The last time the Chicago Cubs won a baseball game, the year was 19-dickety-2, the kids were all doing the Ypsilanti Twist, and a soda pop cost you two bits.
Or maybe it was six days ago. Feels the same.
Either way, the starter in that game was Jon Lester, who has unquestionably been the Cubs’ most successful starter, both by virtue of the way he executes his pitches and the game plan, and also by virtue of a whole lot of good luck (as he, himself, noted after that last Dodgers game).
We’ll see how tonight goes, and whether his luck will catch up to him, whether he performs a little better on his own, or whether the Cubs’ defense keeps shining with him on the mound. The team needs a stopper right now (though, actually, they mostly need some offense).
To that end, FanGraphs offers a look at just how extreme the disparity has been between Lester’s results this year and his peripherals. It’s worth a read, as it’s a subject we’ve looked at a number of times already this year, and this write-up provides additional context for just how sustainable it may or may not be:
Jon Lester’s High-Wire Act https://t.co/1xcsDSefCO
— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) June 26, 2018
In short, you just have to expect some regression unless there’s a fundamental change in Lester’s walk rate, strikeout rate, and/or batted ball rates.
But part of what seems sustainable is the way Lester is still evolving and executing. Specifically, he’s really managed context well this year with his curveball and his changeup (which I suspect is largely because he’s playing them well off of his fastball, which hitters are sitting on now that it has declined in velocity).
And to that end, as referenced in the Bullets this morning, I really dig this profile on Lester:
“He’s broken down to me in full tears” https://t.co/WlHFPewfPE
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 26, 2018
Lester no longer does any one thing in a dominant way, but he still has excellent command, has a diverse arsenal, and works as well as any pitcher to the scouting report. That will often get you results.
Here’s hoping there were a few tweaks in the approach to these Dodgers hitters before the game tonight, given that they really smacked the ball around a lot last time out. I’d be shocked if there weren’t adjustments, actually.