I don’t want to minimize the importance of discussing legit baseball issues around here. It’s kind of the ethos of this site to obsess about every little thing.
Talking about Jon Lester not throwing over to first base a single time last season (and none the season before after April), and discussing whether it’s going to be an issue is a legit conversation. It’s also legit to discuss whether there’s a method to Lester’s madness in holding runners, or whether there’s a broader problem with making throws to first base.
But, a week after Lester started on Opening Night – yielding a few stolen bases in the process – and now faces the Reds and speedster Billy Hamilton, the discussion about Lester and throws to first is going to reach nearly absurd levels. Here’s hoping Lester makes a clean throw to first at some point tonight so that the discussion can fade to the background. I suppose, for me, that’s 50% annoyance at how pervasive the conversation has become, and 50% fear that it’s a legitimate issue that will carry forward throughout the season. Everyone wants Lester’s primary focus to be getting batters out, and I don’t much care for anything that has the potential to detract, even in the tiniest way, from that.
For his part, Lester believes the entire thing is overblown, having been brought to prominence last year before Oakland’s one-game playoff against the Royals, and then again by the ESPN crew calling the Opening Night game. Maybe we’ll see tonight.
- In the interim, you can read a really fascinating piece over at Grantland on not only this issue, but how deleterious it could be on Lester’s performance. First, there’s an in-depth exploration of the last set of pick-off attempts Lester made, which ended with a massive homer (coincidence? Maybe). It also turns out that Lester’s been working on his pickoff move for several years, so it’s not like this is a brand new issue.
- Paul Sullivan offers a little more on the issue, including further quotes from Lester and from Jed Hoyer. It remains entirely possible that there’s nothing to this, and Lester simply didn’t have to throw over very much the last two years. He might have to now that he’s in the NL Central, though, with better base-stealers in the mix.
- On Billy Hamilton, specifically, Lester seems to be taking the attitude that, if he gets on, he’s going to get some stolen bases (Cubs.com). It’s just what he does. Keeping Hamilton off base is prime option one, of course. But if and when Hamilton is on first base, getting a huuuuge lead, staring at Lester, what will the lefty do? I’ll admit, as tired as I am of the discussion, I almost want to see that moment, from a pure baseball fan perspective. What if Hamilton just decided to take off, right then and there? No pitch, just run. He probably won’t quite do that, but you can freely assume if Hamilton reaches base, he’s absolutely going to try and steal on the first first motion Lester makes.
- As you can see in this Sun-Times video from Opening Night, it’s not like Lester isn’t working on the throw: