What Has Happened to Jon Lester?
The suddenness of the collapse of Jon Lester seems stunning. You could see it coming all year though, but you just didn't want to believe your eyes. Your mind is telling you that he's had some ups and downs in 2019 but overall he's fine, but your eyes are telling you, what the hell is happening?
In his last 30 games he has an ERA of 4.49, a WHIP of 1.45, and he's given up 162 hits in 138.1 innings. Not very good. Starting pitchers just don't give up more hits than innings. When you add in the walks it's even worse. He's almost putting 2 guys an inning on base.
In his last seven games the numbers are off the chart. ERA is 6.51, WHIP is 1.82, and 72 walks/hits in 37.1 innings. After yesterday's debacle even he knows he is not good right now.
According to an interview with Tony Andracki of CSN Chicago, Lester said, "I feel fine," he said. "Today sucks. Tomorrow, I'll wake up and start a new day and get ready for another start. That doesn't take the sting away from today. Joe's always said, 'you win hard, you lose hard' and losing for me is even harder than that. Sucking as a pitcher is even harder than that.
"It's my job to do better and I'm not. I let a five-game winning streak basically go by the wayside because I didn't throw the ball very well. It's frustrating, but tomorrow starts a new day and move on to the next one. You have to execute and get people out and keep them from scoring runs and I'm just not doing that."
We are not used to seeing guys barrel up the ball against Lester like they have been this year, and especially lately. He's the horse you expect the Cubs to have to carry them thru the playoffs, but right now I'm not sure he makes the roster. Compare his numbers to Jose Quintana, who in August, is 3-0, with an ERA of 1.38, a WHIP of 0.77, and 20 hits/walks in 26 innings. That is what an Ace looks like.
Since the All-Star break Quintana is 5-0 with one bad start. Kyle Hendricks, in the same period, has only been 2-2 but his WHIP is 0.94. Yu Darvish is 2-2 also, with a WHIP of 0.80, only Cole Hamels has been worse among starters at 1-1 with a horrible WHIP of 2.00. The only guy on the entire staff who is struggling more than Lester, is Pedro Strop who has given up 10 runs in 10 innings since the All-Star break.
The players are all saying the right things in his defense, as you would expect them to do, but deep in their hearts you know they are concerned about where he is headed and I'm not sure he is still their game one starter in their minds. Can he turn things around? Of course, he is a wily veteran who will figure it out eventually. Will it be this year when he does? Who knows?
If I'm the decider in chief for playoff rosters on this team I'm leaning today this way for starters, Quintana, Hendricks, Darvish. I would have Hamels in the pen for an emergency start or long relief, and I would have Lester there for help in a key inning early in the game. I still think he can be effective in small doses but I don't trust him, right now, as a starter.