Jon Lester got his first “win” as a Cub, which, on a statistical level, doesn’t mean much to me, but on a human level, I’m sure it’s a nice thing for him to lock down and move on from. What’s far more important to me is that Lester looked very good against the Brewers, commanding his cutter in against righties, and showing sharp movement on his offspeed stuff.
On the day, Lester threw seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits, one walk, and notching four strikeouts. His ERA dropped from 6.23 to 4.71, though his FIP/xFIP actually increased from 2.25/2.38 to 2.40/2.87 (but that’s just the natural normalizing process). Lester’s DRA of 5.52 still isn’t great, but I suspect that, too, will steady as the year goes on and the sample increases.
Check out the highlights from his start, and note the hard breaking stuff down and in to righties in the second two strikeouts:
When you can command your four-seamer on the corners like he was, you’re going to be able to get guys flailing on the breaking stuff.
On the whole, though, Lester didn’t get a ton of swings and misses yesterday, but, unlike his earlier starts that featured a ton of whiffs but also a ton of hard contact, it didn’t seem like the Brewers were squaring him up consistently. That speaks to the command within the zone – I think Lester was hitting his spots better yesterday, and inducing more weak contact.
Or maybe that’s just my brain creating a story after the contact he gave up yesterday just happened not to result in hits this time.
In any case, it was a great start from Lester – the kind the Cubs hoped to get when they made him their top pitching target this offseason. David Ross said Lester was back to the guy he was used to catching (Cubs.com).
Side note: the fourth strikeout in the video there registered at 86 mph and looked like a slider … but both Brooks and FanGraphs say Lester doesn’t throw a slider anymore. PITCHfx registered the pitch as a cutter, and that is about how hard Lester typically throws his cutter. But there was so much movement on it, both vertically and horizontally, that it looked more like a nasty slider than a typical cutter. Maybe Lester’s been talking to Jake Arrieta?