Ever since the lead up to the 2014 AL Wild Card game, we've heard the narrative:
Jon Lester can't/won't/is scared to throw to first base.
He was with the Athletics at the time but now with the Cubs, Lester definitely has an issue when it comes to throwing to first. It's weird, given that he's one of the best in the world when it comes to command throwing toward home plate. But it's there and he's not the first person to develop this quasi-phobia. He might be the first left-hander pitcher to have it specifically regarding a throw to first base in the Internet era, however, and as such, the coverage has been a bit over-the-top these past few years. We all saw the coverage last postseason. We saw the Dodgers getting outlandish leads in NLCS Game 5 but not really doing anything with them.
It's kind of taken on a life of its own, coming to a T with Lester's first pick in years on Saturday:
Pay particular attention to the 40-second mark and beyond, when you get the Cardinals' broadcast. In the extended version of the replay, color man Tim McCarver was having a grand ol' time talking about how Lester won't throw over there no matter what.
I'm not picking on Tim. He's not alone. That's just how it's become with runners on base and Lester on the mound. It's a hilarious narrative that he can't throw over there. So you get runners like Tommy Pham dancing 20 feet off the base like they're so cute and the announcers laugh it up.
It's just so funny!
Here's the thing, though. We're gonna fire up a couple LEADERBOARDING machines.
Caught stealing, pitchers
Hmm. It's easy to steal off Lester? Why have there only been six successful attempts against eight caught? The league average stolen base percentage is 71, but opposing runners are only successful 43 percent of the time against Lester. Twenty-two pitchers have allowed at least seven steals this season, which is more than Lester. Only two of them have seen more stolen base attempts, too.
What's more: Lester's got a catcher behind the plate that should instill fear in baserunners getting a secondary lead.
Pickoffs, among catchers
Four catchers have picked a runner off twice and no one else has done it more than once.
Contreras' arm along with Lester being really quick to home plate have totally mitigated the running game. Sure, it's all cute and laughy to get those 20-foot leads off Lester or line up in a track stance, but it's not actually accomplishing anything of substance. It's wasted effort and motion in an attempt to fluster a player who doesn't get flustered.
At this point, Lester and Contreras probably rather enjoy seeing the runners making a fool of themselves dancing around over there. That's easy pickings for the duo. Just ask the 14 runners who have fallen victim.