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Why Jon Lester Will Have a Dominant Second Half

     Jon Lester had potentially his best start of the 2009 campaign Saturday night against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway. Lester who has historically owned the Royals (1.20 career ERA), and has been historically dominant at home (19-5 at Fenway), carved up the Royals for eight shutout innings in his first start against them since the 2008 no-hitter.

     Sporting a mid-nineties fastball, a filthy curveball and cutter, and a solid changeup, Lester has maybe the dirtiest stuff in the American League, and certainly from the left side. However, this season, it has been tough for him to get it all together. His ERA didn't dip below 4.00 until last night.

     That said, I think that Lester's recent string of great starts, added to this dominant showing, might set him up for an impressive stretch run. Lester shows all the signs of rounding into form. Not only is Lester putting his sick array of stuff together, but he has a history of being a late bloomer.

     Lester was drafted in 2002, allegedly throwing mid-nineties gas out of high school. Scouts said he kept this fastball through his Minor League career, but when Lester got to the Show in 2006, it was nowheres to be found. Two years and a bout of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma later, and Lester's fastball finally blossomed.

     In Lester's final start of 2007, Game 4 of the World Series, his fastball climbed steadily as the game wore on. This is a trend we often see in Lester's performances - he often gets better as the game goes on. In another example, Lester's fastest pitch of the no-hitter was a 95 mph heater to strike out the final batter.

     Also in 2008, you can see a steady progression throughout the year. Lester lowered his ERA by almost 40 points in the second half, won two more games, and secured his place as one of the top lefties in the game. The major transition was in his control. In short, he had none in April and early May, but after the no-hitter, his K/BB ratio leaped from 1.86 first half to 3.18 in the second.

     All of this leads me to believe that Lester should continue to get better, not just this year, but he might get even better as a picther. With great stuff, a will of steel, one of the games great pitching coaches, catchers, and bullpens on his side, and a penchant for showing up in the clutch, expect Lester to be the second half pitcher of 2009.


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