Lester finally elite
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Boston Red Sox starter Jon Lester has 110 career wins, a no-hitter and 2.11 ERA in 76 2/3 playoff innings, but he's never been an elite fantasy pitcher. Until now.

Lester has gone 10-7 with a 2.50 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 137 innings this season. He ranks 10th among pitchers on Yahoo's player rater.

This is the pitcher Lester was supposed to be five years ago, but he was never able to get over the hump.

That's not to say his numbers weren't very good. From 2008-11, he averaged 203 innings, 16 wins and 196 strikeouts and had a 3.33 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.

At his peak in 2010, Lester had 19 wins, a 3.25 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 225 Ks over 208 innings in 2010. At least that seemed to be his peak, especially when he had a 4.82 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 2012. He bounced back last year, but with a 3.75 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 177 strikeouts he wasn't more than a mid-level starter, ranking 92nd among pitchers in Yahoo leagues.

It didn't appear he would ever get back to his 2008-11 heights, much less improve upon them. But he has.

Lester has been utterly dominant over his last seven starts, going 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP and a 47/8 K/BB in 52 2/3 innings.

In that timeframe, he's held batters to a 14 percent line-drive rate, induced ground balls at a 46.9 percent rate, generated an infield pop-up on 23.2 percent of his fly balls and allowed zero home runs.

All indications are that Lester will continue to pitch at a high level, so there shouldn't be any selling going on from fantasy owners.

He has the lowest walk rate of his career at 5.6 percent, and his 25.6 percent strikeout rate is his best since 2010.

Lester's 2.59 FIP ranks fourth in baseball among qualified starters, and his 3.08 xFIP is 13th best.

The southpaw's swing-and-miss rate and contact rate are both at their best levels since 2010. His first-pitch-strike rate is above 60 percent for the second time in his career and he's reached an 0-2 count on a career-high 28.5 percent of his plate appearances, 19th best among qualified pitchers.

The ascension has come at the perfect time for Lester. He's in the final season of a six-year, $42.75 million contract and is about to get paid like a frontline starter.

For the first time, at least in fantasy, he actually is one.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

Powered by The Sports Network.