It probably seems like odd timing, me writing about how Jon Lester’s yips scare me after I just chastised people for insinuating that he’s not performing up to his contract. But I think it’s fair to praise his overall performance while still admitting that his inability to throw the ball to first base scares the hell out of me. Seriously, I just checked. Nope, not even a bit of hell left in there. Now I’m starting to worry about what I’ll evacuate the next time Lester spikes a ball in Anthony Rizzo’s general direction.
It was one thing when the issues were confined simply to Lester’s inability and/or lack of desire to throw over to hold runners. That was blown out of proportion in the first place and and can be largely mitigated by changing up timing on the mound to keep runners guessing. It becomes a whole ‘nother problem entirely when we get what we had Sunday. As you saw above, the Rockies’ Brandon Barnes bunted, forcing Lester to field the ball and do whatever the heck it was he did to get the force-out.
The pitcher addressed the issue after the game, admitting that he and Rizzo have an understanding that Lester will opt to go low in order to avoid lollipopping the throw 10 feet over his first baseman’s head. Still, that move today looked more like a quarterback tossing the football away in disgust after a false start penalty. Going low is one thing, but that was at least a two-hopper that spent all of 10 feet in the air. It just amazes me to see a guy otherwise so adept at throwing a baseball toward home plate find himself at a complete loss to perform that same function in the direction of another base.
Lester was great outside of that wacky throw, allowing only four hits and walking two. He even laced a double that had an exit velocity of 110 mph, harder than any of the home runs the Cubs hit in Saturday’s game. But what about the games in which he’s not at his best? Or what about facing a team that decides to Ned Yost him to death? There’s a not insignificant part of me that would actually find a good measure of perverse entertainment from watching it all unfold. I mean, just try not to laugh while watching that clip over and over and over again.
Even Lester himself had a little fun at his own expense.
— Jon Lester (@JLester34) April 18, 2016
I have had arguments with people who don’t believe the yips are a real thing, but I think it’s pretty obvious from watching Lester — and he’s far from the first to deal with them — that they’re real and they’re not very spectacular. The hope at this point is that he can continue to work around the block, maybe eventually get through it with mental skills director Darnell McDonald. Heck, maybe a trial by fire would actually help matters. Until then, we’ll just have to put up with all kinds of articles from journalists and bloggers alike decrying Lester’s throwing problems.
Wait, that’s what this is. D’oh!