BY BILL CHUCK
Okay, now we know.
On Sunday night April 5, 2015, 116 days from today, we know that Joe Maddon will hand a lineup card to the gathered umpires and batting ninth, the starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs will be Jon Lester. Fans of the Rays and the Red Sox just gulped … hard.
Lester is an ace, but not a black ink pitcher. He has never led the league in the categories that you follow, but the last four Opening Days, Lester was on the mound for the Red Sox. He is a three-time All-Star and twice has finished fourth in Cy Young voting. He has a 2.57 postseason ERA with a 1.071 WHIP. He has thrown a no-hitter and has returned from cancer.
The Cubs have won the lottery.
Nine stats to know on Lester:
1. Jon Lester has pitched 1596 innings and has a career ERA of 3.58. Tim Lincecum has pitched 1567.1 innings and has a career ERA of 3.59.
2. Jon Lester has made 252 starts and has 11 complete games and has thrown four shutouts. Guy Bush made 252 starts for the Cubs from 1923-34; he had 127 complete games and 14 shutouts.
3. Jon Lester has a WHIP of 1.276 the same as Chris Carpenter. Greg Maddux had a Cubs WHIP of 1.245, Kerry Wood 1.258, and Rick Sutcliff 1.315.
4. From 2012-14, Jon Lester made 98 starts and had a 3.65 ERA. Over that same span, Jeff Samardzija made 94 starts and has a 3.70 ERA.
5. Since 2006, Jon Lester has had one season with an ERA of under 3.00 (2014: 2.46). Since 2006, Clayton Kershaw has had six seasons with an ERA of under 3.00, Adam Wainwright has had four, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke have three each.
6. Over the last five seasons, Jon Lester has made 161 starts and has a .244 BAA. Over the last five seasons, Max Scherzer has made 161 starts and has a .240 BAA. Over the last five seasons, no pitcher for Cubs had more starts than the 89 of Travis Wood, who has a batting average against of .244, the same as Lester.
7. Since 2008, Jon Lester has thrown 1451.2 innings, only Mark Buehrle (1455.2), Cole Hamels (1485.2), James Shields (1570.2), Justin Verlander (1579.0), and Felix Hernandez (1595.0) have thrown more.
8. Since 2008, Jon Lester has made 146 Quality Starts (6+ IP, no more 3 ER); Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw have made 148. Each of his 11 starts for Oakland last season was a QS. Since 2008, Jon Lester has made 76 Ultra Quality Starts (7+ IP, no more 2 ER); Felix Hernandez has made 126, Cliff Lee has made 103, and Cole Hamels has made 102. In his nine-year Cubs career, Ken Holtzman had 74 Ultra Quality Starts.
9. Last season, Lester threw 3493 pitches, the seventh most in the majors. He threw 2280 strikes. Batters swung at 1639 of Lester’s pitches, they chased 578, fouled off 654, 641 were called strikes, swung and missed 373, and 61.2% of PA ended with a strike or a ball in play. Lester recorded 67 strikeouts with his fastball, another 67 with curve, and 64 with his cutter, which is how he averaged nine whiffs per nine innings in 2014.
Finally, Lester will be 31 on January 7, the same birthday of Alfonso Soriano, Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Rodriguez, Tony Conigliaro, Al Dark, and Johnny Mize.
Bill Chuck email: email@example.com, Twitter: @BillyBall