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Monday, March 05, 2018

Jon Lester using new approach on throws to 1B | MLB.com

The Cubs’ Jon Lester is trying a new Chicago Bulls-themed approach to deal with his struggles to throw to first base.

“In the words of [coach Brian Butterfield], we’re going to use the Jordan-to-Pippen bounce,” Lester said Sunday, referring to Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. “I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care if it bounces 72 times over there, an out’s an out.”

Jim Furtado Posted: March 05, 2018 at 09:08 AM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, jon lester

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   1. Man o' Schwar Posted: March 05, 2018 at 09:43 AM (#5633683)
“I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care if it bounces 72 times over there, an out’s an out.”

It doesn't have to be an out. Just something good enough to keep the runner relatively close so he's not getting a 20-foot lead.

It still amazes me that teams haven't taken more advantage of Lester's problems. It feels like every walk and single should be turned into a double pretty automatically.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: March 05, 2018 at 09:49 AM (#5633688)
“I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care if it bounces 72 times over there, an out’s an out.”


I don't think he's getting anyone out on a 72-hopper.
   3. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: March 05, 2018 at 09:54 AM (#5633690)
Hey - Lester picked a guy off last year.... as in, threw to 1st and picked him off, not chased and tagged him.
   4. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 05, 2018 at 09:56 AM (#5633691)
It still amazes me that teams haven't taken more advantage of Lester's problems. It feels like every walk and single should be turned into a double pretty automatically.


Base stealers were successful 19 times in 31 attempts last year against Lester. He really doesn't need to adjust anything.
   5. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:00 AM (#5633695)
For those who didn't RTFA, its about throwing to first on grounders, not holding the runner.
   6. Spahn Insane Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:00 AM (#5633696)
Base stealers were successful 19 times in 31 attempts last year against Lester. He really doesn't need to adjust anything.

Right. Lester's mental block about throwing to the bases is weird and gets a lot of attention, but any effect it has is largely offset by his being quick to the plate. He's also benefited in recent years from pitching to catchers who throw well (Ross, now Contreras).

EDIT: I didn't RTFA either; I swear, though, I can recall at least one occasion last year where the "bounce pass" thing worked for Lester on a ground ball. I'm skeptical as to how well it'll work on a by-design regular basis...
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:04 AM (#5633699)
For those who didn't RTFA, its about throwing to first on grounders, not holding the runner.


Ah, thanks. I didn't realize his issues about throwing to first extended beyond pickoffs.
   8. Spahn Insane Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:07 AM (#5633701)
Ah, thanks. I didn't realize his issues about throwing to first extended beyond pickoffs.

Apart from the aforementioned bounce pass, he's at least once gotten an assist on a grounder by underhanding his glove, ball nested in pocket, to Rizzo instead of making a normal throw (how the ball stayed in the glove through the numerous rotations it took on the way to Rizzo, I have no idea).
   9. Man o' Schwar Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:09 AM (#5633702)
I do remember him throwing a bounce pass ball to first at least once last year as well.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:10 AM (#5633703)
So is this 100% a mental block? How curious.

Apart from the aforementioned bounce pass, he's at least once gotten an assist by underhanding his entire glove to Rizzo instead of making a normal throw (how the ball stayed in the glove through the numerous rotations it took on the way to Rizzo, I have no idea).

Does Rizzo need to remove the ball in order to secure possession, or is possession of the glove sufficient?
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:20 AM (#5633713)
Does Rizzo need to remove the ball in order to secure possession, or is possession of the glove sufficient?


Possession of the glove is fine. You can't throw the mitt at the ball, but you can throw the mitt with the ball in it and it is the same as throwing the ball.
   12. PreservedFish Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:25 AM (#5633719)
Interesting. Thanks for the answer.
   13. catomi01 Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:32 AM (#5633723)
I seem to remember the thrown glove (with the ball inside) happening to Lester at least twice - is that right? With the 2nd time Rizzo actually dropping his own mitt to more easily catch the incoming glove - indicating it might have been something they had talked about/planned for as an eventuality. The only other pitcher I remember this happening to was Orlando Hernandez - who also successfully recorded the out (and I think the Yankees actually held a runner at 3B in the process).
   14. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:48 AM (#5633730)

Base stealers were successful 19 times in 31 attempts last year against Lester. He really doesn't need to adjust anything.


His current strategy is to work at a glacial pace so the base runner loses his readiness by the time Lester starts to throw the ball. It's possible that pace of play changes will take this strategy away from him.

On an unrelated note, I used to be in favor of the Bill James idea that we should limit throws to first to speed up games. Lester shows us that limiting throws to first would actually have the opposite effect.
   15. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:50 AM (#5633734)
4/19/15: Clint Barmes' comebacker gets stuck in Jon Lester's mitt so he tosses the glove to Anthony Rizzo for the out at first

(Rizzo drops his glove)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyFRO7xMD8I

5/4/16: Jon Lester snares a sharp grounder that gets stuck to his glove, then runs toward first and flips it to Anthony Rizzo to get the out

(Rizzo drops glove, they talk about it happening last year)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoURFP3gGpE

6/3/17: Cubs' Jon Lester picks off Tommy Pham at first

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5A-NaQrDOM

6/5/99: Orlando Hernandez fields Rey Ordonez's drive and decides to hurl his glove to first when the ball gets stuck in it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P97YGzkCRj4
   16. PreservedFish Posted: March 05, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5633737)
On an unrelated note, I used to be in favor of the Bill James idea that we should limit throws to first to speed up games. Lester shows us that limiting throws to first would actually have the opposite effect.

I never understood this argument. The day you instituted that rule, you'd set a world record for pitcher stepoffs. And there would now be an incentive for baserunners to draw pickoff throws.
   17. Batman Posted: March 05, 2018 at 11:05 AM (#5633749)
   18. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 05, 2018 at 11:27 AM (#5633768)
It's possible that pace of play changes will take this strategy away from him.

Not on Manfred's watch, apparently.

I never understood this argument. The day you instituted that rule, you'd set a world record for pitcher stepoffs.

Yeah, you'd have to pair it with a pitch clock that isn't reset for stepoffs. Which would be a wonderful idea.
   19. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: March 05, 2018 at 11:30 AM (#5633770)
And there would now be an incentive for baserunners to draw pickoff throws.

Hey, I think that part would be fun.
   20. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: March 05, 2018 at 12:03 PM (#5633805)
I don’t get why the minute Lester comes set guys don’t take off. Maybe you run into an out here and there but until he proves he can deal with it I’d take my chances.
   21. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: March 05, 2018 at 12:17 PM (#5633818)
I don’t get why the minute Lester comes set guys don’t take off. Maybe you run into an out here and there but until he proves he can deal with it I’d take my chances.


I'm guessing that the self-policing, anti-bat flip, no celebrations, don't bunt to break up a no hitter, don't show up the other guys, faction that sets the tone for the league would consider it bush, and would say so, loudly.
   22. PreservedFish Posted: March 05, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5633823)
I recall Fangraphs exploring that question, and the writer decided that players were having a tough time overcoming their habits and instincts.

Also, if you really take off as soon as he's set, could he just jog toward second and underhand the ball over there? Even Chuck Knoblauch would make that throw 50% of the time.
   23. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: March 05, 2018 at 12:35 PM (#5633836)
I don’t get why the minute Lester comes set guys don’t take off. Maybe you run into an out here and there but until he proves he can deal with it I’d take my chances.
I'm guessing that the self-policing, anti-bat flip, no celebrations, don't bunt to break up a no hitter, don't show up the other guys, faction that sets the tone for the league would consider it bush, and would say so, loudly.



Teams have tried variations of this - and it inevitably hurts them more than helps them. For one thing, Lester should be able to beat most runners from the mound to 2B. For another, it's often made their leads one-way - which totally defeats the purpose. Finally, first with Ross - now COntreras, both Willson and David like throwing behind runners which has also gotten them in trouble.

It's a quirk that leads to some funny sequences - but more often than not, teams hurt their baserunning game more than they get an advantage out of it by getting this "automatically take 2B" into their heads. They'd be far better served just treating it as a "gimme" large lead, but still doing so in the same manner one takes any lead -- to optimize getting to the next base. When they're forever dancing around, they inevitably find themselves heading back to 1B on the pitch which totally defeats the purpose.
   24. Baldrick Posted: March 05, 2018 at 01:15 PM (#5633880)
Teams should either commit or stop messing around. The halfway approach where they take big leads and then don't do anything with them is bizarre. It often seems like they're trying to get into Lester's head by staring him down with a big lead, but that seems to completely miss the point. He's already in his head. You taking a big lead isn't going to add anything.

I'd like to see a team go into a game with a policy that every single runner who reaches first base takes a big lead and then runs on the first pitch. All game. See what happens. It might not work, but the current approach teams are using is failing to capitalize on a huge hole in the opposing pitcher's game, so...
   25. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: March 05, 2018 at 01:26 PM (#5633890)
The problem is that Lester is 60 feet from 2B. A 30 ft lead - even against Lester - is stretching it. Lester should be able to beat most baserunners to 2B - or at least get close enough for a flip.

The math just really doesn't work.
   26. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: March 05, 2018 at 01:45 PM (#5633909)
Teams should either commit or stop messing around. The halfway approach where they take big leads and then don't do anything with them is bizarre. It often seems like they're trying to get into Lester's head by staring him down with a big lead, but that seems to completely miss the point. He's already in his head. You taking a big lead isn't going to add anything.


I don't remember if it was last years, or the 2016 NLCS where the Dodgers just got ridiculous with their antics at first, and it got them less than nothing.
   27. Zonk was SHOCKED by #6! Posted: March 05, 2018 at 01:52 PM (#5633920)
I don't remember if it was last years, or the 2016 NLCS where the Dodgers just got ridiculous with their antics at first, and it got them less than nothing.


2016. Yeah, they were definitely an example of hurting themselves more than helping. Dernard Span had the same problem in the NLDS.
   28. Spahn Insane Posted: March 05, 2018 at 02:22 PM (#5633942)
The only other pitcher I remember this happening to was Orlando Hernandez - who also successfully recorded the out

Pretty sure I remember Terry Mulholland doing it once too, but I'm old.
   29. Spahn Insane Posted: March 05, 2018 at 02:23 PM (#5633945)
2016. Yeah, they were definitely an example of hurting themselves more than helping.

Totally. I remember commenting while watching NLCS game 5 in 2016 that the Dodger baserunners were pretty clearly more inside their own heads than they were inside Lester's. A lot of it was, they were taking much larger leads than they were accustomed to--seemed to make them more tentative. [They were probably also wary of the Cub catchers throwing to first, which they did and still do very aggressively.] It didn't seem to affect Lester at all because, well, he never throws over there anyway.
   30. Spahn Insane Posted: March 05, 2018 at 02:32 PM (#5633952)
At the risk of hijacking the thread: At the other end of this spectrum is Kyle Hendricks, who for my money has the best pickoff move in baseball despite his being righthanded. He put on a show in the 2016 postseason; just off the top of my head he nailed at least 3 runners between the LCS and WS. He's got very quick feet and his throws are deadly accurate, which is a hell of a combination.
   31. Walt Davis Posted: March 05, 2018 at 02:52 PM (#5633971)
I've long opined that the approach against Lester isn't to get a big lead -- maybe take an extra half-step to a step -- it's to simply take off on first movement. The really fast guys should make it all the time and the kinda fast guys should turn into fast guys. This also puts you into a go or don't go mentality which should reduce the dangers of the C picking you off. And you know that even if you do take off too early and he steps off, you can still get back before he can get the throw to first.

But yeah, huge leads where you're leaning back to first, dancing around 20 feet off the bag to distract him ... all you're doing there is pissing Contreras off and he'll either pick you off or "accidentally" drill you in the ribs as you're diving back in.
   32. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 05, 2018 at 04:10 PM (#5634070)
Pretty sure I remember Terry Mulholland doing it once too, but I'm old.

I'm not quite as old, and I'm pretty sure that happened too.
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 05, 2018 at 04:12 PM (#5634071)
all you're doing there is pissing Contreras off and he'll either pick you off or "accidentally" drill you in the ribs as you're diving back in.

...and then head to the mound to tell Lester all about what he just did.
   34. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: March 05, 2018 at 04:42 PM (#5634099)
...and then head to the mound to tell Lester all about what he just did.


I make "Contreras goes to the mound too much" jokes at work, and my Cub fan co-worker hates it.

   35. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 05, 2018 at 05:09 PM (#5634112)
9/3/86: Giants pitcher Terry Mulholland gets Keith Hernandez's comebacker stuck in his glove and throws the glove to first to get the out

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2caLa1K9UcM
   36. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: March 05, 2018 at 08:13 PM (#5634189)
I completely agree with Walt and Baldrick. Just go. Don’t dick around. The antics like what the Dodgers were doing just seem unnecessary. There’s really no reason to be going back to the bag. For all his flaws the dude doesn’t let that stuff bother him, the dancing isn’t going to disorient him.
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 05, 2018 at 08:44 PM (#5634201)
I make "Contreras goes to the mound too much" jokes at work, and my Cub fan co-worker hates it.
Your Cub fan co-worker takes things much too seriously, it would appear.
   38. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 05, 2018 at 08:50 PM (#5634205)
“I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care if it bounces 72 times over there, an out’s an out.”

I don't think he's getting anyone out on a 72-hopper.



But only because David Ortiz has retired.
   39. Bug Selig Posted: March 06, 2018 at 07:10 AM (#5634288)
Pretty sure I remember Terry Mulholland doing it once too, but I'm old.
That play is my dominant memory from the old This Week In Baseball. Well, besides "I'm Mel Allen!"
   40. The Honorable Ardo Posted: March 06, 2018 at 07:15 AM (#5634290)
The problem is that Lester is 60 feet from 2B. A 30 ft lead - even against Lester - is stretching it. Lester should be able to beat most baserunners to 2B - or at least get close enough for a flip.

Exactly. I was at Wrigley on May 2nd last year when Aaron Altherr broke as soon as Lester came set. Lester stepped off, ran towards second, and tossed it to Javier Baez for an easy 1-4 CS.
   41. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: March 06, 2018 at 08:20 AM (#5634301)
Your Cub fan co-worker takes things much too seriously, it would appear.


Yeah, there's a fine line between being a fan and a fanboy or fangirl. I lived in Chicago for 7 years and I was pulling for the Cubs to win a WS but I'm a Met fan. We are used to insulting our own players LOL.

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