Jon Lester is billed as the Boston Red Sox ace. The pitcher you rely upon to gut out the wins and boost your team when they need one. Lester did the complete opposite last night as the Toronto Blue Jays tagged Lester for seven runs. So what was the issue? Bad mechanics? Sore shoulder? A catcher he isn’t used to? Wait, what?
A debate was sparked after the game that Lester and A.J. Pierzynski don’t exactly “gel” together, which may be true. We’ve seen this instance before. Tim Wakefield held Doug Mirabelli near and dear to his heart. The Red Sox even made a point to trade for Mirabelli mid-season and gave him a police escort to make the game. That’s a true story. I wouldn’t even be able to come up with that thought if I tried. When Wakefield had Jason Varitek catch his starts, let’s just say there wasn’t much catching going on to begin with. So having a personal catcher isn’t uncommon, especially with the Red Sox.
So the big question was, why wasn’t Ross behind the plate to catch Lester? If you look at the numbers, when Ross and Lester are together, Lester is 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA in seven starts. With Pierzynski, Lester is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA. That’s clearly a big difference.
The gripe I have with this situation is, what if Pierzynski was the primary catcher and Ross wasn’t with the team? Would Lester struggle the entire season? I find that hard to believe.
Against Mark Buehrle, Pierzynski had the better offensive numbers, something the Red Sox desperately need. Pierzynski was 10-25 against Buehrle lifetime. So in the mind of manager John Farrell, when you have your ace going that night, it would be more beneficial to have the catcher start with the better offensive numbers. It’s logical and what’s best for the team.
What concerns me is the fact that Lester might have issue with working with Pierzynski. During the game, Lester threw ball four that he clearly thought was a strike (which it was not) and was seen yelling something toward the dugout. Now, I don’t want to start rumors here, but this may have been Lester showing displeasure in working with Pierzynski. If so, actions like this can’t be something that continues. Lester is the one leading that team on the field. He can’t be letting his emotions get the best of him, although I do know that can’t always be realistic.
If I were to pick five reasons why the Red Sox are in such a funk, Jon Lester wouldn’t even come close to making that list. But when it comes to picking and choosing your catcher, I do take some issue with that. Players are expected to do what’s best for the team. Pierzynski may call the game differently than Ross, but when it comes down to it, Lester still has to throw strikes. The game of baseball as a whole doesn’t change because a different catcher is in the game. You still go out and do your job. After Lester gave up the seven runs, he had a great game, sending down 11 straight batters. If Lester and Pierzynski have all these issues, I can’t imagine smooth innings like those happening.
Going forward, I fully expect Ross to be starting with Lester. He is the ace of the staff and accommodating his pitching needs will be met. But when it comes down to having Pierzynski catch another start, Lester has to do what’s best for the team; win the ball game and boost the Red Sox when they need it.