For Jon Lester, the challenge Sunday night will be getting through the third and fourth innings. He’s allowed 28 earned runs in those two innings and 24 in all other innings combined. He's also struggled in his second time through the order, allowing a .293 average. Lester is using his fastball less often the second time facing batters; he's tossing his heater 63 percent of the time in the first plate appearance, but just 51 percent the next time around the order.

The matchup to watch will be Derek Jeter against Lester. Jeter is 17-for-49 (.347 BA) against Lester, the most hits Lester has given up to a batter. Curtis Granderson, on the other hand, has 10 strikeouts in 21 at-bats against Lester.