Chicago Cubs’ starter Jon Lester has done all he can making his case for NL Cy Young. He added NL Pitcher of the Month for September, after claiming the same award in June.
The Chicago Cubs should be well represented in the NL Cy Young voting this year. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have both made strong cases for the award. Whether that’s enough is anyone’s guess, as the voters tend to favor others like Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer. It took an unreal second half by Jake Arrieta to snag the award away last season.
But the case for Lester is a legitimate one. His September (and one October start) was stupendous, finishing with a 5-1 record and a 1.48 ERA. His WHIP was a minuscule 0.82 while striking out 37 and walking just seven in 42 2/3 innings. While Lester fell short of winning 20 games, it was the seventh time he’s won 15 or more (19 twice). It was also the lowest ERA he’s posted in his career (2.44), good for second in the NL behind Hendricks.
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This Cubs’ staff has been one of the best the franchise has ever seen. And they will rely on them into the playoffs to try and end the 107-year drought. The offense has done their part, but the pitching staff helped make the +252 run differential possible. They allowed just 556 runs, 56 less than the Washington Nationals. The trailed the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies in runs scored. But they were 58 runs BETTER than the Red Sox. An impressive season indeed.
How many pitchers will Maddon take?
One of the biggest questions now will be the makeup of the Cubs staff for the NLDS. Jason Hammel is likely to be left off, leaving seven–possibly eight spots for pitchers. With a few days off prior to the series, as well as two off days during the series, 11 pitchers aren’t out of the question.
That move would allow Joe Maddon to carry 14 position players—giving him the flexibility to play matchups with starters as well as off the bench. Maddon still has time to analyze the possibilities. It may also come down to who wins the Wild Card matchup between the Giants and Mets. That game would also push their two aces back–or force them to go on short rest.
The Cubs have set themselves up as perfectly as they could. They’ll get rest while setting up the rotation as they please. The conversations for this roster have taken place for a few weeks. Now it’s coming down to crunch time. The rosters can be changed after every round. So let’s hope they have two more rounds of changing ahead of them.