Chicago Cubs: Looking at an up-and-down season from Jon Lester

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Jon Lester had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2017. Despite that, he battled adversity and delivered memorable moments for Chicago Cubs fans.

It was the top of the fifth inning on a hot June day when Jon Lester sent Wrigley Field into pandemonium in a peculiar way. Lester had given up two runs when his patience ran short on the near-insulting lead Tommy Pham took from first base. The 33-year-old lefty’s unwillingness to throw to first has been well-documented, but in that moment he looked to have overcome it.

Lester’s regular season ERA was mediocre a 4.33; exactly 0.04 marks higher than the MLB-wide 4.37 average. Slightly above-average is passable in some cases, but the Cubs paid Lester $22.5 million in 2017.

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This season included Lester’s worst start of his career (1 1/3 IP, 10 R), a stint on the 10-day disabled list and his highest single-season ERA since 2012. The turning point for Lester came in the wake of a family tragedy.

Tragedy inspires Lester

On July 22, Lester took the mound with the acronym “PLACT” mysteriously written on his cap. He went on to allow just two runs through eight innings.

Following the game, Lester shared that he had lost an uncle the previous day. “PLACT” stood for “Play Like a Champion Today”, a phrase used by Notre Dame football. Lester’s uncle was a devout Notre Dame fan. “PLACT” could be seen on Lester’s hat in every start for the rest of the season. He went on to post a second-half win-loss mark of 8-2.

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Lester’s best pitching of the year came in the postseason. His first 2017 postseason appearance came in game two against the Nationals. He went six innings and allowed one run in the no-decision. During that game, he once again electrified Wrigley Field by picking off Ryan Zimmerman at first. Ultimately, Lester would finish the NLDS with an impressive ERA of 1.86 and the NLCS with 1.93.

In 2018 the Cubs will likely bring in at least two new starters to fill the gaps left in the rotation by John Lackey and Jake Arrieta. As the pitching staff evolves, the Cubs will count on their ace Jon Lester to bring stability to the team.