Lester K’s 15

Lester K’s 15

For years now, I have predicted that Jon Lester would win the American League Cy Young award as the best pitcher. Sure, he hasn’t really come close, but he has always been so full of promise, that it seemed like he was always ready to take another step in his development, from being a big, strong staff ace to one of the best in baseball.

He has had some really good years, and some forgettable ones (like most things from the Bobby Valentine era in Boston).

lester2On Saturday, Lester put together one of his best ever outings, by striking out 15 Oakland A’s. I was lucky enough to be watching the game on MLB.tv, and it was impressive. It is exciting to see any pitcher hit double digits in K’s in a game, but 15 is almost unheard of. Sure, there were the days of Roger Clemens fanning 20, but even in today’s pitcher dominance, this many strikeouts is unheard of.

Over the course of 8 innings, Lester fanned 15 and allowed only 1 hit. Of course, the Red Sox bullpen made it interesting by almost letting things fall apart in the ninth, but the Sox won 6-3.

This is the type of game that I always knew Lester was capable of, and that is able to do every time he takes the mound. His stuff was almost unhittable, and he demonstrated tons of movement on all of his pitches. Throughout the game, he was focused on working hitters both outside and inside, painting the corners of the plate to the endless frustration of the A’s. And this included many borderline calls that didn’t go in Lester’s favour. He probably could have had more strikeouts than he did.

So far this season, Lester has been the victim of a low-performing offense when he is on the mound, but his strong stats cannot be ignored, despite his 3-4 record. In only one game has he had an ERA above 3.00, and he has had at least 6 strikeouts in every start. His season ERA sits at an impressive 2.59, with 58 K’s in 48 innings and a pretty good 1.09 WHIP. And don’t forget, he pitches in the tough AL East, where he has already faced the Orioles, Yankees (twice), and Blue Jays. Throw in the MLB-leading Brewers, and division leading A’s, and the competition he has to face is pretty solid.

Maybe it is no surprise that Lester is in a contract year, and only received a lowball $70 million dollar offer from the Sox in the offseason. Lester is pitching for his $100 million+ contract, and it is tough to argue that he doesn’t deserve it, especially when you see the other 9-figure extensions less comparable pitchers have been receiving.

For now, Red Sox fans should be pleased with the fire Lester has pitched with this year, and rejoice in the 15 K gem he tossed on Saturday. It was something to behold.

2014 MLB Predictions

2014 MLB Predictions

Even though I will surely regret trying to pick the standings for the upcoming season, I might as well give it a shot. Last year, I was way off in my bold prediction of a Washington Nationals vs. Kansas City Royals World Series. I guess there is no harm in trying again! Except for my inevitable hurt pride in being so wrong about things.

AL East

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. New York Yankees
  • raysAlways the most difficult division to pick, because there are three very good teams in here, and two others that have great teams on paper but have yet to deliver it on the field. It’s hard to argue with the Rays’ success over the past years.
  • So much went right for the Red Sox last year, it will be difficult to duplicate that. But, they made some smart, low-cost moves over the summer, and should very much be in contention again. I like these guys, because they are tough and scrappy.
  • Yes, I’m picking the Yankees for last place. That rotation is just a huge question mark for me, and that starting infield is brutal. One injury to their old men roaming the shale, and they’re done. Their outfield is definitely improved, but that is only three of nine positions. Brian McCann is an upgrade at catcher, however.
  • I thought about going with the Orioles to win this division, but they are always such a tease. Third is where they belong.
  • Those poor Jays. Even if they put together a year that is injury-free, they will have too tough a time getting past the other monsters in the division. Too many questions in the rotation, as well.

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Cleveland Indians
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins
  • tigersHard to pick against the pitching of the Tigers. They can basically roll out three aces in a row, and the rest of the rotation is pretty solid, as well. I think their bullpen is improved.
  • This year, the Royals start to put it together. After a few seasons of expectations, they started to get it together in the second half of last year. They keep it going. Definitely a team trending upwards.
  • The Indians put together something special last year, making it to the one-game playoff. I don’t think they can do it again, but they are another fun, scrappy team. Love what Francona has done there.

 

AL West

  1. Oakland A’s
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. LA Angels
  5. Houston Astros
  • a'sNot much changing at the top. The Rangers have still more firepower, but there is something about this team that is lacking over the past couple of years, and doesn’t seem to be fixed. It’s finish. They lack finish. Prince Fielder could have a huge year there, if he doesn’t wilt in the Texas sun.
  • The A’s are just consistent. They are a good team, even if they seem to lack good players.
  • Finally, an off-season where the Angles don’t overpay someone. Trout is incredible, but the aging lineup around him won’t do much to help him out.

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. NY Mets
  4. Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Miami Marlins
  • natsThe Mets will actually probably be the bottom of this division, because there is a lot to like about the young Marlins.
  • I feel that last year was a season-long mistake by the Nats. They are better than what they showed last year, after their success the year before. They pull it back together this year.
  • Is it just me, or does the Phillies just seem like a collection of dinosaurs at this point?

 

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs
  • cardsShould be the most interesting division race again this year.
  • Impossible to bet against the always-consistent Cardinals. That rotation is excellent, arguably the best in the NL.
  • I think the Pirates contend again. They had players last year, on their miracle run, that had off-years. If they get it going as well, they can be good. Exciting team to watch, as well.
  • The Reds just kind of stay the same. Pretty good. Not excellent.

 

NL West

  1. LA Dodgers
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies
  • dodgersThat LA payroll is crazy. As is their roster. Even with the inevitable injuries, they have bought the depth to stay competitive. Another very good stable of pitchers. Seems like they have a dozen starters to choose from.
  • Arizona is building, and this division always seems to have tons of movement in it.
  • The Giants are usually good every second year, and this would be their year again. Don’t count them out, but I feel there are a few too many gaps to oust the Dodgers here.

 

AL Wild Cards: Red Sox, Royals

NL Wild Cards: Braves, Pirates

AL Champion: A’s

NL Champion: Nationals

World Series Champion: Nationals

 

At the Ballpark: Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

At the Ballpark: Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

The Milwaukee Brewers are one of those major league teams that people tend to forget exists. They are rarely brutally bad, but not often really good, and they are just kind of…forgettable. Their most frequent headlines tend to be about trading away a really good, too-expensive player, or lately, too many things about the cheater MVP Ryan Braun and his failed drug tests.

But the Brewers have a great home park, and one that is so close to Chicago that it should not be overlooked if you are traveling in the area.

Milwaukee itself is a pretty quiet, but nice place to visit. It doesn’t have the bells, whistles, and culture of a place like Chicago, but has a lot more of that down home feel, a place where you can be really comfortable for a couple of days while exploring what the city has to offer.

Miller Park is another of the new-ish stadiums across the league, this one opening its doors in 2001. And it is a very fun place to see a ballgame.

miller park2First off, Miller Park looks really cool from the outside. It has a spaceship appearance to it, mainly due to the interesting look of the retractable roof. The rest of the facade is brick arches, and it is a very attractive stadium from the outside.

On the inside, nothing changes. They did it up right when they built this place for the Brewers. Throughout the ballpark, everything is nice, clean, and modern. They didn’t seem to spare any money or cut any corners when they put the park together. The field is beautiful, the cool slide in the outfield adds an interesting feature, once where the mascot slides down after a home run.

For a park named for a beer company (and a beer-named team, as well), I thought Miller Park was going to be a glorious haven of millions of beers, flowing freely and cheaply. Not entirely the case. There are some decent drink options, but the prices remain the same as any other park in the league. There is some good, greasy food there as well, and our focus was on the cheesy fries that came in a miniature Brewers helmet. Good. Waffle fries are pretty much the best thing ever.

The prices were reasonable, as we sat directly behind home plate in Row 3, for about $100 per ticket. Definitely pricey for a ball game, but those seats in any other stadium would cost double that price. Plus, we had the bonus of being on ESPN for the majority of the highlights that evening.

During the May game, the weather was not being terribly polite, and it ended up being a pretty spectacular thunderstorm during the game. Thankfully, they thought of that retractable roof. Having it closed took away a little bit from the outdoor ball experience (where, as I stated in a previous post, doesn’t really happen as much in Seattle’s home park), but it didn’t dampen the atmosphere inside enough to be truly problematic (I can picture a place like the Rogers Center, home of the Blue Jays, where having the roof closed would completely change the feeling of the game).

miller parkThe best part about seeing the Brewers was for their fans. Fun, friendly, outgoing people. The group of people in our section were all great, loved baseball, loved the Brewers, and loved chirping the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates (who ended up losing, as they always did in those days). It was easy to strike up conversations with the people around us, to discuss matters of the game, and the season to that point. It was fun and laid back. People were all drinking beers and enjoying the food, but it was a well-controlled crowd, and nothing out of control happened, as it sometimes does at games. For the fans only, I would go to Miller Park again. It speaks to the blue collar people of Milwaukee, and how great they are.

One of the most memorable moments of the game was seeing then-Brewer Prince Fielder chugging around the bases and getting a triple, one of the more rare events of his strong hitting career. A man of that size does not usually travel so well, but he got it done, and the crowd went wild. They absolutely loved his hustle. It was a fun moment to experience. That, along with the traditional sausage race that takes place between innings during the game. I got pretty fired up over that.

I have never had an affinity for the Brewers one way or the other, and even though I won’t outwardly cheer for them now, they definitely have a soft spot because of my chance to see them live. Miller Park is a great place, one that is probably underrated in the league. Definitely worth the visit, in a cool little town.