When the Chicago Cubs signed Jon Lester in 2015, they knew they were getting a top-level pitcher. However there were some “weaknesses” people loved talking about. Lester laughed in those weaknesses faced Monday.
It was quite an interesting final line for Jon Lester in his start against the Mets this past Monday. He pitched the definition of a standard quality start, six innings only giving up three earned. But there was a lot more to that outing from the veteran lefty.
In terms of just his pitching performance, Lester started off real shaky. The first two batters reached on hits and the Mets took a 1-0 lead. Then in the second it was a rough inning with several walks, including the pitcher, and two more runs in. It looked like the making one of those disastrous outings with 5+ runs given up in less than two innings. But, he limited the damage and locked in the rest of the way.
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That was not even the odd part of the evening. He did things that Jon Lester is not known for doing. Picking off people, hitting or even having an outstanding glove. As great of a pitcher as he has been, he was never known for doing any of that when he came to Chicago in 2015. All of those narratives were killed Monday night.
Lester doing it all.
Everybody knows that Lester is not known for throwing to first. He has developed unorthodox ways of getting the ball over to Anthony Rizzo over the years. Picking off people is a rarity for him, but Monday he did it. In the fifth inning he picked off Amed Rosario between first and second pretty easily. No bounce throw or wild throw needed, he threw a perfect strike right to Rizzo as they executed it perfectly.
While that was fun, the most impressive moment of the night for him was his go-ahead RBI single off Noah Syndergaard. With the bags loaded in the fourth inning, Lester drove an 0-1, 98 MPH heater into left-center field for a hit. It was his sixth hit of the season and his ninth run batted in.
After all of that, his final play of the game involved snagging a line drive over his head with his glove. He looked like Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks making a high glove-save on the mound. A fitting way to end a night of going against supposed “weaknesses.”
Are these narratives really even valid at this point?
We hear it all the time on national broadcasts or from written publications how “Lester cannot throw to first,” or “Lester is not known for hitting.” Yes, for a while he struggled with those things but those narratives are pretty outdated now. Lester has found ways to be effective as a fielder and hitter.
Will Lester ever be a consistent gunslinger to first base? No, pickoffs will still be rare with some unorthodox throws but he has not shown fear in doing so. It is worth noting that he has not committed a throwing error since 2015. The idea of teams running on him or trying to “mess him up” just has not translated and one could argue it is more distracting to the runners’ teammate at bat than Lester. He may bounce throws or include the glove with the ball when throwing to Rizzo but he makes it work.
In terms of hitting, he has actually developed into a respectable hitting pitcher. His has done a very good job at bunting and has had some good at-bats with runners in scoring position. He is slashing .118/.118/.176 on the year with nine RBIs and is hitting .106/.154/.159 with 22 RBI, 28 sac bunts and two home runs as a Cub.
This is the guy that went his first nine years in the majors without a hit. His first career hit in 2015 came after going 0-66 in his career. He now has 24 hits in his career. Taking time to play in the National League has helped him develop better batting skills.