Jon Lester in AAA, a dose of Ellsbury and crew too
July 14th, 2007 by czar

Since I’m in Geneva, NY for the summer working on graduate research, I decided to take a trip over to Syracuse last night to catch the PawSox/Chiefs (didn’t they used to be the Sky Chiefs?) game. I was really hoping to see Clay Buchholz, but apparently the Sox decided to hold him over until Monday night so he can make his debut at McCoy Stadium (also, the organization is probably being careful with him, since he pitched in relief in the Futures Game). So, my disappointed aside, I picked the game with the next starter of interest, Jon Lester.

I unfortunately, was stuck in traffic entering the stadium (bad call on my part try and show up fifteen minutes before game-time on “Kid’s Fireworks Night” (no they didn’t give the kid fireworks, which might have made it more interesting) so I was unable to watch warmups or the top half of the first inning. I settled into my seat two rows from the field in the section just to the right of the one behind home plate (that was interestingly blocked off for the stadium radar gun and I presume some sort of thing to help the pitcher) right as David Murphy flew out to end the top of the 1st.

Lester was in trouble, right from the get-go, allowing back to back singles (the first of which was shaky defense at best from McEwing at 3B), before a passed ball (likely more Lester’s fault as it seriously crossed up Kottaras) moved the runners from 2nd to 3rd. Lester did get the next batter looking, before giving up back to back singles and Mike Vento followed that up with a hard grounder to Super Joe who was eaten up as the ball bounded into LF. Lester finished the inning by striking out Adams, and getting Ryan Roberts to fly out to Murphy, but not before the Chiefs had 3 runs on 4 hits (and an error).

Lester looked sharper in the 2nd, getting a K, walking a batter, but promptly inducing an inning-ended double play. He also worked around a couple walks in the third, and another one in the fourth. His pitch count was bloated (81 through 4) as we got to the fifth, where he sandwiched a single with a couple strikeouts before absolutely hanging a curveball to the aforementioned Mike Vento who deposited it over the left-field fence to give the Sky Chiefs a 5-2 lead. Russ Adams then grounded out to third to end Lester’s outing after 5 IP.

Final line– he picked up the loss, going 5 IP, allowing 6 H, 5 R, 4 of which were ER, 4 BB, 1 HR, 6 K– his ERA moved up to 3.90 at the AAA level.

As for objective analysis, I tried to keep tabs on both the stadium gun and my stopwatch (a backup in case the stadium gun overinflated his velocity– a concern which turned out to be unfounded, as I got the same reading from both my eye and the stadium readout). Lester only had 11 of his 100 pitches top 90 mph (he threw 73 fastballs out of the 100 pitchers). 1 of which hit 92 (a pitch he seriously overthrew to Ford-Griffin), 4 of which were at 91, and 6 of which were at 90. The remaining 62 fastballs were all at 89 mph or below, most sitting in the 87-88 range. Unfortunately, this is not the mark of the hard-tossing lefty we saw rise through the minors and ascend to Boston last year. His control was also a significant issue last night– Lester fit the mold of the prototypical “thrower” as opposed to “pitcher.” Of the 100 pitchers, he threw 61 for strikes. He was frustrated with the home plate umpire on a few occasions last night (and for good reason at times– he did get squeezed on a few pitches) but by and large, he was having a tough time commanding the strike zone. One thing I noticed, was that even during warmup tosses (76-82 mph range) he was having a great deal of trouble to keep from bouncing the ball. He did manage to keep his curveball down most of the night, the only noticeably hanger I saw was the one Vento hit out in the 5th. His fastball command was his main issue last night, and he only threw first pitch strikes to 12 of the 25 batters he faced last night– which is something you just can’t really get away with at any level of baseball, let alone AAA or the major leagues. I was clamoring for Lester to be called up to replace Julian Tavarez in the rotation, but now, I just want him to keep pitching and try to rediscover what made him a hard throwing left-hander with electric stuff. Because the Jon Lester I saw last night, was not the same one who was in Boston last year.

Other notes on the game:

Jacoby Ellsbury made a nice play or two in CF, but went 0-5 at the plate with one K, marking the second consecutive night he went 0-5 at the plate. He did have one rocket that was chased down in right, but other than that, he struggled to get the ball out of the infield. I can’t forsee him ready for anything more than a Dave Roberts pinch-running role in Boston in late 2007, and honestly, with the seemingly re-emergence of Crisp, if someone was willing to overvalue Ellsbury and take him back as a part of a deal that netted the Sox a key cog for the 2007 playoff push, I’d consider it. From what I’ve seen in Ellsbury is his ceiling is effectively a slightly faster Coco Crisp. He might have a better eye, but he also has done little at the age of 23 (turning 24 in September) to show that he is on a road to develop the power capability as a Crisp or a Damon (who is consistently considered Ellsbury’s best ML comp).

George Kottaras seemed to try to break out last night of his Mendoza-line-esque season by going 3-4 including a (meaningless) HR in the 9th inning. Hit a couple rockets, though he did make a key miscue in the 6th (not an error, because he was trying to complete a double play with the bases loaded) that allowed the Chiefs to score another run.

No one else really jumped out at me other than Brandon Moss hit the ball hard a couple times (going 2-4) after looking foolish on an early whiff, and did score on Kottaras’ 9th inning blast.

Couple pics I took. I apologize, my camera is sub-par at best. That college student having no money thing is a bit of an issue when it comes to being on the cutting edge of technology. Click any image to enlarge to full resolution.

Jon Lester pitching for the PawSox

Jon Lester still pitching for PawSox

Jacoby Ellsbury digs in at the plate

Posted in Observations

One Comments

Posted By: The Czar Wears Red Sox » Blog Archive » Who needs John Burkett? :: Yeah, another bleepin' Red Sox blog on July 22nd, 2007at 11:33 pm

[...] been bumped to the bullpen, taking the freshly DFAed Joel Pineiro’s spot)  As I discussed in a previous post, I had seen Lester in person a couple starts ago and he didn’t look major league ready [...]

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  • Traversing the land that is known as Red Sox Nation, The Czar Who Wears Red Sox is an attempt at compiling a repertoire of my ever-so-sexy forum posts (when I'm too lazy to write my own damn entry) and other random baseball thoughts that strike. For those whose posts serve as the inspiration of my epiphanies and rants, do not be angry, but merely, be honored that you have achieved such status. Names will never be revealed. Feedback appreciated, as this is a work in progress.

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