16 February 2011
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Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP John Lackey, SP Josh Beckett, SP
Clay Buchholz, SP
Jon Lester, SPJon Lester established himself as the ace of the Red Sox staff in 2010 with a 19-9 record, a 3.25 ERA and 225 K's through 208 innings. At 27 years of age, Lester is hitting his prime and is certainly capable of flirty with 20 wins again this season... so what is Bill James predicting a 14-9 record and an increase in ERA (3.53)?
My guess is the .289 BABIP implies that he was a bit lucky last year and when you factor in an all the free passes (3.59 BB/9, up from 2.82 in '09 and '08)... I can't say I'm surprised by James' prediction. Lester has always walked his fair share of batters, but he's also managed to work around that problem with strikeouts. Last season, he fanned 225 batters for the second yer in a row, but there was another secret to his success in 2010... more ground balls.
Lester used his cutter (22%, +2) and his change-up (12%, +6) a bit more and his curve a little less (16%, -4), and that seemed to keep batter guessing. The results were plenty of swings-and-misses, as well as a 6-point jump in his ground ball percentage. If Lester can continue to mix up his pitches, we should be in for another solid season.
Bottom Line: Josh Beckett and John Lackey both look ready to make up for disappointing 2011 campaign. In theory, this will push Lester (and Buchholz) to be even better this season. You don't see too many 20-game winners anymore, but I think Lester has a good shot, given the Red Sox lineup, the defense behind him and his own talent.
Rob's Prediction: 32 GS, 206 IP, 20 W, 7 L, 3.40 ERA, 218 K
*Special Category: Walks - 75
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