Chicago Cubs have two ace-caliber pitchers in Lester and Hendricks

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Lester is on a much-deserved path to Cooperstown

Jon Lester made his big league debut in 2002 with the Red Sox, where he played for eight and a half seasons and won two World Series titles. After being traded to the Athletics halfway through the 2014 season, Lester signed a massive six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs in December 2014.

In five seasons with the Cubs, Lester is 64-32 with a 3.23 ERA, averaging 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s had some stellar seasons while wearing Cubbie blue. In 2016, for example, he finished the season with a 19-5 record, a 2.44 ERA, and a second-place spot in Cy Young voting. Oh, and also a third World Series title. His .792 win-loss percentage led the league that season.

Last season, Lester finished atop all of baseball in wins, posting an 18-6 record and a 3.32 ERA. So far this season, the lefty is 3-1 with a phenomenal league-leading 1.16 ERA through 38 2/3 innings. In total, he has amassed 2,229 strikeouts against 776 walks, with an overall career ERA currently at 3.46.

It’s clear that even at age 35, Jon Lester is still a dominant force on the mound. In fact, he’s pitching at least as great, if not greater than he ever has in his career. How is he doing it?

According to Matt Snyder of CBS Sports, despite his average velocity being at a career-low, Lester is striking out 24.7 percent of hitters. He does this by commanding the ball low in the zone and on the corners. Against left-handed hitters, he pints the bottom left-hand corner of the zone in 17.05 percent of pitches.

Other than the occasional injury (which every big league player has to deal with at some point), the seasoned veteran is still reliable and able to work deep into games. In last Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Brewers, Lester was able to go 6 2/3 innings in less-than-enjoyable weather, providing much-needed rest for a bullpen exhausted after the previous day’s 15-inning marathon.

Next year is the last year of Lester’s contract, but it is safe to assume that the Cubs will do what they can to keep the veteran southpaw around, providing he wants to keep playing.