Jon Lester

Did You Know? – Best Southpaws In Red Sox History

With the trade of Jon Lester to Oakland this past week, so departs one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in Red Sox team history, with 110 wins, a no-hitter, and two World Series championships to his credit. Among southpaws in team history, his 110 wins is second-most behind the legendary Mel Parnell and his 1386 strikeouts leads all others.

There is no question from anyone who has watched him over his eight-plus seasons with Boston that he has been an invaluable contributor to its recent success and there’s a possibility that we have not seen him pitch for the last time in a Red Sox uniform. So how does he compare to others greats who have pitched for this franchise?

In franchise history, there have been 133 lefties who have started at least one game for the Red Sox. We looked at Baseball-Reference.com‘s Play Index and narrowed the search to those pitchers who toed the rubber for at least 100 games with Boston as a starter.

Top Career ERA+

Rk Player ERA+ GS G CG SHO GF W L W-L% IP SO ERA
1 Lefty Grove 143 190 214 119 15 17 105 62 .629 1539.2 743 3.34
2 Dutch Leonard 129 161 211 96 25 40 90 64 .584 1361.1 771 2.13
3 Babe Ruth 125 143 158 105 17 11 89 46 .659 1190.1 483 2.19
4 Mel Parnell 125 232 289 113 20 36 123 75 .621 1752.2 732 3.50
5 Jon Lester 120 241 242 10 3 0 110 63 .636 1519.1 1386 3.64
6 Ray Collins 116 151 199 90 19 36 84 62 .575 1336.0 511 2.51

Top Career WAR

Rk Player WAR GS G CG SHO W L W-L% IP SO ERA
1 Lefty Grove 44.7 190 214 119 15 105 62 .629 1539.2 743 3.34
2 Jon Lester 31.0 241 242 10 3 110 63 .636 1519.1 1386 3.64
3 Mel Parnell 27.4 232 289 113 20 123 75 .621 1752.2 732 3.50
4 Dutch Leonard 27.2 161 211 96 25 90 64 .584 1361.1 771 2.13
5 Ray Collins 23.1 151 199 90 19 84 62 .575 1336.0 511 2.51
6 Babe Ruth 20.8 143 158 105 17 89 46 .659 1190.1 483 2.19

Top Career WHIP

Rk Player WHIP GS G CG SHO W L W-L% IP SO ERA
1 Jesse Tannehill 1.118 106 116 85 14 62 38 .620 885.2 342 2.50
2 Ray Collins 1.134 151 199 90 19 84 62 .575 1336.0 511 2.51
3 Dutch Leonard 1.136 161 211 96 25 90 64 .584 1361.1 771 2.13
4 Babe Ruth 1.142 143 158 105 17 89 46 .659 1190.1 483 2.19
5 Jon Lester 1.287 241 242 10 3 110 63 .636 1519.1 1386 3.64
6 Lefty Grove 1.321 190 214 119 15 105 62 .629 1539.2 743 3.34

Grove, who is the only pitcher to notch his 300th victory in a Red Sox uniform, pitched eight seasons between 1934 and 1941. His ERA+ of 134 and WAR of 44.7 leads the franchise in both categories for left-handed pitchers. He is also sixth all-time in WHIP. Leonard, who pitched six seasons between 1913 and 1918 and was part of three World Series championships, has the second-best ERA+ in franchise history (134), is fourth in WAR (27.2), and third in WHIP (1.136), putting him very close to Grove.

Also showing up on all three lists is Ruth who, while better known for changing the game of baseball with his bat, was part of the same three world championships as Leonard and has the third-best ERA+ in franchise history for southpaws. Collins, while perhaps not as well-known to casual Red Sox fans, is also on all three lists, playing for two world champions in 1912 and 1915 and currently sitting at number two in franchise history for WHIP (1.134).

Lester, upon close examination, certainly matches well in all three categories. His ERA+ of 120 places him fifth behind Ruth, his WAR of 31.0 places him second only to Grove, and his WHIP puts him fifth in that category. Also consider that, save for Collins and Tannehill, every other player listed here is a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, and it’s probably a safe bet to say that he will someday be there, too.

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