Inconsistent? Yes. A bust? To soon to tell
Needless to say, the signing by theChicago Cubs
hasn’t been the blockbuster to put us over the top. After a terrible April, Lester had an improved May, going 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA. In June, 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA. One of the astronomical figures to look at is his BAbip in June is .485. Everything is a hit, and, in general, a solid one. So is the $155 million+ deal the Cubs handed him a waste? As Lee Corso would say..NOT so fast my friend.
It’s fair to say that while Lester’s May gave promise of the pitcher the Cubs expected to get, the overall body of work has fallen short. 4-5 with a 4.25 ERA are numbers for a No.4 or five starter and not the anticipated ace of the staff. The “good” news for the Cubs is that Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta continue to exceed what was expected of them, helping the team offset Lester’s slow start.
While his stuff seems to be there, the execution has not. The cutter that has been a devastating pitch for Lester has been a dangerous one for him to throw this year. It’s finding its way over the plate way too often, leading to a line drive percentage of 24.7, and a BAbip of .344. Velocity is there, which was a concern early on, but that’s leveled out since.
One noticeable difference in his approach on the mound is his abandonment of the changeup. In his career, he’s thrown it on average 7.9% of the time, with a career-high of 12.5% with Boston is 2013. Last year in his split season with the Red Sox and Oakland, he dropped to 2.6, slightly lower than this season’s 4.5. So where do the problems lie? Execution? Pitch selection? Most likely a little of both.
Lester isn’t one to make excuses, he’s taken responsibility for his poor performance. And while many admire that, he’s tied to this massive contract. The bar was set much higher than he is likely to pitch at for the duration of the contract, but he has at least five more seasons to prove it “worth it” to the Cubs.
I would say 85 percent of Cubs nation was excited about the signing, and while it was a big contract, most thought it was great the team went and signed a pitcher of Lester’s caliber. Suddenly as I peruse Cubs groups and message boards, 90 percent say they knew it was a bad deal from the start. This is sort of like 150,000 people saying they were at the first night game at Wrigley Field. It’s likely not the case.
The Cubs are currently still in the running for a Wild Card spot a week into June. Lester has plenty of time to settle in and find his groove. No, his performance as whole thus far has not been a $155 million worth. But it’s a long deal, and it’s much too early to judge it completely. Doesn’t mean you can’t be unhappy with it, just too soon to call it a bust.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless noted otherwise.