In 2007, for whatever reason (inexperience, recovering from cancer, etc.) Jon Lester struggled to get through the 6th inning. He admitted later that he was thinking too much and his pace was too slow...the result was a 4-0 record, but with 8 NDs.
In 2008, with a few added pounds of muscle and a full spring training under his belt, Lester pitched with confidence and purpose and the result was a Cy Young caliber season: 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA.
Some would argue that batters simply struggled against Lester due to lack of scouting on the young lefty, but Lester's goal in 2008 was to trust his abilities and pick up the pace. He did... and the it made a world of difference.
In 2008 Lester averaged 5.7 innings per start and made it into the 6th inning just four times in 11 starts (36%). In 2008, he went 6+ in 20 of his 33 starts (60%) and averaged 6.36 IP/GS... enabling him to win 16 games on the season.
For good reason Red Sox Nation expected another, if not better, performance from Lester in 2009, but so far he has looked more like the 2007 version. Though eight starts, Lester has averaged 5.8 innings and has only reached the 6th inning twice... not coincidentally, his two wins in 2009 came from those two games.
Lester spent the spring working on a new pitch to help keep batter on their toes - knowing that he was no longer an "unknown" in the league. Maybe he's trying to hard to mix up his pitches... or maybe the hitters have found a weakness or a tell in his delivery... or maybe he's simply overthinking things again.
Bottom Line: The strikeouts are still there (6.75 per GS) but he's already given up 10 homers (4 shy of his season total for '08 and he fallen into a bad habit of imploding in the 5th or 6th inning... just like he did in 2007.
I watch all the games, but I'm not John Farrell... I'd love to hear what you guys think the problem is... or maybe you don't think there is one. Looking forward to your comments.
Rob - www.bottomlinesox.com