Why Jon Lester feels he's better heading into this postseason than last year

Rob Bradford
September 30, 2014 - 10:12 am

While the folks at Kauffman Stadium might have skipped an entire generation when it comes to viewing postseason baseball -- finally being reintroduced to the playoffs Tuesday night in the Royals' one-game showdown with Oakland -- for Jon Lester it's old hat. The Wild Card play-in game will be Lester's 14th playoff appearance, and 12th start. The lefty's postseason ERA stands at 2.11. Last year he went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in 34 2/3 innings during the Sox' world championship run. But of all the postseasons Lester has stormed into, he explained during a Friday phone conversation that this one will be executed as a better all-around pitcher compared to any of the other Octobers. "I think so," Lester told WEEI.com when asked if this was the best he's ever pitched. "I'm just in a better place (performance-wise). I think everybody goes back to 2010 and that's kind of supposed to be my career year. I think by far this is, in my opinion, my best year. Mentally, physically, stats-wise, all that stuff. I feel good where I'm at. I learned a lot over the years and have become more of a pitcher and not just a thrower. I feel better where everything is at. Whether that leads to a win or a loss or leads to a good or bad start, I feel like I'm in a better place mentally every time i take the mound." It's hard to argue. Lester finished his combined stints with the Red Sox and A's pitching a career-high 219 2/3 innings, going 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA, also the best of his nine-year career. The statistical kudos have continued to pile up: Lester is tied with Felix Hernandez for most quality starts (27), and is one of just four starters this season with a sub-2.50 ERA and 15 wins. The southpaw also possesses the second-lowest ERA in the majors since June 12 (1.80), trailing only Clayton Kershaw. Now comes a potentially wild few months for Lester -- the playoffs and free agency. "Absolutely," he said regarding feeling an excitement heading into the coming days. "Right now it's more the excitement of the playoffs and once the season is done then we can start worry about free agency stuff. I've tried, and I feel like I've done a pretty good job this year, to put that on the back-burner and making sure that's the last thing that's a worry point for me and my family. So right now I'm taking that same approach. I have to worry about my next start. That's what I have to focus on, and then once everything is said and done I can sit down with [agent] Seth [Levinson] and my family and we can evaluate. Then we can start getting into the excitement of free agency and all the possibilities and what-ifs and wondering what's going to happen. That stuff will come when it's time and when we get there, yeah, I'm sure it will be an exciting time. But right now we're focused on trying to win and hopefully carrying that over into the postseason." To read the entire Lester interview -- which includes how the stay in Oakland has shaped his view of free agency -- click here. [poll id=92]