Tim Britton reports that Jon Lester used Wednesday's "B" game against the Twins to work on his change-up. Lester described that getting the "feel" for the pitch was important, and that he wouldn't focus on his curveball until later on in the spring, when outings were longer than the three innings he pitched today.
Lester went on to say that he felt better last season with his changeup than his curveball, which he confessed he rarely commanded well in 2011. He thinks that had a part in his high pitch counts at various times during the season.
Thanks to Pitch f/x, we can check that out. (Whether or not it was the curve, anyway. If you haven't entirely blocked out the end of 2011, you remember those high pitch counts.) Lester has never been great at throwing his curve for strikes, but last year was more of a problem than usual:
"CH" is change and "CU" is curve. (Data courtesy of Texas Leaguers.) Lester's change-up was rarely thrown for strikes in 2009, but he's had much better luck with it the last two seasons, and was above-average in terms of notching strikes with it in 2011. His curve, while never standing out in terms of getting strikes, was worse than usual in that regard in 2011.
He threw both pitches less than usual, though, unsurprising given neither was doing great for him in terms of results. The change-up was doing better on whiffs than your average off-speed offering, but, according to Fangraphs, it was worth just -0.5 runs in 2011. While those pitch value figures are not predictive, they do measure what happened. You wouldn't be surprised to see, given the table above, that Lester's curve was his weakest offering of the year, at -5.4 runs on the season. With better command, it would have been a more valuable pitch (as it has been every other full year in his career).
His cutter and fastball were in fine form, but he'll need one of either the change or curve to work for him in order to improve on last year. It wasn't a bad season, by any means, but it wasn't the dominating Lester we expect to see, either.
Fenway got an early 100th birthday present this year, as it has been recognized in the National Register Of Historic Places. The Massachusetts Historical Commission nominated Fenway for the honor back in December, but it wasn't made official until Wednesday.
This makes things a little tougher on the owners of the Red Sox, as they need any changes they want to make to the park to be approved by the National Register. They already had some restrictions in place in this regard: for instance, the loss of tax credits is one reason the right field wall wasn't brought in closer for the 2011 season, as it would have put them over the threshold for accepted renovations. Let's travel back in time to see what Field of Schemes author Neil deMause had to say about that:
- Starting in around 2006, the Red Sox have been applying for state tax credits from a pool designated for historic preservation projects. (Eligible projects can have up to 20% of their costs paid for by the state.) They've received $11.1 million so far, and are seeking an additional $28.4 million.
- To get historic preservation credits, needless to say, you need to be doing historic preservation. The state commission ruled that moving the fences in from their historic distances so that relief pitchers could have more elbow room wouldn't qualify as "preservation" - and so would jeopardize the entire $39.5 million that the Sox are looking to get.
- Sox execs, needless to say, dropped the bullpen plan like a hot rock.
Being recognized as a historic venue is neat and all, but it's more red tape for the Red Sox brass as they try to modernize this (still viable) relic. As a fan, I'm excited to see the park get the recognition it deserves. But hopefully this doesn't keep the owners from continuing to improve the seating, the field, the fences, and so on.