MDS selects Jon Lester

Mock Draft Central ADP: 63.29
Baseball Monster 2009 rank: 53

15 W, 3.41 ERA, 225 K, 1.23 WHIP

So if Lester were to repeat his stats from last year, he would come at a slight discount at his current ADP. Maybe some think he will regress, especially the 9.96 K/9. Some may even say, “But Bill James projects his WHIP to be 1.36″. You know what I say? Well Maybe Bill James needs to go on the MDS Most Wanted List for roto malpractice. Hmmm, I think I could build a pretty good case against him. It’s about to get crazy in here with Fangraphs stats:

3.41 ERA vs 3.15 FIP, 3.13 xFIP
8.9 career HR/FB, 10.6 HR/FB in 09
.310 career BABIP, .323 BABIP in 09

basically, his ERA and WHIP should have been lower. His BB/9 were the same in 08/09. While Lester’s K/9 did rise from 7.14 in 07, to 6.50 in 08 to 9.96 in 09 and has been projected to regress to 8 or 8.3, I find reasons for the jump and also find room for further improvement.

2007 Velocity: 89.9, 2008 Velocity: 92.1, 2009 Velocity: 93.6
2007 Value: -3.6, 2008 Value: 14.8, 2009 Value: 4.6
2007 Velocity: 85.0, 2008 Velocity: 88.4, 2009 Velocity: 89.0
2007 Value: -2.6, 2008 Value: 5.0, 2009 Value: 13.0
2007 Velocity: 72.3, 2008 Velocity: 76.2, 2009 Velocity: 78.3
2007 Value: 3.4, 2008 Value: 5.1, 2009 Value: 7.0
2007 Velocity: 82.7, 2008 Velocity: 83.9, 2009 Velocity: 85.5
2007 Value: 0.7, 2008 Value: -0.4, 2009 Value: 0.5

As you can see, all of Lester’s pitches are gaining velocity and the value of his FB, CT, CB are improving while the 6.6% used CHangep sits just above league average. I also have some evidence of his 2008 k/9 to be a bit unlucky as batters were reaching out and hitting stuff off the plate at a high clip.

2007 O-Contact%: 59.6%
2008 O-Contact%: 65.1%
2009 O-Contact%: 51.6%

and heres where i really see room for improvement. League average for F-Strike% is 59% and if Lester could push that 54.5% up to 60%, it would really help his Ks.

2007 F-Strike: 49.5%
2008 F-Strike: 58.1%
2009 F-Strike: 54.5%

I like Lester showing increased arm strength two years running, gaining velocity in all four of his pitches. I like the fact his cutter and curve are improving and becoming high quality pitches. I like the idea of his 2008 k/9 being misleading and while his 2009 k/9 may be slightly lucky, if at all, there is room for improvement. I actually expect the low O-Contact% and low F-Strike% to neutralize each other and look for him to strikeout batters at or near the same 9.6 k/9 rate. Not only do I expect Lester’s ERA and WHIP to drop with his slightly inflated BABIP, but the improvement in the team’s defense behind him will help bring it down even more. Now, I’m not going to say he will be better than Halladay or Haren, but it’ll be close and I’d rather have Lester than CC straight up.

Oh yeah, if you’re into the whole “3rd year pitcher” theory… this will be the 3rd season starting in the rotation for Lester. An improvement in his BB/9 would be surprising in the least.