Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jon lester cubs featureThe $300,000 DraftKings contest runs tomorrow, so if you want a crack at that huge pool of cash, a BN shirt, and the Jorge Soler signed bat, you have to sign up. Full details here, but the most important part: any new user who signs up is eligible to win the signed bat. Signing up is all you have to do, and only new users who come via BN are eligible (so you’ve got good odds).

  • It’s fun to read about how last night’s strange near no-no developed from the Cubs’ dugout’s perspective (ESPN). Because Nick Markakis’s first inning hit was not changed to an error until approximately the 7th inning, no one knew Lester was working a no-hitter. It sounds like Lester, himself, didn’t realize it until he batted in the top of the 8th – and then he gave it up on the first batter he faced after that.
  • Regardless of the no-hitter, Lester’s game was fantastic last night, notching 7 Ks over his 7.1 scoreless innings, walking one and allowing just those two hits at the end. He generated 10 whiffs, and, best of all, they came on an array of pitches (3 each on his curve, cutter, and four-seamer, and one on a sinker, per Brooks). Ever since those back-to-back ugly starts in Miami and Detroit (starts, by the way, that really weren’t that terrible when you broke them down – he was charged with a lot of runs given up, though), Lester’s numbers in his last 7 starts: 1.97 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 3.03 xFIP over 45.2 innings with 46 strikeouts and just 11 walks and 28 hits.

  • Lester’s 3.06 FIP is 21st best in baseball (just ahead of Michael Wacha) and his 3.11 xFIP is 15th best in baseball (just ahead of Carlos Martinez). By WAR (2.5), Lester has been the 19th most valuable starter in baseball this year.
  • Starlin Castro says he’s going to have a strong second half (, which is obviously just words at this point, but he’s done it before. I find it interesting that, in that article, Joe Maddon mentions how mechanically strong Castro looks during batting practice, but it doesn’t carry over to the game. You don’t have to be a swing coach to see the issues with Castro’s swing this year (bailing out, top hand rolling over, etc.). You just have to hope something clicks and he gets back into a groove, sending the ball the other way, hitting line drives.
  • Initially, Joe Maddon said Kyle Schwarber would not catch Jon Lester (presumably because David Ross) or Jake Arrieta (presumably because nasty), though he didn’t quite rule out Schwarber starting today with Arrieta on the mound (ESPN). My guess is we see Taylor Teagarden out there today, but, still, it’s interesting to hear that Friday’s start may have slightly changed the tune. As for outfield starts, it’s not coming any time soon – unless there’s an injury – but Schwarber should start getting in some pre-game outfield work.

  • Assuming Tsuyoshi Wada needs one more start at AAA Iowa to keep stretching out and testing his shoulder, the extra starter for Wednesday’s doubleheader could be Dallas Beeler, whose schedule at Iowa puts him on regular rest that day.
  • Speaking of looking ahead to starters, with Johnny Cueto starting today for the Reds, the Cubs caught a break – despite facing the Reds four times Monday through Wednesday, they won’t have to face the Reds’ ace.
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