Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not All Mass Hysterics Get Apologetic

Ahem. Let's not start sucking each other's dicks yet.*

Yes, I'm happy about Jon-boy's no-hitter. Fabulous human interest story, couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, yadda yadda. But the fact remains: Jon Lester has, to this point in his career, been inconsistent and troubling on the mound.

But I didn't casually throw off the comparison to Tim Wakefield in my quarter-season posts. Wakefield has the potential to throw a no-hitter any given night. He also has the potential to give up seven runs in the first and be relieved without recording an out. That's because he throws the knuckler, which is a fickle mistress at best.

So what's Lester's excuse?

Again, happy about the no-hitter. Great story. But let's cast our mind back to two starts ago in Minnesota. Jon lasted into the sixth, giving up five runs on eight hits. More importantly, do you know how many swinging strikes he had? THREE. Out of ninety-four pitches, in five-plus innings, batters swung and missed thrice. That's not dominant; that's not even competent. On the basis of that start, should we conclude that Lester is nothing more than the best batting practice pitcher on the roster?

Of course not. Because ONE START IS NOT ENOUGH TO EVALUATE A CAREER. There are words for people who would go ga-ga and declare Lester to be worth every penny you could possibly spend on him, and refuse any and all trade offers for him, because he just threw a no-hitter against the Royals:

(1) Morons
(2) Retards
(3) The front office of the Baltimore Orioles

Am I glad that we have Lester's upside potential on the team now? Absolutely. Would I trade him even-up for Johan Santana? ABSOLUTELY. Without hesitation. Why? Santana has put up All-Star caliber numbers consistently. Day in, day out. Lester, on the other hand, had a good game. Hooray. Happy for him.

But I consider myself rational, and don't get carried away by that stuff. I revel in his individual, single-game achievement, and I'm happy for the boost it must have given the team. Then I go back to reality, which is that the best comparable pitcher to Lester (so far) in recent Sox history isn't Josh Beckett, or Pedro Martinez, or even Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The best comparable, incidentally, also pitched a gutty game in the postseason for the Sox. Let's look at the numbers:

5.2 IP /3 H / 3 BB / 3 K / 0 R
5.2 IP / 6 H / 1 BB / 2 K / 1 R

Can you spot which one is which? The main difference -- in one, the Sox score all of one run against the Cy Young award winner that year; in the other, the Sox beat a good-but-unspectacular guy (who, incidentally, is also comparable) by going up 1-0 in the first on the way to a 4-3 win. More importantly, can you name the comparable(s)?

Answer: it's Dana Kiecker, who started game 2 of the 1990 ALCS against Bob Welch of the A's. (The other comp -- who faced Lester in game 4 of the WS -- is Aaron Cook.)

What happened to Kiecker? He -- say it with me -- lacked consistency. Specifically, he lacked the ability to get major league hitters out consistently. Then he lacked the ability to get AAA hitters out consistently, and then -- like Keyser Soze -- poof, he was gone.

So Jon -- enjoy your moment. And maybe take this opportunity to put up, oh, six or seven games in a row where you go 6+, give up 6-8 hits and 2-4 walks, and don't put a strain on your team's bullpen. THEN we can start talking about how great the non-trades for you were for the Sox -- but the discussion won't be over for years, until you've proven your mettle consistently.

That's how you run a smart baseball organization. And this organization is, at long last, smart.

*Except for Mrs. Ankiel, who is encouraged to do so.


futuremrsrickankiel said...


dubbschism said...


The best comparable, incidentally, also pitched a gutty game in the postseason for the Sox. Let's look at the numbers:

5.2 IP /3 H / 3 BB / 3 K / 0 R
5.2 IP / 6 H / 1 BB / 2 K / 1 R

is one start enough to evaluate a career, or no?

A Pimp Named DaveR said...


Kiecker is comparable career-wise; the playoff start is illustrated to eliminate the "but Lester has pitched well in stressful post-season roles" distinguishment.

The Sports Hernia said...

There are far too many awkward boners about Boston sports teams right now.

I'm sensing epic failure from the Celtics, for Doc Rivers to finally morph into Super Dave Osbourne, and for the Sox to start looking as miserable as Pedroia's depressing hairline.

futuremrsrickankiel said...

I appreciate your input, SH, but I must take issue with one point: NOTHING is as miserable as Dustin Pedroia's hairline.

A Pimp Named DaveR said...

You will pry my Dana Kiecker obsession from my COLD DEAD HANDS, Hernia....

GHABB,Y~! said...

Dana Kiecker would have been cooler if his nickname was "Shit"