It was something of a fun side story last year to Jon Lester’s dominant debut season with the Cubs. No, I’m not talking about his issues throwing the ball to first base (which was two parts “fun” and ten parts “scary”). I’m talking about the fact that he came into the year with the Cubs having never recorded a big league hit, and it took him a long time to get there. In the process, he set a new ML record for the longest hitless streak to begin a career (0 for 66).

Eventually, finally, he notched an infield single off his buddy, and now teammate, John Lackey, but he still finished the season with a dreadful .065/.108/.065 batting line, and an even scarier career .041/.078/.041 line. That’s a -71 wRC+. Yes, negative 71. That is, apparently, possible.

But we know that offensive results can sometimes be misleading, and sure enough, get this: Lester actually hit the ball the second hardest among all pitchers last year by exit velocity!  Check out the Statcast analysis:



So, it turns out that Lester can hit the ball really hard, but he also really pounds it into the ground.

It’s really fun to listen to Mike Petriello analyze how Lester could become a more successful hitter (don’t swing as hard, improve the swing angle and contact rate slightly).

Remember, though, this is all pretty much whimsy: personally, I don’t want Lester spending even one additional moment of time/thought/practice on his swing if it’s going to take away any time from his pitching preparation. The incremental difference between a nightmarishly-bad Lester as a hitter and a still-pretty-awful-but-only-just-awful Lester as a hitter is simply not worth a whole lot in terms of runs created at the end of the day. If there’s an easy, obvious tweak he can make? Sure. Go for it. Otherwise, just keep focusing on pitching – and controlling the running game – and do what he did last year.

And then, when he does get a hit, we can all have a dance party, because it’s all the more rare.




Keep Reading BN ...

« | »