Have you ever had to set up a computer for your parents, or maybe your grandparents? I remember explaining to my mom and dad how email wasn’t actually being received by their physical PC, but was simply being stored in an account that they could access from anywhere.
We could take things in another direction and look at the dome sitting atop the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. Because Filippo Brunelleschi destroyed his plans, no one fully understands the architectural magic of what I consider to be the most magnificent structure in the world. But you can still enjoy the views from its summit nearly 600 years after it was completed.
The Cubs were absolutely hammered into the ground Friday afternoon, to the point that you could do little but laugh at their misfortune. It was so bad that they actually had three position players take the mound, which at one point meant having two pitchers bat back-to-back late in the game. Jon Lester was a big part of the loss, allowing eight earned runs and walking five while striking out only one over three innings.
Lester has struggled more than usual to miss bats this season, which isn’t a tremendous surprise given his relatively advanced age. But even with a 7.09 K/9 that’s lower than in any season since 2008 and an 8.5 percent swinging-strike rate that sees him in single digits for the first time in five years, Friday’s abomination was cause for a little concern. At the very least, it was frustrating for both pitcher and fans alike.
So you can understand why he bristled when The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma asked him after the game about his overall lack of whiffs. Lester blasted the folks who have “nothing better to do than overanalyze things” and said he’s “not concerned about all the other analytic BS,” which might include exit velocity and spin rate and so on.
Asked Jon Lester about his lack of swing & miss this season & he gave a lengthy answer that included, "There's people who have nothing better to do than overanalyze things," & "It doesn't matter what the exit velocity is," & "I'm not concerned about all the other analytic BS."
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 20, 2018
I suppose I could attempt to drum up some sort of faux outrage, clutching my intellectual pearls and wondering how dare Lester defame the stats I myself clumsily attempt to apply on a daily basis. But rather than be disingenuous, I’ll simply cock my head slightly to the left and make that face that says, “Meh, whatever.”
Does my mom need to understand how her email works to how to send and receive it? Do I need to understand the structural nuances of Brunelleschi’s dome to feel safe shuffling between and on top of its centuries-old walls? Then answer to both questions, of course, is no. And Lester doesn’t need to understand how his pitches do or don’t miss bass to know that they either did or didn’t miss bats.
That’s what Mike Borzello and Tommy Hottovy and Jim Hickey are there for. They’re the sons setting up the computer for their parents or the tour guide explaining the story of the dome. They’re doing the research and sending Lester the email, so all’s he’s got to do is open it.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that kind of what you want from your pitcher? Let me rephrase that: Isn’t that kind of what you want from a guy who’s been doing it as well as Lester has for as long as he has? Leave all the scientific studies of the effects of pine tar on spin rate to Trevor Bauer, loser of two World Series games. I’ll take what Lester brings to the table.
Of course, there’s still something to be said for being open to new and different methods and measurements. And Lester appears to be openly dismissive of, if not downright antagonistic toward, some things that could actually help him. What we need to remember, though, is that he can use those things without knowing that he’s using those things.
It’s the coaching staff’s job to blend all that statistical cauliflower into his mashed potatoes and then to add enough butter so that he doesn’t even bother to question the slight change in texture. They can make suggestions based on what Lester’s peripherals are saying, though they may need to soften the message or deliver it in a way that makes it seem as though the pitcher has come up with it himself.
Then they just need to sit back and let the big dog eat, which would be better than having him vomit it up like we saw Friday.