Olney: Career-long consistency helps Lester target a place in history

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CHICAGO -- In the days when Josh Beckett and Jon Lester were teammates, Beckett demonstrated to Lester how the geometry of a ball field could be a tool in maintaining his delivery. When Beckett played catch, he could use a foul line or the edge of a warning track as a point of reference, standing at the line to create a right angle in his delivery, and from pitch to pitch, monitor whether his mechanics were properly aligned.

Lester, at the outset of his career, absorbed this lesson and its importance. To this day, he asks groundskeepers in spring training to draw straight lines for him on a side field, to work with when he's throwing, to reinforce habits -- apparently with great success.

According to numbers dug out from Baseball Prospectus by ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides, Lester has almost always had the most consistent release point in baseball over the past five seasons, among all pitchers who have thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.