Would the Chicago Cubs be better with Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester?

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

When Jon Lester was not re-signed by the Chicago Cubs last winter, it was second guessed by the fanbase who had grown to love ‘Lefthander’, and with good reason. His replacement, Jake Arrieta, is also beloved in the city. His production hasn’t matched Lester’s, who went off to Washington in free agency.

Arrieta’s age is really showing in 2021. His ERA is currently 5.45 and an expected ERA of 5.83. He is giving up almost two home runs per nine innings, which is the highest rate of his career. His average exit velocity allowed is the highest it’s ever been. Another mark that’s the highest of his career is hard contact. Arrieta is giving up hard contact (exit velo of 95+ MPH) 39 percent of the time. His groundball rate is the lowest it’s been since he was an Oriole. The veteran hasn’t really been unlucky, he’s just been straight up bad.

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As for our old friend Lester, he has a 3.96 ERA and an expected ERA of 4.01. His exit velo is consistent with his career average. The southpaw’s hard hit percentage is lower than it ever was in any year as a Cub. Lester signed with the Nationals for $5 million, while Arrieta signed with the Cubs for $6 million. Right now, the move does not look like it’s paying off as the two-time 19-game winner seems to have found something again in DC.

Arrieta’s tenure with the Cubs overall is a memorable one, especially the 2015 season. Overall, in 142 starts with the Cubs he has a 2.94 ERA in 142 starts, but it’s clear those days are long behind him. Lester, in 171 starts with Chicago, posted a 3.64 ERA in just over 1,000 innings. Arrieta  was arguably the more effective pitcher in a Cub uniform, and with that 2015 season that’s not a huge surprise.

Chicago Cubs clearly made the wrong decision with Jake Arrieta

Their 2021 seasons could not be more polar opposites, and on the surface it looks like the Cubs made the wrong decision with which pitcher they re-signed. There is still a lot of season left to see what happens, but Arrieta has a long way to go to catch up with Lester this season.

Similarly, Lester’s teammate with the Cubs, and now the Nationals, Kyle Schwarber was allowed to walk away from the Cubs and is flourishing in Washington. Their performances with their new teams aren’t necessarily an indictment on the Cubs, as they got production out of both players as well.

The Cubs may have a decision to make with Arrieta this season. If his performance keeps up, there is no way he should make it through the year as a full-time starter, and thankfully the trade deadline is coming.

Next. Chicago Cubs: Frustrations and pressure are starting to mount. dark

With the foreign substance crack down by MLB, the game just got a lot harder for pitchers now. Arrieta, given his results, is likely not using any substances, but it’s something to watch in the second half with other pitchers.