The “ticking time bomb” in Lester’s arm goes off
Last spring, the story surrounding the elbow of the Chicago Cubs’ $155 million man broke. A bone chip – so far a non-factor – that could break lose and require surgery that could cost him an entire season.
Of course, as we all know, nothing came of it and Lester put together one of the best seasons of his career. He went 19-6 with a league-leading .792 winning percentage across 32 starts. He broke the 200-inning mark for the second consecutive season and finished second in the National League Cy Young voting.
During the postseason, he shined brightest amongst his pitching counterparts. When the Cubs needed a ‘stopper,’ it was always Lester that got the ball. In the NLDS, he tossed an eight-inning shutout of the San Francisco Giants. For the National League Championship Series, he shared MVP honors with Javier Baez after turning in two starts and a 1.38 earned run average against the Dodgers.
In the National League Championship Series, he shared MVP honors with Javier Baez after turning in two starts and a 1.38 earned run average against the Dodgers.
Then came the Fall Classic, a stage he’s always seemed to thrive upon. But this time, he wasn’t as dominant; and he’d be the first one to admit that. But he stepped up and delivered when it mattered most: in Game 5 with the Chicago Cubs’ backs against the wall and title hopes hanging in the balance. He also put together a gritty relief performance in Game 7 on the road, setting up the extra-inning clincher at Progressive Field.
Alongside rotation mate Kyle Hendricks, Lester was one of the staples of consistency for Maddon all year. 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta had his ups and downs, at times battling erratic control. But for Lester and Hendricks, it was the same performance day in and day out.
Now, with Jason Hammel headed to Kansas City and John Lackey another year closer to 40, the Cubs’ rotation isn’t quite as formidable as it was considered just 12 months ago. Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery will vie for the final spot, but what you’ll get out of either remains to be seen.
Losing Lester for any lengthy stretch of time could be disastrous for Chicago. He’s pitched more than 200 regular-season frames in his first two years with the Cubs, acting as the anchor for the starting rotation.
Without him, the burden falls to Hendricks and Arrieta – who is in his last year with the Cubs, as all indications point to him testing the open market next winter. Those two form a formidable duo, but once postseason play begins, two solid starters aren’t enough in a best-of-five series.