Jon Lester Bounces One to Third, But More Importantly Bounces Back Against the Brewers

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Jon Lester Bounces One to Third, But More Importantly Bounces Back Against the Brewers

Chicago Cubs

Although the highlight of Jon Lester’s game against the Brewers last night might have been picking off Ryan Braun at third base with a bounce pass to Kris Bryant …

I’m guessing Jon Lester was *not* returning a smile here. 

… He actually had a very good game all around – and he (we?) needed it, after the the 3.1 IP, 7H, 3ER performance on Opening Day.

At the highest level, Lester went 6.0 innings, faced 22 batters, and allowed a whole lot of nothing: 0 earned runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, and netted 6 strikeouts. As far as contact goes, Lester kept it on the ground (53.6% ground ball rate) and didn’t allow much hard contact (20.7%). He did give up a fair number of line drives (25%), but again, given all the weakly struck balls, that wasn’t too much of an issue.

If you scroll to the one-minute mark of Willson Contreras’ post-game interview, you can check out Lester cruising:

Speaking of his fastball, Lester threw 42 of them last night (Brooks Baseball), with an average velocity of 91.3 MPH (Max: 92.7 MPH). While that average number is a tad lower than it has been for his career, it is in line with what Lester was working with last season. And given that it’s just his second start of 2018 (pitchers tend to ramp up velocity as the summer rolls on) and that he’s not that far off the mark anyway, I’d say it was a pretty good sign.

Here’s the other thing: Lester is getting older and will probably start/continue losing some velocity on his fastball anyway. But there’s a silver lining: as a pitcher who has not solely relied on his fastball velocity in recent years, Lester is well-equipped to continue succeeding without it. In fact, his impressive command and relatively wide arsenal is exactly what attracted Theo Epstein to him in the first place (in addition to his prolific workhorse-ness). Indeed, Lester has long been expected to “age gracefully,” and that’s why the Cubs were happy to give him a massive 6-year, $155M deal before the 2015 season. This is some of that grace.

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

As for his other pitches, Lester worked in a few sinkers last night, 11 changeups, 11 curveballs, and 22 cutters. Of his 89 total pitches, a whopping 61 fell in for strikes, including nine whiffs (4 on his four-seamer, 2 on his curveball, and 3 on his cutter).

Lester benefited from a wide strike zone, but maybe not as much as you were thinking when the game was going on – I count just three called strikes off the edges of the plate (good work on the framing, Willson). For the most part, Lester was just hitting the edges and staying down.

Also, the guy is consistent:

Given that he was only at 89 pitches, and rockin’ it, he probably could’ve kept going, but with the Cubs up 5-0 in an April game and Lester due up fourth in the 7th inning, I’m glad Joe Maddon took him out when he did. More than just about preserving a starter, now Lester gets to leave Milwaukee with his first great start of the season under his belt.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami