Lester Looked Great, Black Returns, Freeman for MVP, Scaring Players Into Extensions, and Other Bullets

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Lester Looked Great, Black Returns, Freeman for MVP, Scaring Players Into Extensions, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I’m taking The Little Girl to see ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ today, which I remember reading as a kid, but I couldn’t tell you much of anything about what was actually in the books. I can say that The Little Girl was very interested to learn “Oh that’s Oprah?” when I showed her a trailer. “I’ve heard of her. She’s famous for something, I think.”

  • Jon Lester looked fantastic yesterday, insofar as you can evaluate a veteran starting pitcher in a Spring Training outing. He was just doing what he wanted to do – quickly and efficiently – and certainly looked ready for the season. He’s coming off a disappointing 2017 season that saw his ERA, FIP, and xFIP all balloon thanks to a soaring home run rate, a decline in his strikeout rate, and an increase in his walk rate. Then again, his batted ball rates were more or less consistent with the year before, yet his BABIP and LOB rate exploded – possibly suggestive of some bad luck. There are reasons to believe Lester, even at age 34, can have a solid year in 2018.
  • But will he hit the 200 inning mark? Lester missed it last year for the first time in six seasons, and just the second time in his career. He tells the Sun-Times that he’s shooting for it again, even in an era where 200 inning starters are going the way of the dodo thanks to evolving understandings of pitcher health and bullpen maximization. He says he hopes the 200-inning starter doesn’t become a thing of the past because that would be “terrible for the game,” and I’m gonna show a little old school by agreeing with him. Well, I might not use the word “terrible,” but I do think there’s something to be said for the fun of seeing certain starting pitchers be the guys who go deep in almost every start, rather than always seeing even the best pitchers going five or six solid innings and getting pulled. The problem? Teams want to win, and as long as bullpenning is a viable strategy, they’ll keep doing it.
  • Here’s Lester freezing old friend Luis Valbuena, who still manages to flip his bat:

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
  • We talked about Javy Baez’s lingering hamstring discomfort earlier, but a couple other injury updates here at Cubs.com: Pedro Strop still isn’t quite there in his recovery from a calf issue, and won’t get into a game until maybe late next week. Chesny Young did not have a concussion after hitting his head, colliding with Anthony Rizzo on Thursday. Willson Contreras has missed most of this week with a fever.
  • Cubs pitching prospect Corey Black faces batters for the first time since going under the knife:

  • This thinking from Paul DeJong about his extension with the Cardinals – the implication that he took the deal because the recent frostiness in the free agent market made him uneasy – should make you nervous if you want to see players, en masse, doing a better job getting paid:

  • The other side of that coin, though, is that, while I understand the union as a whole would hate these deals, I have a hard time criticizing a guy for locking down life-changing money. So much can happen between now and arbitration (let alone free agency) for a guy like DeJong. So get paid. Set your life and your kids’ lives up. Make sure it’s a fair deal, sure, but get yours while you can.
  • You are reminded that the Cubs would no doubt love to lock up several of their players to extensions, but, to date, have not had luck in this current window.
  • Former Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach is crushing Spring Training:


  • Then again, Spring Training:

  • Hey, how about second place guys Billy McKinney and Christian Villanueva? Both former Cubs. Also, I see you, Jorge Soler.
  • Eh. While I agree that Shohei Ohtani making the necessary adjustments with limited offensive playing time and while playing in the big leagues is going to be very tough, I’m not ready to throw it out the window because some scouts don’t like his current swing through a couple weeks of Spring Training:

  • This is how you take care of business:

  • This guy:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.