Cubs ace Justin Steele, as outstanding as he's been to this point, is yet to reach 30 big league starts - so let's just start off by acknowledging he's got a long, long ways to go to be on level footing with the likes of Jon Lester - a three-time World Series champion and 200 game winner.
Steele would likely be the first one to admit as much, too. But that doesn't take away from the comparisons he's already drawing to Lester, who anchored the Cubs' rotation from 2015 to 2020 as his career wound down. Besides the obvious fact that both are left-handed starting pitchers, the way they carry themselves on the mound is eerily similar.
Even putting their first full seasons (and keep in mind Steele's still has a month left), you can draw some similarities between the two men. In 2008 with the Red Sox, Lester set a career-high, tossing 210 innings while working to a 16-6 record, 3.21 ERA and 3.64 FIP. In 2023, Steele is 16-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 2.98 FIP in a career-high 152 innings of work.
Obviously, it took time for Lester to establish himself as one of the game's great stoppers - the guy you turned to in big games or when the team needed to put an end to a skid - and Steele has already embraced taking on that role with the Cubs, who enter action Tuesday with postseason odds north of 83%, according to Fangraphs.
Cubs ready to ride Justin Steele to October - and he's embracing it
Steele's Labor Day gem against the Giants on Monday was one of the most dominant starts we've seen by a Cubs pitcher at Wrigley Field in recent memory: 8 shutout innings of two-hit ball, in which he set a new personal-best with a dozen punchouts. At this point, he's not just a fringe candidate in the NL Cy Young race, but a legitimate contender.
The Lester measuring stick will be a tough one to live up to because, at the end of the day, as impressive as he was in terms of individual accomplishments (200 wins, five All-Star selections, three top-5 Cy Young finishes) - his legacy was winning: a pair of World Series rings in Boston and another with the Cubs.
We can only hope that many years from now, when Steele hangs up his spikes, he can look back at a similar resume because it would mean more parades on the North Side and multiple banners added to the mix alongside the iconic center field scoreboard.