Jon Lester Would Make the Dodgers World Series Favorites

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIJuly 30, 2014

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday, July 25, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers are already considered a World Series favorite. Imagine their formidability with Jon Lester.

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman wrote Wednesday morning that the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals are considered the favorites to land the Boston Red Sox left-hander in a non-waiver trade deadline deal.

With injuries to starters Michael Wacha (could be cleared to throw in two weeks) and Jaime Garcia (out for the season), the Cardinals' staff is depleted. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have an elite starting rotation. But, as Heyman noted, they are concerned about Josh Beckett and Dan Haren's ability to stay healthy and productive as the playoffs inch nearer.

Adding Lester would relegate those concerns irrelevant.

Jon Lester would be the fourth Dodger with a top-20 xFIP.
Jon Lester would be the fourth Dodger with a top-20 xFIP.Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

The Dodgers' four postseason starters would be Clayton Kershaw, and then Zack Greinke, Lester and Hyun-jin Ryu in some order. Ryu currently has the worst xFIP of the quartet at 3.19. That's good for 20th among qualified starters.

In other words, the Dodgers would have four of the 20 best starters in baseball, based on an advanced statistic that evaluates pitchers based solely on their performance and not the fielders behind them.

The Mariners and Nationals are the only other teams with more than one starter in the top 20. They each have two.

Fangraphs' Dave Cameron argued on Monday that the Dodgers should not trade for Lester or David Price. He wrote that the Dodgers would essentially be replacing Beckett with either, and based on projections, Los Angeles would be more prudent to address another need at the deadline:

Lester currently projects as a 3.50 ERA pitcher in the AL East, so move him to the NL West, and you probably have something like a 3.25 ERA pitcher. Beckett projects as a 3.90 ERA guy, so clearly, it’s an upgrade. But of course, neither pitcher is going to be asked to throw nine innings a playoff game, so we’re really looking at their difference over roughly six innings. In Beckett’s case, he’s probably not even likely to be asked to get six in a playoff game, so it’s really more like six innings of Lester versus four innings of Beckett and two innings of the Dodgers bullpen. But, we’ll just keep it simple and stick with six innings of each starter.

Cameron calculated that the difference between Lester and Beckett under the stated circumstances would be just 0.43 runs. Lester wouldn't help the Dodgers save even half of a run.

But Cameron's argument fails to address Beckett's injury history.

Josh Beckett has not pitched well since returning from the disabled list.
Josh Beckett has not pitched well since returning from the disabled list.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Beckett has not pitched more than 170 innings in a season since 2011. A hip injury impeded his 2014 resurgence in early July, and he has not pitched well in the two starts since his return from the disabled list.

In those two outings against Pittsburgh and Atlanta, Beckett surrendered a total of eight earned runs in eight innings while fanning six and walking four.

Of course, the Dodgers would have the most formidable one-two-three punch of starters in the playoffs, with or without a healthy, productive Beckett. But Lester would add another dominant arm with a history of postseason success.

Beckett is Los Angeles' only starter with World Series experience. He pitched 23.1 innings over two Fall Classics and allowed just three earned runs. But he's not the same pitcher in 2014 he was in 2003 and 2007.

Lester, on the other hand, is fresh off a dominant 2013 World Series performance. In 21 innings over two World Series, Lester allowed just one earned run.

He, unlike Beckett, is just as reliable now as he was then. In fact, Lester is having the best season of his career.

There are complications to adding Lester—a free-agent-to-be with no urgent inkling to sign an extension, as reported by Alex Speier of But because he is a rental, he would be cheaper than Price or Cole Hamels.

The logistics aside, Lester is worth more than the 0.43 run difference calculated by Cameron because the Dodgers cannot rely on Beckett to stay healthy and productive—especially after his most recent pair of starts.

Bovada (via OddsShark) currently has Los Angeles at 5-1 to win the World Series. The Athletics have the same odds.

With Lester, the Dodgers would have the most dominant postseason rotation, which typically includes just four starters. They would be the favorites in any series because of their starting pitching.