Jon Lester will be entering his 16 seasons in the Major Leagues in 2020. A guy who has done it all, what should Chicago Cubs fans expect from the big left-hander?
When Jon Lester signed with the Chicago Cubs before the 2015 season, it was the first sign that things were starting to change on the North Side. The Cubs were entering the “window of contention” in 2015. They had tons of talent in the minors but were looking for an established veteran, and that’s what they got with Lester.
Lester’s career with the Cubs so far has been terrific. The highlight so now has to be helping them win the World Series in 2016 by pitching in games one, five, and the relief outing in game seven.
In 2019 Lester struggled for the most part posting a 4.46 ERA by far his highest in a Cubs uniform. For the first time of his career, Lester did not pitch 180 innings in a season. In 31 starts in 2019 Lester pitch 171 2/3 innings. Even with the low innings pitch for his standards, Lester still leads all of baseball in hits given up with 205.
One of the big reasons for the struggles Lester had in 2019 was the drop in velocity with his best pitch, his cutter. Just for example, in 2016, when Lester finished second in the NL Cy Young voting the velocity of his cutter was 89.4mph. In 2019 the speed on the cutter was 88.1mph. Across the board, Lester’s velocity has been down on all of his pitches. This is just what happens on veteran starting pitchers that have a lot of miles on their arms.
2020 is Lester’s last season under contract with the Cubs. Lester does have a $25 million option for 2021 if it even surpasses 200 innings in 2020. So, most likely, the 2020 season will probably be Lester’s last season in a Cubs uniform. What should Cubs fans expect from the 35-year-old?
I would love to see the 2016 Lester again. Even though I don’t think we will ever see that pitcher again. But the talk of Lester being “washed up” I think is a little much. By no means do I believe Lester is washed up. I do think this upcoming season will be a different kind of season for Lester.
He will have to grind in his starts probably more than he has had to in the past, but I firmly believe he is up to the challenge. I know Lester is getting older, and his “stuff” is not the same anymore, but if the Cubs need to win a game, there is no one else I want with the ball than Jon Lester.