My last batch was an American lager. Because I brew 10 gallons, I split my batches in half because I don't have a 10 gallon vessel to ferment in. In one carboy, I pitched the lager yeast at about 65 F and let it sit over night to get going before I put it in the fridge at 45F. The other half, I let sit in the fridge to cool off and settle before I pitched a starter at the same 45F.
The cold pitched half got down to 1.010 faster than the one that was pitched at 65F. Doesn't make sense to me but that is what happened. The warm pitched half eventually got down to about the same at 1.011. Taste wise, the cold pitched half is better. The warm pitched half tastes a little sweater and not as "clean". Enough sweater that the small difference in SG was a surprise to me.
It is probably important that for the cold pitched half to note that I racked it to a different carboy before I pitched the yeast, taking it off of the trub that had settled over night. I'm sure this helps, especially on a lighter beer.
My take away is that starting a lager warm to make sure the yeast gets going, isn't necessary and comes with some negitive side affects. The beer isn't bad, its just not as good as the beer that pitched at the lager temp.
What do you Lager Veterans do?