Chicago Cubs have one of the game’s best big-time pitchers in Jon Lester
We all know the legacy Jon Lester will leave behind as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Looking at that alone, though, doesn’t tell the whole story.
Without Jon Lester, the Chicago Cubs don’t win the 2016 World Series. Now, there were a lot of guys who played critical roles for the club that year, but Lester did more for that team off the field and in the clubhouse than he did on the mound – and that’s saying a lot.
I mean, we’re talking about a workhorse who finished third in National League Cy Young voting, winning 19 games while putting up a 2.44 ERA across 202 2/3 regular season frames. That showing came on the heels of his first season in Chicago after he inked a six-year, $155 million deal prior to the 2015 campaign.
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At first glance, you might think that initial showing wasn’t anything to write home about. But if you just look past his 11-12 record, you’ll see he was lights-out that season, as well. He worked to a 2.92 FIP and a 4.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio while breaking the 200-inning mark.
Since Lester joined the Cubs, the team has made the postseason four of five years, won the Central twice, advanced to the NLCS three times and brought home a World Series championship. He helped create a winning culture on the North Side – forever altering the course of the franchise.
On Monday, while working from home, I had MLB Network on. They were broadcasting highlights from the 2013 Boston Red Sox, for whom Lester played at that time. While watching it, I couldn’t help but think – Big Jon has been Big Jon for a long time now – and I don’t think enough people appreciate that.
In 17 postseason series spanning nine trips to October, the grizzled lefty has left it all on the field. He’s appeared in 26 games, making 22 starts. Of course, his most iconic postseason relief appearance came in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Across 154 2/3 innings, though, he’s been lights-out.
- 154 2/3 IP / 2.51 ERA /3.33 SO/BB / 1.019 WHIP
That’s netted him a trio of World Series rings, two with the Sox and one with the Cubs. In the 2013 Fall Classic, Lester put the Cardinals offense on lockdown, making a pair of starts and allowing just one run (0.59 ERA) as Boston lived out their Boston Strong mentality to the fullest.
In 2016, Lester shared NLCS MVP honors with teammate Javier Baez, allowing just two runs in his two starts against the Dodgers. He came up big that entire postseason – and in the Cubs’ subsequent October appearances, as well, most recently tossing six innings of two-run ball in the heartbreaking 2018 NL Wild Card game on a night at Wrigley where the only thing colder than the temperature were the Chicago bats.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the 2020 season may be the final straw in Lester’s already shaky quest for Cooperstown. But when we close the book on his illustrious career, we’ll all know that we saw one of the most hard-nosed, competitive hurler the game has ever seen.