Sarris: The mechanical change that maybe brought Jon Lester back

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on October 30, 2013:

You’ll hear some superlatives sent in Jon Lester‘s direction after a couple of strong performances in the World Series. The All-Star break — when Lester was sporting a 4.58 ERA and velocity readings that didn’t inspire hope — seems like a long time ago. Between then and now came a mechanical change, and maybe a short rest, that brought the old Jon Lester back in time for this great postseason run. Remarkable about that fact, though, is that the change has been a long time coming.

 As early as last year, people were noticing that there was a need for change. Michael Barr wrote about Lester’s cutter, and its lack of cut:

Based on the behavior of the pitch, that is, the kind of movement he’s getting — it does seem to support that he’s throwing fewer cutters and more sinkers. And in fact, the cutters that he has thrown in 2012 have demonstrated less horizontal movement than they did in 2011, behaving much more like his regular fastball. He tosses in a curve and a change about 13% of the time each, but that’s pretty consistent with years past. The big change appears to be a reliance on the sinker at the expense of the cutter.

That post appeared on August 12th, 2012. Since that day, his cutter use has indeed gone up, back up to 16.1% this year after sitting closer to ten percent for much of 2012. But using the pitch more did not immediately lead to better life right away.

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