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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Jon Lester announces retirement after 16 seasons, three World Series titles

Three-time World Series champion and 200-game winner Jon Lester is retiring after a 16-year career.

Lester, 38, told ESPN that his body just isn’t up for the rigors of a major league season anymore. He made 30 or more starts 12 times during his career and 28 during his final season split between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.

His résumé includes five All-Star appearances and a 2.51 postseason ERA.

“It’s kind of run its course,” Lester said. “It’s getting harder for me physically. The little things that come up throughout the year turned into bigger things that hinder your performance.

“I’d like to think I’m a halfway decent self-evaluator. I don’t want someone else telling me I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to hand my jersey over and say, ‘Thank you, it’s been fun.’ That’s probably the biggest deciding factor.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 12, 2022 at 10:05 AM | 49 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: jon lester

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   1. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: January 12, 2022 at 11:02 AM (#6060774)
Turned out to be a very good to great signing for the Cubs, even though he was pretty much running on fumes by the end. He was money in the playoffs, it was fun to watch how he improved as a hitter (he was so, so bad at the start, then by the end was almost a good hitter for a pitcher), and it was funny to watch the discussion about his inability to throw to first frustrate other teams so much because it didn't make him easier to steal against.

Very fun to root for and I wish the Cubs had kept him in 2021 instead of bringing back Arrieta.
   2. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: January 12, 2022 at 11:46 AM (#6060784)
I'm not a Cubs or Sox fan, but I always admired Lester. He had some flaws (as Moses noted), but they didn't really hurt him. He always seemed like he should be easier to hit than he actually was, and was pretty much unflappable.
   3. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 12, 2022 at 12:27 PM (#6060787)

200 career wins, 193 of which came after recovering from cancer. A very good career.
   4. salvomania Posted: January 12, 2022 at 12:38 PM (#6060790)
how he improved as a hitter (he was so, so bad at the start, then by the end was almost a good hitter for a pitcher), and it was funny to watch the discussion about his inability to throw to first frustrate other teams so much because it didn't make him easier to steal against.

Pretty sure he got his first hit, then his first homer against the Cardinals, which was frustrating to me as a Cardinals fan, and then I remember the Cardinals getting thrown out trying to steal against him when he couldn't hold anyone on.

As an opponent---first in the World Series when he was with the Red Sox, and then as a Cub---I never liked the guy, but expectations were so low when he joined the Cardinals last year that I almost felt sorry for him, and then after his modest success helping hold together a ravaged rotation I actually sort of enjoyed him.

Nice career, and nice to walk away on his own terms.

EDIT: OK, he didn't homer against the Cardinals, but his first, second, and third career hits were all against the Cardinals, in different games. Maybe that's why I thought he had homered against them, because I remember him multiple times doing something against the Cardinals that he hadn't done against any other team.
   5. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: January 12, 2022 at 01:05 PM (#6060797)
Jon Lester, who retired after his age 37 season:

200-117, .631 WP%, 3.66 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 117 ERA+, 452 G, 451 GS, 2740 IP, 2488 Ks, 892 BBs, 5 ASGs, finished in top 9 in CYA four times (2nd, 4th, 4th, 9th), 3 World Series rings, lifetime postseason record of 9-7, 2.51 ERA, 22 GS, 154 IP, started Game 1 of a series 11 times (!)

Tim Hudson, who retired after his age 39 season:

222-133,.625 WP%, 3.49 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 120 ERA+, 482 G, 479 GS, 3126 IP, 2080 Ks, 917 BBs, 4 ASGs, finished in top 6 of CYA four times (2nd, 4th, 4th, 6th), also finished 15th in MVP once, 1 World Series ring, lifetime postseason record of 1-4, 3.69 ERA, 13 GS, 75.2 IP

As a lifelong Red Sox fan who really liked Lester, you might think I would conclude that I think this is evidence that Lester should at least get legit consideration on the Hall of Fame ballot in five years, given that Hudson survived year one, and if he can survive year two, may well get increased consideration (not to mention Buerhle)...but I actually make this comp to argue that either:

1) None of these guys are really Hall of Famers, or
2) the voters need to legit redefine what a Hall of Fame starting pitcher looks like in the modern era of pitcher usage patterns.

You could not really be much more of a reliable workhorse in the modern era than Lester, nor could you be much more of a clutch postseason pitcher than him, either. And yet, perhaps because I grew up on the standard being the Seaver/Ryan/Blyleven/Perry/Jenkins/Sutton, etc workhorse levels, I did not think of Lester as a potential Hall of Fame pitcher over the last decade of his career.

But maybe he was? He won 200 games, struck out a lot of batters, pitched a lot of innings, was a postseason stud, was a key part of two high-profile, high-pressure franchises winning three titles between them...I mean, he is at least as qualified as Tim Hudson, who is currently being treated as one of the best HOF candidates of his generation. If you think Hudson is a legit candidate, then don't you have to say that Lester is, as well? And if you conclude that Lester is not, then how can you think Hudson is?

There are fewer than 20 active pitchers entering 2022 with 100+ career wins, and only six of them are under 35 years old (Kershaw, Bumgarner, Cole, Lynn, Sale, Strasberg). Winning 200 games with a high winning percentage is extremely impressive, and in 10 years will likely be seen as even more impressive. We've already seen guys like Kevin Brown get one-and-done'd because the old standards were being applied to them; before we do the same with Hudson, Lester, and a few others, is this a moment to reflect on Lester and appreciate the uniqueness of his career in the 21st century...or are he, Hudson, and a few others like them more examples of excellent pitchers who come up just short on both a peak and compiler basis?
   6. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 12, 2022 at 02:26 PM (#6060807)
lifetime ERA: Bosox: 3.94 Cubs: 3.94
winning %age Bosox: .636 Cubs: .636

what are the odds?
   7. JJ1986 Posted: January 12, 2022 at 02:38 PM (#6060811)
Lester is probably similar in value to guys like Hudson and Buehrle and Oswalt. Maybe they're Hall of Famers, but Johan Santana is definitely more deserving than all of them.
   8. JJ1986 Posted: January 12, 2022 at 02:39 PM (#6060812)
He had a great career, but my primary memory of him will always be melting down for the A's in the WC game against Kansas City.
   9. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 12, 2022 at 02:56 PM (#6060817)
lifetime ERA: Bosox: 3.94 Cubs: 3.94


Both are actually 3.64.
   10. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: January 12, 2022 at 03:10 PM (#6060823)
s be melting down for the A's in the WC game against Kansas City.


A's attendance:

2009 1.408 mil (the depths of the Bob Geren era)
2010 1.418 mil
2011 1.476 mil (midway through Bob Melvin takes over)
2012 1.679 mil ALDS
2013 1.809 mil ALDS
2014 2.003 mil LESTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2015 1.768 mil
2016 1.521 mil
2017 1.475 mil
2018 1.573 mil ALWC
2019 1.670 mil ALWC
2020 --- ALDS
2021 0.701 mil

You could argue the Lester game directly led to a nearly 14% drop in attendance, which only accelerated in subsequent years. The WC and DS appearances haven't really arrested the decline, though 2021 could be argued as an incomplete read.
   11. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: January 12, 2022 at 04:17 PM (#6060827)
Whoa, you guys are harsh. I think that WC game was totally on the manager: Lester gave them 7 innings of 3-run ball, top of the order was coming up for the 4th time. Even a button pusher would bring in their setup man in that situation.
   12. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 12, 2022 at 04:46 PM (#6060831)
lifetime ERA: Bosox: 3.94 Cubs: 3.94


Both are actually 3.64.


you're right--typo on my part
   13. Walt Davis Posted: January 12, 2022 at 04:57 PM (#6060833)
Hurrah for Lester! Outstanding career and obviously a huge contribution to the 2016 Cubs. Free drinks in Chicago for life.

#5 ... voters were pretty slow to adjust their standards following the shift from the every 4th game to every 5th game usage for top starters. The easy election of Smoltz and Halladay show change but Schilling's early totals, before the infamous jerk status, suggest they still have some work to do (those ballots were also very crowded). And of course the quick dismissal of Santana. I assume Verlander, Kershaw, Scherzer will all get elected pretty easily though. Win some CYAs is my advice.

And all current signs point towards even lower career inning and victory totals ... unless current usage allows guys to pitch effectively until they're 45.

But that doesn't necessarily mean standards should change. These usage changes make starting pitchers less valuable. The best young starters of the 2020s might indeed find it hard to reach even 2500 innings but do we put them in the HoF just because they were the best handful of their generation? What the changes might mean is that the best pitcher of a future generation will be no more valuable than Hoyt Wilhelm (2200 IP, 143 wins in 265 decisions, 147 ERA+, 50 WAR). Wilhelm is in so maybe that guy should get in eventually too but if that's the best, then the 4th-best guy might be 1900 innings, 132 ERA+, 41 WAR ... do we put him in just cuz he was 4th?

I'm not saying no, I'm not saying yes. But the current trend (the historical trend on steroids) is that pitching is becoming a collective undertaking more than an individual one. We might not like that but if it's the nature of the game, does that need to be reflected in HoF induction? If teams decided that the best way to handle second base was to start a bat-first player then, when you have the lead, replace him with a better defender after his 3rd PA such that the best 2B of a generation was a guy with 450 PA a year and 40 WAR in a 10-year prime, does he get in? On the other hand, they will surely keep handing out CYAs so somebody is gonna win multiple ones and reducing innings/season might lead to some crazy rate stats and you end up with some starters that look like two Billy Wagners over 10 years which would be a hell of a peak.

To be clear, I'm far from convinced the current trend in usage is a good idea. I completely understand the desire to replace 3rd-time PAs for your 4th and 5th starters with somebody fresh off the AAA shuttle but I'm not at all convinced that you should do that for 1st and 2nd starters. Again, Robbie Ray led the AL in IP with just 193. Now I can understand, given his track record, that you might "need" to limit Ray to 170-180 innings a year but why limit Gerrit Cole to 6 innings/start (and why pay him $36 M a year for 9 years of it)? Oh well, I'm just one nerd too lazy to figure it out vs. hundreds of nerds with real computers working 40 hours a week so they're probably right.
   14. The Duke Posted: January 12, 2022 at 05:04 PM (#6060835)
I don’t know how many dominant pitchers of an “era” go in, but putting aside WAR was he one of the top 5 pitchers of his era? Top 10? Top 15?

I’m guessing probably in top 15, maybe he sneaks in to top 10. Kershaw, verlander, greinke, Hamels, sabathia, colon, king Felix, wainwright, halladay, Hudson, Buerhle, scherzer are probably as good or better, right ? Maybe I’ve got era comps wrong and I may be missing one or two guys.

Top 5 should get in and then narrative determines the next group. Lester has a good narrative.
   15. Howie Menckel Posted: January 12, 2022 at 05:15 PM (#6060837)
200 wins doesn't feel so awesome, at first.

how many of our current 100-game winners reach that mountaintop besides the top 3?
(age)

1. Justin Verlander (38) 226
2. Zack Greinke (37) 219
[3. Jon Lester (37) 200]

4. Max Scherzer (36) 190
5. Clayton Kershaw (33) 185
6. Adam Wainwright (39) 184

7. David Price (35) 155
8. Ervin Santana (38) 151
9. Johnny Cueto (35) 135
10. J.A. Happ (38) 133
11. Madison Bumgarner (31) 127

12. Gerrit Cole (30) 117
13. Jake Arrieta (35) 115
Lance Lynn (34) 115
15. Chris Sale (32) 114
16. Stephen Strasburg (132) 113
17. Scott Kazmir (37) 108
18. Charlie Morton (37) 107
19. Corey Kluber (35) 103
20. Ian Kennedy (36) 100
   16. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: January 12, 2022 at 05:56 PM (#6060844)
To #14's point, here are the career WAR, and overall all-time ranking, of contemporary pitchers:

30. Verlander, 72.2
31. Kershaw 69.1
36. Greinke 68.0
43. Scherzer, 66.2
45. Halladay, 65.4
54. Sabathia, 62.0
62. Pettitte, 60.7
65. Buehrle, 60.0
70. Hamels, 58.3
77. Hudson, 56.5
98. Johan Santana, 51.1
100. Felix Hernandez, 50.3
106. Oswalt, 49.9
116. Colon, 47.7
127. Sale, 46.6
142. Lester, 44.3
158. Cliff Lee, 42.5
170. deGrom, 40.7
172. David Price, 40.4
176. Wainwright, 40.2
194. Lackey, 38.1

There a lot of guys from the 80s and 90s that - according to WAR -are right there with a lot of pitching HOFers, but really didn't even get a second thought:

34. Kevin Brown, 68.2
35. Rick Reuschel, 68.1
53. Tommy John, 62.1
57. Cone, 61.6
69. Saberhagen, 58.9
70. Chuck Finley, 58.3
77. Stieb, 56.5
81. Appier, 54.9
96. Hershiser, 51.3
99. Kenny Rogers, 50.5
104. Mark Langston, 50.0
108. Dennis Martinez, 49.3
110. Jimmy Key, 49.0
113. Dwight Gooden, 48.1
114. Ron Guidry, 47.9
120. Viola, 47.1
131. Radke, 45.6
135. Steve Rogers, 45.1
151. Javier Vazquez, 43.4
151. Bob Welch, 43.4
158. Cliff Lee, 42.5
158. Al Leiter, 42.5

You get the idea...there are plenty of pitchers in the Hall of Fame below the WAR totals of a lot of the guys on these lists.
   17. toratoratora Posted: January 12, 2022 at 08:21 PM (#6060869)
Kudos for Lester for a great career.
I remember hearing about his diagnosis and being crushed.
After recovery, anything and everything seemed like a bonus.
He always struck me as being just tough as nails.
Like after facing cancer nothing was a real big deal
And what a great Series pitcher.
Loved to see him on the mound in a big game.

Personally, and this by no means is a knock at the guy, I don't see him as a hall of famer. Very very good but not truly great was always my opinion.
But again, he has already won his most important victory in the game that really counts and I always respected the hell out of him for that.
A player whose career was a joy to have watched.
   18. The Duke Posted: January 12, 2022 at 09:26 PM (#6060873)
Just eyeballing the list in 16, it appears to me that back 25-35 years ago you probably needed 70 WAR to get in and you were a serious contender at 65 ish. I’m guessing that’s dropped 5 to 7 WAR in the most recent vintage of pitchers.

Almost everyone from Saberhagen and above on the second list I would give serious consideration to.
   19. The Duke Posted: January 12, 2022 at 09:51 PM (#6060876)
MLB writers have a round table discussing Lester’s HOF case. Sounds like he has one vote already.
   20. karlmagnus Posted: January 12, 2022 at 10:18 PM (#6060880)
Ignoring the artificial elimination of post-season stats, Lester is 226-139. That should get him in the Hall, in my view, given his decent 117 ERA+ and modern pitcher usage patterns.

Pitchers who don't pitch in the post-season have the advantage that they last longer; those post-season innings make your arm drop off. So the whole career should be considered, not just the regular season.

I am deeply suspicious of WaR, especially with Lester down at 44. In the regular season he won 83 more games than he lost; an "accurate" WaR would surely be up there somewhere.
   21. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 12, 2022 at 11:00 PM (#6060882)
I mean, he is at least as qualified as Tim Hudson, who is currently being treated as one of the best HOF candidates of his generation.
Tim Hudson survived his 1st year on the HOF ballot by 1 vote, and is currently at 2.5% on The Tracker with more than 41% of the expected vote tabulated. That wouldn’t meet most definitions of ‘one of the best HOF candidates of his generation’, and neither would Jon Lester. If they’re Hall of Famers, so are lots of others who have yet to be enshrined. Hall of the Very Good will have to be sufficient, IMHO.
   22. Howie Menckel Posted: January 12, 2022 at 11:49 PM (#6060885)
Pitchers who don't pitch in the post-season have the advantage that they last longer; those post-season innings make your arm drop off.

can I get a "cite" here?
   23. SoSH U at work Posted: January 13, 2022 at 12:06 AM (#6060887)
Ignoring the artificial elimination of post-season stats, Lester is 226-139.


No, that's what you get when you add his games pitched and games started to his regular season win total. Adding his postseason wins and losses takes him to 209-124.

can I get a "cite" here?


Do you really need a cite that pitching is hazardous? I would think the last 100 years of baseball would suffice.

The rotator cuff doesn't know the difference between the real innings thrown in the regular season and those exhibition innings thrown in the postseason. Ignoring the large samples of postseason innings has never made a lick of sense.
   24. Adam Starblind Posted: January 13, 2022 at 07:19 AM (#6060902)
By “exhibition innings,” you are referring to the teams’ entire purpose — to win the World Series.
   25. bachslunch Posted: January 13, 2022 at 07:58 AM (#6060903)
@21: Hudson looks likely to get in the HoM, though it’ll take a few years. The only pitchers from the backlog with more points than him last election were Vic Willis and Tommy John.

I’m not sure Lester will fare as well.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: January 13, 2022 at 09:48 AM (#6060911)

By “exhibition innings,” you are referring to the teams’ entire purpose — to win the World Series.


Yes.
   27. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 13, 2022 at 10:06 AM (#6060914)
I don't know if Lester even gets to bubble territory, but I do think playoff performance should be considered more for recent pitchers. I'd be curious to see a study of how pitchers performed the season after a 200+ IP regular season plus another 20+ IP in the postseason.

The guy who would really benefit from postseason credit is of course Pettitte, who I'm getting more comfortable with despite a lack of peak.
   28. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 13, 2022 at 10:30 AM (#6060916)
Ignoring the large samples of postseason innings has never made a lick of sense.


I think the issue has historically been that until recent years postseason innings never made up a "large sample." In the pre-divisional era Whitey Ford's 146 innings was the maximum amount of work by a pitcher in the post-season. That's really not a lot. Lester coincidentally has only 154, about the same. Obviously those innings ARE going to count and affect wear and tear but even if you think they count for more because of the high stress situation not many pitchers have historically gotten to any amount where it mattered.

Having said that, that's something that is changing obviously with the expanded playoffs. But still, a quarter century in only three pitchers (Pettitte, Glavine, Smoltz) are over 200. I think you definitely should be counting that and particularly in Pettitte's case the additional "season" of work probably is impactful to his HoF case and I think it can easily be relevant to Lester's as well.

Does post-season work impact a player's health long term? I'd be somewhat skeptical. Having said that I can see a case where it is an issue the following season but looking at recent pitchers atop the single postseason innings list they made their starts the following year;

Bumgarner - 32, 131 ERA+
Schilling - 35, 140
Beckett - 26, 108
Hershiser - 33, 149
Johnson - 35, 195
Valenzuela - 37, 122
Lee - 28, 133

That's post-war guys with over 40 innings. No one seemed to be suffering the year after a major post-season run.

EDIT: Huh, hadn't read Steve's comment but clearly he was thinking like me so I declare him brilliant.
   29. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: January 13, 2022 at 10:32 AM (#6060917)
IIRC, Bill James noted that truly great players tend to have low similarity scores, because there are so few truly great players. Because talent is not evenly distributed on a bell curve, but instead shrinks exponentially as you move up the ladder of accomplishment, one of the marks that a player is a Hall of Famer is that there simply aren't a lot of players like them in history.

Well, I think one of the strongest arguments against this whole cohort of pitchers remaining outside the HOF is that most of their closest comps are...the other peers who are also not in the HOF. For example, here are Pettitte's top 10 comps:

1. Sabathia
2. Mussina*
3. Colon
4. Wells
5. Morris*
6. Hudson
7. Buehrle
8. Brown
9. Lester
10. Welch

It is not a surprise that Willie Mays' #1 comp (Frank Robinson) has a lower similarity score than Pettitte's #10 comp by 30 points. These guys are all pretty similar, in the big picture of history.

Here are Lester's top 10 comps (and they closer comps, generally, than Pettitte's were):
1. Gooden
2. Cone
3. Hudson
4. Verlander
5. Halladay*
6. Key
7. Greinke
8. Hamels
9. Brown
10. Lackey

It's not quite as good as Pettitte's list, though there is overlap, and I would argue Lester's list looks more like a "peak" argument than Pettitte's "compiler" argument. Honestly, by the time all is said and done, it is possible that Lester's list will have at least as many HOFers on it as Pettite's (Pettitte has Morris and Mussina; you could see Sabathia. Lester has Halladay; Verlander is going to make it, and you see Greinke).

My point to this is that there is this rather large group of pitchers from the last 25+ years that is either pretty much all out, or else you've got to really explain how, for example, Sabathia could get in, but Kevin Brown can't even get 5%? That is completely illogical and arbitrary.
   30. The Duke Posted: January 13, 2022 at 10:48 AM (#6060919)
28. This is a very good point. I’ve noticed the same thing when looking at sim scores. Sim scores are a very broad brush but in this case they make a great point.

Lester is very low on the list of guys that should be getting a longer look. But he will get a longer look because he’ll have a ton of votes from Boston and Chicago writers. He’s got the World Series titles, the “big game” pitcher rep and the cancer survivor thing. He excelled in both leagues on good teams so a lot of writers will have him in the front of their minds as a great pitcher of the era.

Hudson and Buehrle pitched in relative obscurity
   31. Howie Menckel Posted: January 13, 2022 at 11:07 AM (#6060922)
Do you really need a cite that pitching is hazardous? I would think the last 100 years of baseball would suffice... The rotator cuff doesn't know the difference between the real innings thrown in the regular season and those exhibition innings thrown in the postseason. Ignoring the large samples of postseason innings has never made a lick of sense.


I agree with not ignoring postseason innings, actually.

but "the last 100 years of baseball" suffices to show us that the vast majority of pitchers get hurt - and also that a select few are outliers, and that lumping in the select few with the vast majority may not be fruitful.

I'm further assuming that you spit up your coffee upon seeing the stats in Post 28. I mean, sure, you can go with "but they'd have been even BETTER if..." but, welp, there's an easier answer (see previous paragraph).
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: January 13, 2022 at 11:32 AM (#6060926)
but "the last 100 years of baseball" suffices to show us that the vast majority of pitchers get hurt - and also that a select few are outliers, and that lumping in the select few with the vast majority may not be fruitful.


I didn't say the vast majority of pitchers get hurt. But pitchers get hurt. Pitching is far more hazardous than playing anywhere else on the diamond, and it's particularly more dangerous than sitting at home while the postseason is being played.

I'm further assuming that you spit up your coffee upon seeing the stats in Post 28. I mean, sure, you can go with "but they'd have been even BETTER if..." but, welp, there's an easier answer (see previous paragraph).


I could point to examples of pitchers who did suffer the year after pitching deep into the postseason, but that's not really the point.

Pitching isn't a simple case of you're perfectly fine or you're broken. The more you pitch, the more stress you put on all the parts. Orel had a good year in 1989, but he was never the same after that. Josh Beckett burned out early. Cliff Lee broke down. Madison Bumgarner looks toasty. You usually can't point to the playoff innings as the cause of any specific injury (other than Schilling's ankle), but they're just as responsible for the wear and tear on the arm as the regular season ones. That's pretty damn undeniable.
   33. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: January 13, 2022 at 02:10 PM (#6060963)
the vast majority of pitchers get hurt

I always explain it to my wife this way: take a hundred 18-year-olds who can hit 95 on the gun. One will make the Hall of Fame; a handful will be quality MLB pitchers; another dozen or so will also make the majors. And the rest will hurt their arms. Pitching a baseball is an unnatural act.
   34. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: January 13, 2022 at 02:15 PM (#6060964)
but they're just as responsible for the wear and tear on the arm as the regular season ones


Actually, one would think that they are more responsible, both because they come at the end of the season, and those innings are invariably higher-stress.

Here are Lester's top 10 comps (and they closer comps, generally, than Pettitte's were):
1. Gooden


Wow I would have never thought that Lester would be a comp for Gooden. But Lester did have a good chunk of his value early in his career, as Gooden did of course, and both were reasonably valuable until their last 2 years, when they both dropped off to less than replacement level. Though from the "eye test" I had thought that Lester still had some value the last 2 years. Wouldn't be the first time that the eye and bWAR disagreed. Note that fWAR and bWAR have a quite different takes on both Gooden's and Lester's career trajectory.
   35. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: January 13, 2022 at 02:46 PM (#6060968)
The thing about both Gooden and Lester is that they both were among the best strikeout pitchers in baseball, but with totals and rates that today would make most fans shrug. I mean, I was 10 years old when Gooden had that magical rookie season, and he struck out 276 in 218 innings (11.4 per 9). He truly was "Dr. K". But then he never struck out even a batter an inning over a season again. Lester, who obviously pitched a generation later, had eight seasons where his K rate was as good or better than Gooden's second-best season. Lester had six seasons where he averaged at least a K per inning; Gooden had one such season.

In fact, with the exception of Nolan Ryan (who had 16 full seasons with a rate of at least a K per inning!), really nobody from the past can consistently compare with K rates of pitchers today. It is so obvious, with hindsight, that the sport has made a conscious decision to ask pitchers to throw fewer innings, but in exchange throw a lot harder. I don't think today's pitchers are any less capable of throwing 300 innings in a season than they were in the past; they just wouldn't be able to throw the way they currently do for 300 innings a season.

That's what makes Nolan Ryan even more amazing with the passage of time; he was able to throw as hard as anybody ever has, and do it for more pitches per start, more starts per season, and more seasons, than anybody who has thrown like that. I think he may be the most singular athlete in the history of major American team sports. Ruth in baseball, Gretzky in hockey...but their "singularness" is their greatness; Ryan's "singularness" is more that there is no major athlete who is more unlike anybody else in his sport. Anyway, I digress...
   36. Howie Menckel Posted: January 13, 2022 at 03:39 PM (#6060970)
I don't think today's pitchers are any less capable of throwing 300 innings in a season than they were in the past; they just wouldn't be able to throw the way they currently do for 300 innings a season.


In the 1970s, even in post-1973 DH AL you still had 160-pound banjo hitters at SS and often at CF, and few Cs were a power threat, either.

the 1974 Athletics: no one hit 30 HR, four hit in the 20s, and no one else hit more than 9.
2Bs Dick Green and Ted Kubiak and SS Bert Campaneris plus CF Bill North combined for NINE HR in 1775 PA !
and this was a team that won its third consecutive World Series.

I guess I'm saying that today's pitchers aren't any less capable (maybe) of throwing 300 innings in a season - but no one - ok, maybe Ryan, as noted - could last 300 IP against these brutes. there rarely if ever is a chance to come up for air, so all-out pitching is mandatory.

those A's hit 132 HR. the 2021 champ Braves? they hit 239.
   37. Adam Starblind Posted: January 13, 2022 at 04:01 PM (#6060972)
That's what makes Nolan Ryan even more amazing with the passage of time; he was able to throw as hard as anybody ever has, and do it for more pitches per start, more starts per season, and more seasons, than anybody who has thrown like that.


And to top things off, he got even better in his forties!
   38. Itchy Row Posted: January 13, 2022 at 04:01 PM (#6060973)
If you count the postseason, the 2020 Dodgers out-homered the '74 A's 148-139, in 93 fewer games.
   39. The Honorable Ardo Posted: January 13, 2022 at 04:12 PM (#6060974)
Lester could plausibly enter the Hall of Fame with his narrative (cancer survivor! big markets! gaudy winning percentage! World Series heroics!). As a Hall of Merit candidate, he fits neatly into a group of "medium-length career lefty pitchers at the edge of my consideration set" with men like Lefty Gomez, Larry Jackson, and Chuck Finley.
   40. Ithaca2323 Posted: January 13, 2022 at 04:16 PM (#6060975)
I don't understand this postseason argument at all.

Just because people don't add X + Y to get Z and make those the career numbers doesn't mean the postseason is being ignored in terms of HOF/Legacy talks.

Wasn't G7 in '91 a huge part of Jack Morris' candidacy? Do we really think voters aren't factoring in Ortiz' WS heroics (not to mention the 2004 ALCS)?

Heck, we can even look at guys who aren't getting in. Do we not think Andy Pettitte's postseason resume isn't why he's done better in Hall voting than Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle?
   41. SoSH U at work Posted: January 13, 2022 at 04:20 PM (#6060977)
I don't understand this postseason argument at all.


It obviously matters to many (most?) of the actual voters, but not to everybody here.
   42. Random Transaction Generator Posted: January 13, 2022 at 08:29 PM (#6061002)
He's the last of the 2007 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox to retire.

That means the last active players on the oldest World Series champion teams:

2003 - Miguel Cabrera (active)
2004 - Bronson Arroyo (last season : 2017)
2005 - Brandon McCarthy (last season : 2018)
2006 - Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols (active)
2007 - Jon Lester (last season : 2021)
2008 - J.A. Happ (active)
   43. Textbook Editor Posted: January 13, 2022 at 09:30 PM (#6061004)
A small story about Lester:

I vividly recall watching Game 4 of the 2007 WS and hoping Lester would pitch well because, c'mon, how can you not root for a guy who was (practically) a rookie to win a WS-clinching game after having overcome cancer... and not knowing if he'd ever get the chance again (whether because of the vagaries of baseball or a possible recurrence).

Skip ahead two years from that WS, and when TE Jr. was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 3-1/2 years old, we always held up Lester for him as a guy who beat cancer, so he could beat cancer too and still play sports. TE Jr. was one of the lucky ones--he had a life-saving resection surgery and today (almost 13 years later) remains cancer-free. Last summer, one of Mrs. TE's friends knows someone who works in some sort of promotional capacity with the Cubs, and was telling them this story, and the guy arranged for Lester to sign a ball for TE Jr. It's a small thing, but he was really excited to get it and read the personalized message on the ball. Being so long ago now, he doesn't really remember being sick, or the surgeries he had, etc. (a good thing, in my mind), but he does have clear memories of rooting for Lester (especially in 2013) because (in his mind) they were on the same team.

I don't know if Lester will make the Hall of Fame, but he had a hell of a career for someone who, back in October 2007, I just wanted to see win one game so he could one day tell his grandkids how he beat cancer and won a World Series-clinching game. And I'm very grateful he was someone who showed TE Jr. that such things were possible, at a time when he needed to see that.
   44. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 13, 2022 at 09:49 PM (#6061005)
That’s a wonderful story TE. Especially the part about TE Jr. being OK.
   45. Howie Menckel Posted: January 13, 2022 at 10:23 PM (#6061007)
that's a fantastic story, TE.

and as someone who has spent a lot of time around countless pro athletes (but not Lester), don't be shy about trying to get in touch with Lester down the road for a meet-and-greet with your miracle son.

my perspective is mixed - way more pro athletes are dicks than the average fan may realize, but plenty of others are more open to meeting fans with an inspirational story involved than many think.

no guarantees, obviously, so don't tell your son about it.
but I can just say that you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

fans tend to think that any pro athlete gets so much feedback from fans that they will never respond. trust me, it's not true.

I would contact PR folks from all of his former teams with this wonderful story. somebody will "get it" - and if you get that meeting and can share it on your social media, that's all the more of a bright light that shines on a too-often dark world these days.

#gothedistanceTE
   46. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: January 14, 2022 at 08:25 AM (#6061024)
TE, that is a wonderful story - I am so happy for you, your family, and especially your son. Athletes have such an opportunity relative to most of us to provide inspiration to others, but obviously many athletes do not leverage that opportunity. When they do, it is so helpful. I'm glad Lester was able to help in his own way provide an important lift for your son. Go, TE, Jr.!
   47. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2022 at 08:44 AM (#6061028)
That's excellent, TE. Glad to hear your son is healthy.
   48. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 14, 2022 at 09:06 AM (#6061033)
TE - To Howie's point in #45 I strongly recommend getting in touch with the Red Sox Foundation if you are thinking of going that route. They are phenomenal to work with. My mother worked in our local senior citizens center for many years and they would do a men's breakfast once a month. For that event they often would have former players come to speak and the Sox were far and away the best of the four locals (the Pats wouldn't return calls) to work with. They would send someone like Gedman, Monboquette or Montgomery out to speak and it was always well received. They also dealt with stuff like arranging meetings of the thing you describe and my understanding is that they were really good about it. There was a fee that went to the foundation (my recollection is it wasn't outrageous) and Lester is recently retired enough that he may not be involved yet but as Howie says, no harm in asking.
   49. Traderdave Posted: January 14, 2022 at 09:11 AM (#6061036)
I repeat, TE. Very glad that story had the right outcome.

And I repeat what Howie says. I have a nephew with an issue for which I reached out to an active player some years ago. The player responded very kindly and more than once.

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