2011 Fantasy Projections No. 40: Boston Red Sox's Jon Lester An Elite Pitcher?

Nick Kappel@@NickKappelAnalyst IIIFebruary 13, 2011

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Since 2008, Jon Lester has the ninth-best ERA (3.29) among starters who’ve logged 600 innings. Of the eight pitchers with a lower ERA during that time, only Tim Lincecum has a better strikeout rate (10.25) than Lester (8.72).

Further, only two pitchers among the group have more wins (Roy Halladay, 58; CC Sabathia, 57) than Lester (50).

In 2010, Lester flashed the second-best cutter in baseball (17.9 runs above average), and the 10th best changeup (10.3 runs above average). His contact rate was ninth-best in the majors (76.5 percent, MLB average 80.7 percent), emphasizing his nastiness.

Lester was especially effective against the A.L. East last season, going 12-2 with a 2.96 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 10.08 K/9 in 97 1/3 innings.

The only red flags from last season were his home/road and pre/post All-Star splits. He was more effective on the road (2.88 ERA) than he was at home (3.67 ERA), and his first-half ERA (2.78) was much better than his second-half ERA (3.89). Oddly enough, these splits oppose his totals from 2008 and 2009, when he was more effective at home and after the break.

Also, Lester’s walk rate crept up into the mid-three’s last season, after settling in at 2.82 and 2.83 in the two years prior. Lester will have to cut back on his free passes if he’s going to ascend into the ranks of the elite pitchers.

Looking forward to 2011, there’s no reason to believe the 27-year-old southpaw won’t continue to produce as a top-10 starting pitcher. In fact, he’s the seventh ranked pitcher on our 2011 big board.

 IPWK/9BB/9ERAWHIP
2010 stats208199.743.593.251.20
3-year average207.1178.723.083.291.24
2011 FBI Forecast211209.603.103.151.19

 

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