Boy oh boy, Jon Lester had himself another night, eh? Or maybe – at this point – it’s easier to say he’s having himself a season.
After his latest gem against the St. Louis Cardinals, Lester’s second-best-in-baseball ERA (behind only Kyle Hendricks) dropped down to a career best 2.28 ERA, and he moved into first place with the most wins (19) in the National League.
His 4.4 fWAR might only be sixth best in the NL, but he has done more than enough to guarantee a spot near the top of the 2016 NL Cy Young voting leaderboards. But before we get into all of that, let’s dive back into his latest start (a 6.2-inning shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field) and see where he can go from there.
Let’s re-live his night and hear comments from the man himself, below:
When he left the game with two outs in the sixth inning, Lester had given up no runs on just three hits and one walk against seven strikeouts. That marks the eighth straight start allowing one or fewer runs, and the eleventh straight start allowing two or fewer. In fact, through his 31 starts this season, Lester has allowed more than two runs only seven times.
Let’s take a look at where he stands against other qualified starting pitchers around the league (NL Rank, MLB Rank)*:
- Wins: 19 (1st, 3rd)
- Innings: 197.2 (5th, 12th)
- ERA: (2nd, 2nd)
- FIP: 3.34 (7th, 8th)
- xFIP: 3.44 (4th, 9th)
- K/BB ratio: 3.90 (8th, 8th)
- Hard-hit Rate: 26.2 (5th, 5th)
*It’s worth pointing out that the late Jose Fernandez led the NL and MLB in a number of these categories (including K-rate, FIP, xFIP, and fWAR). He is still a deserving candidate for the 2016 Cy Young award and no one could argue with him winning it posthumously.
Lester is/was clearly one of the top ten pitchers in all of baseball this season and has even set himself up as the Cubs’ likely Game 1 starter for the NLDS. That he was able to accomplish all of that as a member of the best rotation in baseball (that also features the 2016 ERA leader and the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner) is nothing short of amazing.
But does that make him a favorite for the NL Cy Young?
It’s hard to say. Although the season is slowly coming to an end and Lester is – at a minimum – a deserving candidate, there are many other qualified candidates around the league (including at least one other on his own team). The guy who ultimately takes home the hardware, then, might depend entirely on what the voters value most. Lester hasn’t been worth the most WAR, but he has tossed plenty of innings, has the second best ERA in baseball, and might notch his 20th win sometime next week. His strikeout and walk rates aren’t top five in the NL, but his K/BB is top ten and he’s limited hard contact about as well as anyone in the game.
Every starter will have about one more opportunity to really impress voters before the regular season ends, but as of now, Lester seems to have as good of a shot as anyone.