Not unlike our discussion of Cole Hamels this morning, something just seems off with Jon Lester lately. Unlike Hamels, Lester’s had only two down starts in a row, and also preceded that stretch with dominance at a level that was not likely to sustain in any case. That is to say, hopefully it was just one of those things were he was bound to have a couple down games at some point.
That said, Lester, who starts tonight, believes there was something a little off in his last couple starts:
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) May 24, 2019
“When you are out there, it seems like a big deal,” Lester told The Score of feeling “off” the last two times out on the mound. “When you look at it later, you see you might be a hair off. Sometimes you can beat your head against the wall looking for big things, and it can end up being pretty small. I have to figure out its some simple things and go from there.”
Fortunately, the Cubs have the tools and personnel in place to work with their pitchers when they feel off, and often they can quickly identify correctable issues:
The Cubs starters have put up 6.12 ERA since May 15. They need Jon Lester back on track and to be their stopper on Tuesday. What issues have he and Tommy Hottovy identified and worked on over the last few days? https://t.co/K29UIJLTcp
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) May 28, 2019
Indeed, Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told Sahadev Sharma there that with Lester, who is so impeccable mechanically, when one tiny little thing – barely observable – gets off, it makes Lester feel like everything is totally off. In this instance, it sounds like Lester’s body positioning has been ever so slightly off at the top of his delivery, which makes other parts of his body compensate (which he can do, because he’s strong and athletic, and so we don’t really notice as observers). To Lester, in that situation, even if he can’t pinpoint the precise issue, he knows something is feeling off.
That Athletic piece is really a great read on mechanical evaluation and adjustment, more generally. The level of precision at which the Cubs can isolate these things, and then how you actually work on it with different pitchers during the game and in between starts.
Maybe Lester figures it back out today, or maybe it takes a little longer. I don’t think you should be worried about it being any kind of permanent issue with a guy like Lester. Yes, he’s getting a little long in the tooth, but so far he’s aging very gracefully, and he’s got my benefit of the doubt – especially because he’s had patches like this before, and seems to bounce back relatively quickly and relatively starkly. Hopefully as soon as tonight.