I think it’s time for the Red Sox management to be a little concerned about John Lester. His command is awful, his velocity is down, and his bread and butter pitch, the cut fastball, has not been effective since early last year. I have a lot of respect for the lefthander because he is a gamer and you seldom hear any complaints from him. Nevertheless, he has to get his stuff together. He needs wins and the only way he’ll be able to do that is to throw strikes and get the cutter back to where it was.

He’s also not thinking like a winning pitcher usually does in tough situations. Last night in the fourth inning he had runners on second and third base with two outs. The hitter was Kevin Youkilis, who has been a very hot hitter in the two games played so far. He pitched Youkilis carefully knowing he had first base open. The count went to 3-0 and I thought, as well as everyone in the ballpark, that Lester would walk Youk on the next pitch. Instead he throws a fastball for a strike right down the middle. Surely he would walk him on the next pitch. Not so. Lester throws another fastball right down the middle and Youk takes it for strike two. With the count 3-2 surely he would not throw another strike. He has to walk him to get to the next batter who was left handed. I closed my eyes just before he threw the next pitch and sure enough another fastball right down the middle. Youkilis swung the bat and the ball landed in the monster seats for a three run homerun. It just doesn’t make sense. Adam Dunn was the next hitter and even though he is a homerun threat and is third in the league in RBI, Lester has to walk Youkilis. Take those three runs away and the Sox win 5-4.

In observing Lester the last five starts from a mechanical or physical standpoint I believe he’s short-arming all his pitches. By short-arming I mean he is not getting full extension with his throwing arm as he throws the ball. He tends to cut off that extension which results in less power and velocity on the fastball and less movement on the cutter. It’s especially glaring when he throws the cutter. When he had success with his command and his velocity he extended his arm and had a good follow-through. He’s not doing that now.

It’s like a hitter who doesn’t extend his arms when he swings which causes him to hit a pop-up or a weak ground ball. Even though pitchers and hitters get power from their legs and hips their arms must finish off the pitch or swing to be successful. Another example is in golf, when a person attempts to hit a chip shot to the green. If they stop the club from just after impact they’ll hit a weak shot which usually ends up in the fringe. Like most of my shots.

Without a stable Lester throwing strikes and showing the old velocity he had in the past, it’s going to be tough for the Red Sox to get in the playoffs. It’s time to be concerned.

Filed under: Rico's Blog

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