Of the bunt that Jon Lester ate in the seventh inning yesterday – which at first looked like an incredibly easy play, and then a situation where he simply froze because he didn’t want to throw to first – Lester says he actually couldn’t get a good handle on the ball and that’s why he didn’t throw (CSN). He also said he knows folks won’t believe him at this point, which kinda makes me sad.
For what it’s worth, when I watch the play now knowing how Lester described it, it actually does look like he initially has trouble getting a handle on the ball, and only then decides to eat it (probably rightly). The question, of course, is did he have trouble getting a handle on the ball because the gears in his head had already started turning against him … but that’s a question too far beyond the scope of what we can actually thoughtfully address.
What we can thoughtfully address is just how crazy good Lester has been here in this first month of the season, carrying forward what has already been a tremendous start to his Cubs career.
First, a look at his great game yesterday against the Braves:
That was ten Ks over seven innings of one-run ball, allowing seven hits and just two walks.
Through five April starts, Lester has a beautiful 1.83/3.28/2.84 pitching line (ERA/FIP/xFIP), and his 25.8% strikeout rate is his highest since 2010. Moreover, he’s only beat his current 5.5% walk rate once in his career (that killer 2014 season), making his K%-BB% a career best 20.3%. I could keep going on the numbers, but the short version is that they’re all stupid good, but they’re all a little small sample-y.
Still, it’s an extremely encouraging sign for a guy who has had some slow starts in his career, including his first April with the Cubs. If Lester gets better from here, as he has in the past? Heck, he could be in for a Cy Young race, himself (you know, with his teammate).
Not that I want to get too far ahead of myself. Mostly, I just wanted to point out, here at the end of April, since he’s getting so much less attention this year than he was at this point last year, that Jon Lester has been crazy good for the Cubs so far this season.