Lester, Hendricks continue their dominance in 2017
One of the bolder predictions any of our writers put out there centered around the continued dominance of Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Both finished in the top five of NL Cy Young voting last year, playing integral roles in the postseason, as well.
David Miniel: Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester will each throw a no-hitter. Hendricks came close while visiting the St. Louis Cardinals last September, as he flirted with history into the ninth. He was ahead 0-2 in the count but served up a meatball that was absolutely hammered by Jeremy Hazelbaker.
Since coming to Chicago, Lester has racked up quite an innings count. In two years, he’s pitched over 400 regular season frames. In addition, he’s pitched nearly 50 innings in postseason play.
Despite the heavy workload, the gritty three-time World Series champion looked better than ever in 2016, winning 19 games and pitching to a 2.44 earned run average. In two seasons, he’s racked up an 8.4 WAR for the Cubs, as well – his best two-season total in years.
Hendricks looking for an encore performance
Hendricks, meanwhile, somehow flew under the radar, despite being the Cubs’ most consistent starting pitcher. He benefited a great deal from the team’s league-leading defense and his pinpoint accuracy.
Like Lester, there was more than a one run difference between his earned run average and fielding independent pitching (FIP). At first glance, one may think this suggests a regression is due. But, given the team returns the entire infield, it’s hard to imagine the team takes a step backward.
The soft-tossing righty has all the tools to dominate. I don’t know if we can expect the sheer level of shutdown we saw in 2016, but there’s no reason to believe Hendricks is set for a downturn at age 27.