Hitting age 30 isn’t a big deal in many professions. But for a starting pitcher, it often signifies the beginning of the end — or at least that’s the common perception.
Jon Lester is out to prove life at 30 isn’t so bad. The Red Sox ace, who expressed optimism Friday regarding a potential contract extension with Boston, said he understands concerns about pitchers breaking down but that plenty of hurlers can succeed even as their approach changes later in their careers.
“The older you get obviously things start to decline. Then you just have to figure out how to go from there,” Lester told WEEI.com’s Alex Speier earlier this spring. “But I don’t like the fact that people say, ‘OK, you’re 30, you’re basically dead — all your good years are behind you.’ I don’t feel like that’s the case.
“I still feel like I have a lot of years left. Obviously when things start to decline and you don’t have 95 [mph] anymore, by then you should be able to know how to pitch, change speeds and location, all that stuff. I think each year for me I’ve learned something a little bit different.”
Lester is coming off a strong 2013 campaign in which he pitched a career-high 248 innings between the regular season and playoffs. The lefty’s average fastball velocity was down a tad — though he dialed it up a notch in the postseason — but Lester feels like he’s able to compensate in other areas as he enters his ninth major league season.
“As a younger guy, you turn around and don’t see 94, 95, 96, you say, ‘[Expletive] — what’s wrong?’ You start trying to get those numbers,” Lester said. “As you get older, I think the pride goes down a little bit. You’ve got to be realistic. You don’t have it all the time.”
Lester might not have the same velocity all the time, but when experienced pitchers are able to execute pitches and find other ways to get guys out, velocity becomes just a number.
The same goes for age.