Despite being a professional athlete who is perfectly capable of throwing fastballs with pinpoint accuracy, Cubs starter Jon Lester cannot for the life of him throw the ball to first base. His struggles in this area have been well-documented over the past few seasons, but this spring he’s trying a new solution: throw the ball poorly, but on purpose.
The play above comes from a spring training game between the Cubs and Diamondbacks on Sunday. That’s Lester bouncing a throw to first base as he has many times before, but the difference is this time he meant to do it. Lester told reporters after the game that he’s experimenting with bouncing his throws to first on purpose, at the behest of third-base coach Brian Butterfield. From ESPN:
“In [Butterfield’s] words, just eliminate all tension and bounce it over there,” Lester told reporters. “We’ve been working on it early in the morning. ... I don’t really care what it looks like. I don’t care if it bounces 72 times over there. An out’s an out.”
Lester’s throwing problems are clearly derived from sort of mental hitch, and if spiking the ball into the damn ground allows him to bypass all the hesitation and overthinking, then maybe this can actually work. The throw above wasn’t really that bad, and if the first baseman is expecting a bounce every time Lester throws, it’s not impossible to imagine this idea working. I hope it does and Lester spends a whole season doing this, because weird baseball is fun baseball.