There is little doubt that Jon Lester, in his eight-plus seasons with the Red Sox, was an invaluable contributor to its recent success. So how does he compare with others southpaws who have pitched for this franchise?
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?
Continue reading “Did You Know? – Best Southpaws In Red Sox History”
Less than two years after being diagnosed with cancer, Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester threw the 18th no-hitter in Boston history Monday night, blanking the Kansas City Royals 7-0 with just two walks allowed while striking out nine at Fenway Park. Lester’s gem comes over eight months after fellow starter Clay Buchholz threw a no-no against the Baltimore Orioles last fall in the rookie’s second major league start, the first time since the California Angels in 1974 and 1975 that a single team has recorded back-to-back no-hitters – in that instance, both were thrown by Nolan Ryan. Lester, who was the winning pitcher in the final game of the 2007 World Series for the Sox, threw 130 pitches, 86 for strikes, in his first-ever complete game effort and became just the fourth left-handed pitcher to throw a no-no in team history, the first since Red Sox Hall of Fame pitcher Mel Parnell threw one in July of 1956.
After going 36 years between Dave Morehead’s no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park in 1965 and former Japanese sensation Hideo Nomo’s feat in 2001 at Camden Yards against the Orioles, Sox pitchers have thrown four in the past eight seasons. Following Nomo’s performance in his first-ever start for Boston in the second game of the season, Derek Lowe threw Fenway’s first no-no in 37 years; five seasons later, Buchholz tossed the third one of the decade for Boston to begin the month of September 2007, only the third pitcher in major league history to throw in a no-hitter by his second career start.
Veteran backstop Jason Varitek also made history by catching his fourth no-hitter, the most ever in a career by a catcher, and it marked the fourth different pitcher that he has helped accomplish the feat. He even helped Lester’s cause by hitting a two-run home run to the grandstand in right field to plate the final two runs of the night for Boston. Lester’s command was near perfect in his bid, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 batters, and the only threat by Kansas City came with two outs in the fourth, when Jose Guillen’s sinking line drive was caught by a diving Jacoby Ellsbury in center field to end the inning.
On Saturday night, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, making just his second career major league start, became the 17th player and first rookie in franchise history to toss a no-hitter as he held the Baltimore Orioles to just three walks while striking out nine on 115 pitches in a 10-0 Boston win. It was the first no-hitter thrown by a Boston pitcher since Derek Lowe no-hit Tampa Bay at Fenway Park back in April 2002, one year after Hideo Nomo threw his second career no-hitter against the Orioles at Camden Yard in April 2001.
The 23-year-old rookie, drafted by the Red Sox in 2005 as compensation for the loss of Pedro Martinez to free agency, also became the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter in either his first or second major league start; his only other start came two weeks ago against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Fenway. Buchholz also became the 17th rookie in major league history to throw a no-hitter and the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter this season. It was also the first time that he had thrown more than seven innings in a start for the Boston organization this season; he had thrown seven complete twice with Double-A Portland and once with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Ironically, Boston actually had the opportunity on the last day of the 2006 season to witness a rookie throw a no-hitter in just his second start. Devern Hansack, making his Fenway debut one week after his major league debut in Toronto, went five innings against Baltimore and, despite one walk, had faced the minimum 15 batters while striking out six. Unfortunately, the game was called on account of severe weather after five complete with the Red Sox leading 9-0; due to rule changes made in 1991 by Major League Baseball’s Committee for Statistical Accuracy, Hansack’s effort was not recognized as an official “no-hitter” in the record books since he had thrown fewer than nine no-hit innings.
In team history, only Cy Young and Dutch Leonard have thrown more than one no-hitter for the Red Sox and Young is the only Boston pitcher to throw a perfect game, the first in American League history. Oddly enough, no-hitters have come in bunches for Boston; nine were tossed between Young’s perfect gem in 1904 and Leonard’s second no-no in 1918. After Howard Ehmke no-hit the Athletics in Philadelphia in 1923, no Red Sox pitcher managed another one until 1956 when Mel Parnell threw one at Fenway Park against Chicago. Six years later, Earl Wilson and Bill Monbouquette threw no-hitters within five weeks of each other in 1962 and Dave Morehead threw a no-no against the Indians at home in 1965; it would then be another 36 years before the next Red Sox no-hitter and 37 years before a Red Sox pitcher would toss one in front of the home crowd at Fenway.
In team history, the Red Sox have seen 26 different pitchers win at least 20 games in a season at least once in a Boston uniform. The pitcher who holds the franchise record for the most victories in one season is Smoky Joe Wood, who won 34 games in 1912 for the eventual World Series champions; he was one of three pitchers on the 1912 staff, along with Buck O’Brien and Hugh Bedient, to reach the 20-win threshold, as the latter two each won exactly 20 games on a team that set the franchise record for wins in a season (105). Only one other pitcher in team history, Cy Young, won better than 30 games in a season; he accomplished this feat twice, once in Boston’s inagural season of 1901 (33) and then again in 1902 (32). Young also holds the record for the most seasons of 20 or more wins with the Red Sox, having accomplished the feat six times in the eight years that he was part of the starting rotation. After him, there are three pitchers with three seasons of 20 or more wins: Bill Dinneen (1902-1904), Luis Tiant (1973, 1974, 1976), and Roger Clemens (1986, 1987, 1990). Other multiple winners include Babe Ruth, Carl Mays, Boo Ferriss, Jesse Tannehill, Mel Parnell, Wood, Tex Hughson, and Wes Ferrell.
In total, there have been 46 instances where a pitcher won 20 games or more in a season for the Red Sox. Nine times, the starting rotation for Boston has had multiple 20-game winners. Between 1902 and 1904, Dinneen and Young won at least 20 games in each season for the Red Sox and, with Boston pitchers Tom Hughes (20 wins in 1903) and Tannehill (21 wins in 1904) also reaching that plateau, fans were witness to eight instances in three straight seasons that a Sox pitcher accomplished this feat. The most recent instance in which two players on the Red Sox pitching staff won at least 20 games in a single season happened just five years ago in 2002, when Derek Lowe (21) and Pedro Martinez (20) both managed the feat; before that, you have to go back to 1949 to find multiple 20-game winners on the Red Sox pitching staff for one season: Parnell (25) and Ellis Kinder (23). Curiously, there have been ten Boston pitchers in franchise history to fall just one win short of the mark for a single season; of those ten, both Martinez and Howard Ehmke did reach the mark in another season for the Sox. Martinez fell one win shy his first season with the club in 1998 but won 23 the next year, while Ehmke won 19 in 1924, one year after winning 20.