The Rundown: Jon Lester 2020 Report Card, Red Sox Could Target Quintana, Braves Beat Kershaw, Astros Walk Off Rays

On the one hand, Jon Lester pitched pretty much as expected during 2020, just not as well as everyone had hoped. Nobody expected him to return to his dominant self, but hope remained that the 36-year-old lefty could somehow find a way to eat up some innings and possibly be a league-average starter.

Big Jon entered the season with 190 wins and nearly 2,600 innings and with an expected 12 starts finishing with that coveted 200th win seemed unlikely. Though Lester did finish with a positive fWAR, he carried the worst ERA and FIP of his career, second worst home run rate, and a big dip in his strikeout rate. He had his worst year statistically since 2012 when he pitched for the Red Sox.

After kicking off the shortened season with three solid starts that included wins against the Reds and Indians, Lester really struggled, managing just two quality starts in his next seven outings. His best performance of the season came in a 1-0 loss to the Brewers on September 11, followed by two excellent starts against the Indians and Pirates. The White Sox pounded Lester for seven earned runs in 3.2 innings to close out his season, and because the Cubs were swept by the Marlins in the Wild Card Series, Lester did not pitch in the playoffs.

The Cubs hold an option on Lester for 2021 ($25 million) that won’t be exercised, but offering the veteran lefty a relatively light, one-year contract after buying out that option for $10 million seems reasonable, if the front office envisions him as a fifth starter. Just seven wins shy of 200, I’d bet Lester would like nothing more than to reach that historical benchmark at Wrigley Field, while trying to help lead the Cubs back to the playoffs.

  • Final Stat Line: 61 IP, 42/17 K/BB, 5.16 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 0.3 fWAR
  • Final Grade: C-

Cubs News & Notes

Apropos of Nothing

I have such a hard time understanding the social media hatred toward the Dodgers. It has to be a jealousy thing because teams like the Cubs are unwilling to spend the kind of money that Los Angeles does. How can you hate an organization that is so player-friendly?

Odds & Sods

Clayton Kershaw just can’t shake his postseason demons.

Postseason Potables

The Braves, who scored six runs in a decisive sixth inning, are just one win away from their first National League pennant since 1999 after their 10-2 win over the Dodgers last night. Los Angeles could manage just one solo home run through the first six innings against Bryse Wilson, and are now one loss away from a stunning elimination. Marcell Ozuna swatted two home runs on a 4-for-5 night in the victory.

The Astros stunned the Rays in walk-off fashion yesterday, winning 4-3 on a solo home run by shortstop Carlos Correa off of closer Nick Anderson in the bottom of the ninth.  In doing so, Houston forced a Game 6 after dropping the first three games of the series, becoming just the fourth of 38 teams in postseason history to fall behind 0-3 in a series and come back to force a sixth game.

How About That!

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Astros are the first team in postseason history to hit a leadoff homer and a game-ending homer in the same game.

George Springer also homered for Houston, making it the eighth time that he and Correa homered in the same playoff game, an MLB record.

Coming into last night’s game, Kershaw, who may have been left in too long, was 11-11 with a 4.23 ERA in his postseason career. He’s now thrown 177 1/3 innings in the postseason, good for seventh all-time. In the regular season, the lefty ace averages 17 wins per year with a 2.75 ERA.

Indians starter Carlos Carrasco was named AL Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

Daniel Bard of the Rockies took the honors in the National League and the long-time sports publication named its other honorees, as follows:

The Sporting News will name its 2020 all-stars later today.

AJ Hinch might be a fit for the open managerial position with the White Sox.

Teams that are looking to restructure their front office might find their next GM from one of these eight potential candidates.

Extra Innings

Capturing the mood…

Out of Left Field

Sometimes, and as much as I hate to admit it, stats back something up that comes from the mind of Peter Gammons. After eight full seasons, and with the NL adopting the DH, Ozuna is a legitimate comparison to Nelson Cruz.

They Said It

  • “This year hasn’t been easy for a lot of reasons. I’m not going to sit here and say ‘Woe is me’ because there’s a lot of people worse off than me. I didn’t think six years would go this fast.” – Jon Lester
  • “We’re certainly not closing the door on [Lester returning], and I’m sure we’ll have discussions at some point this winter.” – Jed Hoyer

Friday Walk-Up Song

Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band – I know, I know, a way-too-easy choice.

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