In the MLB, experts and fans have a very small list of “elite” starting pitchers. Boston Red Sox pitch Jon Lester’s Game 1 performance during the World Series should be considered a bona fide elite starting pitcher performance.
The starting pitchers who are widely considered elite, in no particular order, are the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander, Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish, St. Louis Cardinals‘ Adam Wainwright and Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. Tigers’ Max Scherzer should be added to this list after an amazing season, which should lead to him winning the AL Cy Young award.
Lester is normally considered in the second-tier of starting pitchers because his Earned Run Average is typically above three and he did not have an amazing strikeout total this past season, like the other five. He struck out 177 batters in 213.1 Innings Pitched and had a a 3.75 ERA.
One thing Lester does have is that he typically pitches great in tough games.
He has been one of the few pitchers for years that can excel against the New York Yankees‘ lineup, which was great prior to this season. On Wednesday, he excelled in a very tough Game 1 of the World Series.
He faced Wainwright and the very good Cardinals’ offense. The Cardinals scored the third-most runs and had the fourth-best batting average during the regular season.
Despite this fact, Lester made the Cardinals’ lineup look like the Houston Astros. The Cardinals’ hitters could not figure out his fastball, curveball, cutter or change-up.
When Lester ran into two tough spots, he showed that he should be elite by stranding five base runners in the fourth and fifth innings combined. An elite starting pitcher is considered elite because opponents are afraid to face him and the starting pitcher has the ability to dominate almost any team.
He was able to out-duel an ace starting pitcher in Wainwright, which is extremely impressive. Very few starting pitchers are able to defeat Wainwright.
Lester showed on Wednesday night, by shutting out the Cardinals’ high-scoring offense over 7.2 innings, that every team should fear him. He struck out eight batters and allowed only six base runners.
The Cardinals really need to do an extensive scouting report on his mechanics, if they hope to defeat him in his next start. Lester is projected to start Game 5, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, if the Red Sox do not win the World Series by then.