Each time that Jon Lester has gone to the mound the past couple years has had a bit of a sideshow. At this point, it’s no secret that he has trouble throwing the ball to the bases. This should obviously be a huge problem because controlling the running game is a major part of the pitchers job. For some reason though, not many teams have taken advantage of this. In the 3rd inning of the St. Louis Cardinals home opener, Aledmys Diaz was able to change that by stealing both second and third base.
I’ve never understood why players don’t run wild against Lester. Not only does he struggle to throw to first base, he doesn’t even try. I’ve seen players take big leads with Lester staring them down, then he fires home anyway and the player doesn’t run. The runner is then susceptible to being picked off by the catcher because of his big lead.
If the runner were to take a huge lead and take off the second Lester picks his leg up the catcher would have no chance at throwing him out. That’s exactly what Diaz did on Sunday night.
Diaz was aggressive
According to Statcast Diaz had a secondary lead of 25.2 feet off of first base when he stole second. This is five feet further than the average secondary lead on successful stolen base attempts of second base. When leading off of second base, he had a secondary lead of 33.6 feet. This is also five feet further than the average secondary lead of successful stolen base attempts of third base.
I was at the game and these leads looked downright comical in person. Lester just kept staring at him and never even seemed to think about throwing over. When he was on second base neither middle infielder seemed to pay him any attention either as he was dancing around in the base paths.
Why doesn’t this work all the time?
I believe that players just simply don’t feel comfortable when taking much more than their normal lead. It gets to be an uncomfortable feeling being more than a step and a dive away. Matheny alluded to this himself in his postgame comments.
“It’s hard when you tell a guy to do that, and you get out there and you feel like you’re in no-man’s land, especially when you get to second base and you have everybody playing back” said Matheny, referring to the leads that Diaz was taking.
It would definitely be an odd feeling with your initial lead being that far off the bag.
The Cardinals will see plenty of Lester this year and I would like to see Diaz keep it up. However, I would also like to see the rest of the team get in on the action. There are a lot of bases to be taken against Lester and it’s time to start taking advantage of it.
My hope is that other teams will see this as well and start copying it. It’s great that a Cardinal is doing this, but if everyone starts doing it against Lester it could mean a couple game swing in the standings when it’s all said and done.
Thanks for reading!