In December of 2014, Jon Lester — then a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series Champion — electrified Chicago with the announcement that he planned to sign with the Cubs. The deal was for six years and $155 million, which was no small sum for a man about to turn 31 years old. But since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had so much confidence in the aging lefty, most fans were hopeful and willing to be patient.
Even if Lester never quite returns to the form he has displayed thus far, the investment will have been worth it.
2015 was a good year from a statistical standpoint, but the expectations placed on Lester by the big contract cast things in an odd light. He pitched 205 innings and posted a 3.34 ERA and a 4.4 K/BB ratio, but the 11-12 record overshadowed a lot of that. All told, the campaign was not so much about Lester not having a great year, it was more about him getting to know Chicago and how the Cubs functioned as a team.
In 2016, however, Lester proved to Cubs fans why he got that big contract. At 32 years old, he went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA that trailed only Kyle Hendricks in the National League. He held opponents to a .211 batting average and 26 of his 32 starts fit the criteria to be called “quality.” The Cubs had the best rotation in baseball, a big reason they were favored to win their first World Series title in 108 years.
Lester continued his stellar performance into the postseason, going 3-1 with a 2.02 ERA and a 5:1 K/BB ratio. He even earned himself some hardware with NLCS co-MVP honors. The veteran lefty’s consistency was on display from start to finish as he put together a career year that culminated in a victory no Cubs fan will forget anytime soon.
Lester’s 2017 season was somewhat disappointing, though almost anything would have been when compared to the previous year. He posted a very respectable 13-8 record, and although he did meet some rough patches, he fought through it. But even after a somewhat forgettable regular season his 1.88 postseason ERA was proof that he could still rise to the occasion.
Now halfway through his Cubs campaign and having reached an age to match the number he wears to the mound, Lester still has three more years to prove what he is worth. I am impressed so far, and I think a majority of our readers will agree with me. So happy birthday, Jon Lester, keep doing Jon Lester things.
In honor of his birthday today, let's enjoy Jon Lester's legendary walk-off bunt to complete the Cubs' comeback against SEA in 2016.
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) January 7, 2018