Chicago Cubs: Evaluating Jon Lieber’s underappreciated body of work
Chicago Cubs: A 20-win season
The Cubs were coming off a phenomenal year, statically speaking in 2000. Sammy Sosa had blasted 66 homers, and Mark Grace led the team with a .309 batting average. Starting pitcher Kevin Tapani came off a 19-9 performance.
Probably the most famous stat of that year was rookie pitcher Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters against the Houston Astros. But Wood suffered an injury during the 1998 season and did not play the following season. The Cubs needed to find someone to replace Wood, and they turned towards Lieber as that replacement.
Lieber’s first two seasons, he went 10-11 and 12-11. He led the National League in innings pitched in 2000.
The now 31-year-old Lieber was on fire during the 2001 season. His 20-6 record was fourth-best in the National League behind names like Matt Morris, Curt Schilling, and Randy Johnson. During his impressive season, he pitched a complete one-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds.
His performance during the season led him to become an All-Star. Lieber’s 232.3 innings pitched ranked him fifth in the league, and his five complete games tied for second in league with Javier Vázquez (behind Johnston’ ss six).
The following year Lieber ran into some trouble. His 2002 season was cut short due to right elbow problems that have been bothering him all season long. The Cubs placed him on the DL with right elbow tendinitis. Therefore Lieber went on to have Tommy John surgery ending his season. In 21 starts, Lieber went on to have a 6–8 record, a 3.70 ERA, 87 strikeouts, 12 walks, and 153 hits allowed in 141 innings pitched. After the season ended, Lieber became a free agent.