Just How Bad Was Jon Lester’s Last Start?

Apropos of nothing, I spent parts of last night and this morning thinking about clunker starting pitching performances. Don’t ask me why, I can’t tell you. Every team is going to have their share of them, even those bound for October glory, and the 2019 Cubs are no exception in this regard.

And wouldn’t you know it, as though he aimed to offer a very clear example for me to use, Jon Lester had one last night. In a season in which the Cubs have mostly avoided the kind of starts that make you wax nostalgic about the days of Brett Anderson, Lester’s may have been the worst of them all

Giving up 10 runs over four innings states that pretty clearly and at least one catch-all metric agrees.

FanGraphs’ Game Score version 2.0 (GSv2) attempts to boil down the quality of a pitcher’s start into one tidy number. I’ll spare you all of the details, which are available here, but it’s a simple way to get a gauge of how well, or not so well, a start went. Lester’s, as you would guess, went “not so well.”

Here are the five worst starts of the Cubs’ season, by GSv2.

  • José Quintana, 4/5/19 @MIL, 3.0 IP, 8 R, 3 K, 3 BB, 3 HR, -3 GSv2
  • Lester, 8/6/19 vs. OAK, 4.0 IP, 11 R, 6 K, 3 BB, 2 HR, -1 GSv2
  • Quintana, 6/22/19, vs. NYM, 4.1 IP, 9 R, 2 K, 2 BB, 3 HR, 1 GSv2
  • Kyle Hendricks, 4/1/19 @ATL, 4.1 IP, 7 R, 4 K, 3 BB, 11 GSv2
  • Lester, 5/23/19 vs. PHI, 4.0 IP, 7 R, 5 K, 1 BB, 20 GSv2

Did you need a new metric to tell you that those were some seriously underwhelming starts or that Lester’s might’ve been the worst? Maybe not, but it’s nice to get your gut feelings validated every once in a while.

Is there any silver lining that we can trace around Lester’s most recent performance? Sort of. It wasn’t the worst start of his career, a -19 against Toronto while Lester was still with Boston. It wasn’t even his worst start as a Cub, an honor held by a -16 in 2017 against the Pirates.

So hey, what are you stressing about last night for? It could’ve been worse.

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