Cameron: Some musings on the decision to let Jon Lester hit

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on October 29, 2013:

Last night, the Red Sox won 3-1, and are headed back to Boston with two shots to win one game. They are now the heavy favorites to end the season as the World Series champs, thanks in large part to Jon Lester outdueling Adam Wainwright for the second time in this series. The Wainwright/Lester match-ups, on paper, favored St. Louis, but Boston was able to beat the Cardinals best pitcher because Jon Lester threw two brilliant outings in this series. But, for some people, the thing that they’ll remember most about last night’s game isn’t Jon Lester’s pitching, but instead, Jon Lester’s hitting.

Or, at least, Jon Lester being sent to the batter’s box with a bat in his hand; I don’t know that you can call what he does up there “hitting”. In his career, including the postseason, Jon Lester — career AL pitcher — has walked up to the plate 43 times, and in those 43 opportunities, he has made 43 outs. Back in 2009, he drew a walk, the only time he’s ever reached base successfully, but he made up for it in 2012 by hitting into a double play, bringing his totals of PAs and outs back into equalization. 21 of his 43 plate appearances have ended with a strikeout. He is, maybe, the closest thing baseball has to an automatic out.

And yet, with runners at second and third, in the 7th inning of a one run game, Jon Lester was allowed to hit. With Mike Napoli sitting on the bench. With Adam Wainwright tiring on the mound. The Red Sox had a chance to turn a close game into a pretty sure victory, but passed on the opportunity for a big inning in favor of keeping Lester in the game for a couple more innings. And that decision is essentially a microcosm of how baseball is managed.

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Originally published: October 30, 2013. Last Updated: October 30, 2013.