May 20, 2008

Wicked Lester

Jon Lester:
When I walked the leadoff guy [in the ninth], I had to step back and tell myself I don't have to be too fine. Let them hit the ball, let them put it in play. Let the guys behind me make the plays. ...

The last at-bat? To be honest, I don't even remember. I do know that early in the at-bat he fouled off a good curveball and a good cutter. We'd be doing that all night, throwing the four-seam cutter in, then try to go with the four-seam fastball away.
Warming up before the game, Lester was a bit worried about the start:
Usually when you're in the bullpen you can figure out what you're going to have. You have a good curveball, a good changeup or whatever. Today I didn't have any. I didn't know what was going to happen.
John Farrell, who came within three outs of no-hitting the Royals on May 4, 1989, agreed: "It was probably the most erratic he was of any bullpen throughout this season."


Jason Varitek is the first catcher to be behind the plate for four no-hitters:
Hideo Nomo (April 4, 2001, at Orioles)
Derek Lowe (April 27, 2002 vs Devil Rays)
Clay Buchholz (September 1, 2007 vs Orioles)
Jon Lester (May 19, 2008 vs Royals)
Ray Schalk's Hall of Fame plaque says he caught four no-hit games, but MLB changed its definition of a no-hitter in 1991 and Schalk's total dropped to three.

Varitek had no idea the Royals were hitless until the eighth inning:
I looked up after the seventh and saw that he was around 100 pitches [97] and I was like, "He did his job". And then I glanced in the bullpen and saw nobody warming up and I said, "That's kind of weird". I looked back [at the scoreboard] and said, "Uh-oh!"
The Globe has pictures and post-game video. Red Sox Monster has video of the final out.

I often think about a possible no-hitter after a pitcher gets through the first two innings. Yet for some reason last night -- too much attention to game thread comments? -- but I didn't even notice that Kansas City had no hits until the end of the fifth inning.

37 comments:

phil said...

Globe:
Julio Lugo, on coming out for a defensive replacement, Alex Cora, in late innings: "I'm an employee. Alex hadn't played for a while, and I think they wanted him back in the regular rhythm of games."

We can debate the merits of Cora as a defensive replacement (or just conclude Lugo's a better defensive shortstop with his better range, errors notwithstanding), but we can all agree that that wasn't the reason Francona put Cora in.

Hard to fault him for giving a diplomatic answer to a crappy question, though.

L-girl said...

That quote from Varitek is great. Uh-oh!

"Yet for some reason last night -- too much attention to game thread comments? -- but I didn't even notice that Kansas City had no hits until the end of the fifth inning."

You said, "OK, time to pay more attention to this game" - I realized what you meant and instantly got nervous.

Jack Marshall said...

Maybe Lugo was covering for his manager's rock. What WAS the reason he put Cora in? I agree 100% with Redsock---it's a dumb move, an example of Francona's weakness as a tactician, I think. Fact: Cora can't get to balls that Lugo can....I had a horrible flash of a dribbling grounder sneaking past a flattened Cora. What the hell was Francona thinking?

I know: all's well that ends well. They would have been saying the same about John NcNamara if the Sox had won Game 6 in '86...

tim said...

Oh man, this is amazing. Thank god for the internets, I missed this one (shame :( ) but got to see all 27 outs here...we'll see how long that link lasts before the MLB asspirates get it removed.

Couldn't have happened to a better guy! Masterson's turn tonight though!

phil said...

Beckett said the tension in the dugout for the latter part of the game was palpable.

"I don't know how in the hell he can be more nervous than I am," said Beckett. "I'm sure everyone else on the bench was feeling the same way. It makes me want to puke, how nervous I am.

"I can't imagine going out there. I think I had a no-hitter in the first one time. I haven't ever really taken one that deep.

"Me and some of the guys were kind of joking about it. Do we stand up? Do we sit down? What are we supposed to do? If we're eating a candy bar and he has a no-hitter, do we keep eating candy bars?"


Wasn't eating candybars David Wells's method?

Gareth said...

Sorry to get picky (which of course means I will), but John Farrell's no hit bid ended with no outs in the ninth; he faced two batters.

s1c said...

Joe Posnanski has a nice blog entry about the no-no. A great read and also check out his column in the KC star. Joe is one of the best.

Jack Marshall said...

The Globe points out that technically (according to the newer MLB standards), Varitek is the only catcher to catch 4 no-hitters. I've always been a little leery of the Varitek mystique---I never heard anything about him being indispensible when he was platooning with Hatteberg---but do you think the no-hitters are concrete proof that he really IS something special handling pitchers?

Bill James used to always run the stats showing ERAs when each catcher was behind the plate, and often the back-up's numbers were much better (or much worse) than the #1. I didn't think it proved much, because of the sample size for the reserves.

When you look at the list of catchers who have caught multiple no-hitters, the ones who are familiar seem to be good defensive catchers; there are no Ernie Lombardis or Earl Williams's that I could identify. (Then again, there are plenty of great catchers who never caught a no-hitter.)

I'm inclined to think the four no-nos is an indicator of Variteks' special skills. But it's only four games.

What do you think?

redsock said...

Gareth: Fixed.

do you think the no-hitters are concrete proof that he really IS something special handling pitchers?

No. No proof of anything at all -- except luck, maybe.

No-hitters are not thrown by only the greatest pitchers, so I can't imagine that only great catchers catch them. There should be even less of a connection with catchers.

The thing with Tek is (as I never tire of pointing out): he gets praise when the pitcher does well, but when the pitcher sucks, it's solely the pitcher's fault.

If pitchers like throwing to him for whatever reason, that's great. I'm sure some pitchers have been indifferent or were not crazy about his skills.

redsock said...

Also, it seems that the media's noise about Varitek's preparation and skill behind the plate has grown at approximately the same rate that his hitting skills have waned.

phil said...

I was going to recommend Posnanski's piece, so I'll second it instead.

Jack Marshall said...

Of course, one could argue that great catchers allow less-than great-pitchers to throw great games. (I wouldn't, though.) James once did a study of no-hit pitchers, and even with the Bobo Hollomans in the group, the average pitcher who threw a no-hitter was damn good. Obviously there's a lot of luck---Clemens never doing it is a great example---but when the multiple no-hit pitchers are named Cy Young, Koufax and Ryan, I think it's clear that quality plays a big part too.

Your point about the press and Tek is well taken. It drives me nuts to hear McCarver and others say that 2006 "proved" that Tek was the Sox MVP, because they fell apart after he was injured. Of course, Ramirez, Ortiz, Nixon, Schilling,Foulke, Papelbon,Wakefield, Lester, Wells, and Clement were also out for long periods that season, but nobody mentions that.

ish said...

Pedro could retire at the end of the season.

Jake of All Trades said...

With a little more luck, Tek could have caught 6 no hitters by now.

Anyone else catch the typo on the "Storybook" headline newspaper? Does that make it even more of a collector's item?

Jere said...

First of all, thanks for putting the "Wicked Lester" nickname up top. It could take off finally.

Second, isn't this weird? How people didn't realize it was a No for so long? I can pinpoint when I heard up until--it was the fourth, when Jacoby stole 2nd and 3rd. We were in the car about to get out and start warming up for our softball game, and Castig was saying he didn't remember that happening by a Sox baserunner his ENTIRE career (26 years). And I hadn't thought "no-hitter" once.

Look at our game threads, we're often saying "no-hitter" in the first inning! Yet you and L didn't know till the fifth, I never knew, and when I talked to my dad after the game, he said he didn't realize until the 7th! What a strange phenomenon.

Amy said...

I'm inclined to think the four no-nos is an indicator of Variteks' special skills. But it's only four games.

What do you think?


You know what I think....

I loved that quote as well. He looked as happy as I have ever seen him when interviewed by the press last night, and I don't think it was about his record, I think it was all about Lester.

Pepe Lepew said...

'Jon Baby Jon'?
Oh, brother!
Really proud of Jon, though. Great job.
ESPN kept spelling his name "John" on their little news alerts.

Amy said...

I love the quote from Beckett also. If all of us were holding our breath, I can only imagine what it was like in the dugout.

And for the record, Tek's BA is now 290. Maybe not overwhelming, but nothing to laugh at either, especially for a catcher.

phil said...

A starting catcher is more irreplaceable than a starting outfielder, because the market for available catching is much more limited. In one sense, that makes the catcher more valuable.

Nobody deserves to be called the 2006 MVP, though, because that year is best forgotten.

nixon33 said...

i love it! Tek: "UH OH!"

phil said...

It's being reported today that Ted Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor, so hopefully another kid from Boston can pull off another upset.

Abby82168 said...

Gotta tell you all - even as a Yankee fan (ducking for cover!) - I was giddy with excitement that the kid achieved such a feat. Talk about a feel-good story. Hey, with my team in its current uninspiring state, it's nice to be able to cheer for someone, even if he is on the rival team.

Good on ya, Lester!

9casey said...

I Mentioned it on the the thread after last nights game .That I believe Varitek is a Hall of Famer....He is a catcher and has caught 4 no-hitters...wheter it was luck or whatever.

And hitting stats aren't that much a big deal for catchers in the hall..Schalk is in there and he I think he has 11 career HR's.......

Varitek in your minds is overrated and never gets ripped when pitchers get hit.......watch for location he can call it they have to throw it correctly.


I am trying to figure out how on this blog Jon Lester's no -hitter turned into ripping Tito for pulling Lugo and Bagging on Tek.....Cynical...

redsock said...

Casey: You know better than to judge a guy by # of HRs, especially one that played half his career in the Deadball Era.

Ray Schalk was a great defensive catcher, but had a career OPS+ of 83. For reference, Lugo is at 86 this year.

He never came anywhere even close to leading the AL in any offensive category. But he was clean in 1919! He is one of the worst HoF choices (voted in by the Veterans Commitee in 1955).

Is Varitek worthy? He's better than Schalk, sure, but the "X is better than Y and Y is in the HoF, so X belongs" argument is very weak.

Look at his leaderboard appearances, James's Gray Ink test and the list similar players.

Put him in the Red Sox HoF -- but there is no way on Earth he's Hall of Fame material.

redsock said...

"Jon Baby Jon"

I don't get it. What's the pun?

when Jacoby stole 2nd and 3rd ... Castig was saying he didn't remember that happening by a Sox baserunner his ENTIRE career (26 years)

I find this VERY hard to believe, even with the Sox.

Here is a list of every Red Sox player who has stolen at least 2 bases in one game.

At the top -- Jerry Remy with 4 SB on June 14, 1980. He stole second and third in the 9th inning, though I guess 1980 falls outside Castig's range.

If anyone wants to look through the 2 SB players, go ahead!

Jack Marshall said...

Not cynical, 9Casey---one can only go "Oooohhhh" and "Yay" for so long. The Lugo-Cora move is important, because it may say something about how the manager will deal with future challenges. I think the degree of credit a catcher deserves for a pitching gem is a pretty provocative issue.

Boy, when you mentioned Ray Schalk being in the Hall, I knew that response from Allan would be along in nanoseconds. There are oh so many catchers that would have to go in before you lowered the bar to Tek's level---Ted Simmons, Torre,Freehan, Boone, Lance Parish, Tony Pena, even. A Red Sox Hall of Famer for sure, though.

phil said...

I don't get it. What's the pun?

Affleck movie.

L-girl said...

Look at our game threads, we're often saying "no-hitter" in the first inning! Yet you and L didn't know till the fifth, I never knew, and when I talked to my dad after the game, he said he didn't realize until the 7th! What a strange phenomenon.

Jere, I thought the same thing! Funny.

With a little more luck, Tek could have caught 6 no hitters by now.

And with a little more luck, dozens of pitchers who haven't thrown them could have. That's partly the beauty of it, I think. No-nos and perfect games depend a lot on skill (not just the pitchers' skills, the batters and fielders, too) and a lot on luck.

Zenslinger said...

That's a nice comment to make, Abby.

A Sox fan at The Bar always repeats the stuff about Varitek's injury and its effect on the 2006 pitching staff. I think it has some merit, but, shit -- like RS said, everyone was on the DL. A-Gone not excepted.

But some years things don't go your way. It was tough, but, as I've said before, we don't take the Steinbrenner hard line, do we? And even if we were to win the WS this year (long way off though it is), we wouldn't start acting like we're entitled to a playoff spot every year, would we? No...no, we wouldn't.

Jere said...

"I find this VERY hard to believe, even with the Sox."

Okay, I perused the list. Last time it happened was '03 when Adrian Brown stole second and third consecutively while Millar was up. (He still didn't knock him in with less than 2 outs...) Before that, Damon did it in '02. Buckner was the first to do it in the Castig era, and Burks and Lyons did it as well. (I didn't even look at the 1990s.) So, yeah, Castig forgot quite a few.... To be fair, he didn't say it like it was fact, like, "That's the first time...." He just said he couldn't ever remember it happening before. But it clearly has.

Jere said...

Okay, I covered the 90s, here's the rest of the list: Darren Lewis, Lee Tinsley, and Otis Nixon, who did it FOUR times, all in 1994.

redsock said...

Somewhere I have a list of all the August 2006 injuries. It's pretty legnthy.

Here is some stuff:


July 17: Tim Wakefield (rib fracture)

July 30: Trot Nixon swung and missed a pitch and had to leave the game because of a strained right biceps. He didn't return until Sept. 3.

July 31: Jason Varitek had to come out of a game because of a torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury that required surgery. He also didn't return until Sept. 3.

As I recall, just about every day in August, some player was hurt or trying to come back.

Aug. 29: Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz (heart palpitations) and Wily Mo Pena (wrist) were sent home for further medical tests.
They joined Jon Lester (tests that revealed lymphoma) at the hospital.

Aug. 29: Coco Crisp jams his left shoulder he suffered while making a diving catch. Schilling suffered a strained right latissimus.

By late August, the Sox were down to one healthy position player on the bench -- catcher Javier Lopez -- who was released on Sept. 8.

redsock said...

FOUND IT -- In my 2007 folder, for some reason.

September 03, 2006
List of Injuries

1. Tim Wakefield - stress fracture in rib, July 20th
2. Trot Nixon - strained bicep, July 30th
3. Jason Varitek - torn meniscus, July 31st
4. Mike Lowell - bruised foot, August 3rd
5. Doug Mirabelli - twisted ankle, August 4th
6. Mark Loretta - bruised elbow, August 8th
7. Trot Nixon - staph infection in elbow, August 15th
8. Alex Gonzalez - sore knee, August 16th
9. Jonathan Papelbon - bruised heel, August 20th
10. Alex Gonzalez - strained oblique, August 21st
11. Manny Ramirez - patella tendonitis, August 23rd
12. Mark Loretta - sore quad, August 24th
13. Josh Beckett - cut finger, August 25th
14. Kevin Youkilis - stomach bug, August 25th
15. Wily Mo Pena - sore wrist, August 26th
16. Doug Mirabelli - sore ankle, August 27th
17. Jon Lester - lymphoma, August 27th (not diagnosed until September 1st)
18. David Ortiz - irregular heartbeat, August 28th
19. Keith Foulke - sore back, August 28th
20. Coco Crisp - sore shoulder, August 30th
21. Jonathan Papelbon - shoulder strain, September 1st
22. Curt Schilling - strained lat muscle, September 1st

Notes from the link:
- In a month and a half, the Red Sox suffered 22 injuries
- The worst stretch was from August 20-30, during which 11 players were injured
- Nixon, Mirabelli, Gonzalez, Papelbon and Loretta were all injured more than once during this stretch
- From this list, only Nixon, Varitek, Gonzalez, Lester and Wakefield made trips to the DL

********

Yeah, it was all due to Tek being out.

phil said...

What, all the replays of the final outs of the Lester and Buchholz no-hitters haven't sufficiently demonstrated Tek's hoisting abilities? He would have carried that team if not for the knee injury.

Or something.

Jere said...

Here's a question...I saw Nixon33's "uh-oh" quote from Tek earlier. Just now they played the clip. It almost sounded like "I looked back and saw oh-oh." As in, "0-0." As in, "0 runs, 0 hits." It was probably uh-oh, but does anybody think the 0-0 theory might have some credence?

Waiting on pins and needles for your lengthy and thoughtful responses,

Jere

Pepe Lepew said...

Blogger phil said...

I don't get it. What's the pun?

Affleck movie.

It's also a B-52s song!

Tue May 20, 03:28:00 PM

I've since been informed that it's actually, "Gone Daddy Gone," and it isn't the B-52s, it's the Violent Femmes.
I'm an idiot!

L-girl said...

Waiting on pins and needles for your lengthy and thoughtful responses

Hm.