Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lieber: 2001
By the time Jon Lieber arrived on the Northside, he had compiled a respectable resume on the mound. The Cubs acquired him the offseason before the 1999 campaign when Lieber was just 28 years old. In exchange, they sent Brant Brown. The Cubs won undoubtedly won that trade.
The first two seasons in a Cubs uniform was a mixed bag for Lieber. He finished 22-22 with a 4.26 ERA across 66 starts while posting a slightly above-average 103 ERA+ and a strangely high 4.03 FIP. Nevertheless, Lieber rebounded the following season to post what would finish as the best season of his 14-year career.
Kicking off the 2001 season in style, Lieber charged hard to post six straight quality starts, posting a 4-2 clip with a 3.00 ERA in that span. Impressively, Lieber finished each of those starts at a minimum of seven innings. In half the starts, Lieber went eight innings. Lieber allowed just four total home runs, holding opposing hitters to a .206 batting average.
The best start of Lieber’s season came on May 24, where he blanked the Cincinnati Reds in a complete-game shutout. He allowed a single hit that afternoon and walked only one. Three months later, Lieber posted back-to-back complete-game victories, allowing a single walk between both games and striking out eight.
For Lieber, the 2001 season was unique in a couple of ways. First, he won 20 games. It would be the only time in his career he would reach that pinnacle. Second, Lieber earned an All-Star nod and finished fourth overall in National League Cy Young voting, behind only Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Matt Morris. Overall, Lieber was your middle of the road starting pitcher. However, the 2001 season will always stand out to both him and Cubs fans as one of the most fun.