Too early? No, it’s never too early.
Jon Lester announced he retires on wednesday. The sturdy left wing has been a fixture in key rotations in baseball for a while. It’s been a long time since we’ve gone through a season not thinking about him, even when he’s on the periphery (like last year).
It’s natural to do two things when a career like this comes to an end. First of all, let’s look back and appreciate all the memories this player has to offer. There’s a lot going on with Lester, especially with two particular fan bases. Second, question whether he is a Hall of Famer. Let’s dive into the next section.
In the first place, Lester’s case is not a good one if we only look through the lens of his regular season JAWS. He placed 149th in JAWS among starting pitchers. There are 66 beginners currently in the Hall of Fame and even if we repeat active players like Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer with hopes like CC Sabathia and veteran committee candidates like Dave Stieb, Kevin Brown and Luis Tiant, we’re not even halfway to Lester.
Now, Lester’s case is more of a compiler than a pinnacle, so maybe WAR treats him better? Is not. He’s 153rd there.
This means that Lester’s case is in stark contrast to some of the more recent upstarts (such as Larry Walker, Scott Rolen and even going back to Bert Blyleven – even though he shouldn’t have to push for it. so).
No, Lester’s case was built on the strength of other things. It’s not the Hall of WAR or even the Hall of Stats, as we all know. There are stories told about each player, and every Hall of Famer is not necessarily the same. There’s room for the all-timers like Walter Johnson as well as there’s room for the likes of Jack Morris and Catfish Hunter (who both tracked Lester in WAR and JAWS, by the way).
Lester’s story is also fascinating. After battling cancer, he goes on to have a career that he sees as the trump card of the two. Red Sox and Unit World Series Champion Teams. Think if we heard that 20 years ago? That moves the needle a bit, no?
Lester debuted in 2006 with the Red Sox at the age of 22, but his season was cut short due to the discovery that he had a treatable form of lymphoma. He returned to a clean health rate in 2007. He will throw 5 innings 2/3 scoreless at Coors Field in Game 4 to end a sweep. Rockies for the 2007 World Series title.
For the next six seasons, Lester was a fixture in the Red Sox rotation, going 89-54 with 3.65 ERA (120 ERA+). He was also a jockey, topping 200 innings five times and 190 innings on all six occasions. The pinnacle of that span was the 2013 World Series title. Lester had an ERA of 1.56 in five starts after that season, winning his 1st and 5th Olympics starts in Worlds. Series.
The 2014 season was his peak, up until that point, on an individual basis. He posted career best 2.46 ERA and career best 1.10 WHIP with 220 appearances. He finished fourth in the Cy Young poll. He was also set to hit free agent after the season and once the Red Sox were out of competition, commercial rumors swirled along with talk of an extension. The Red Sox decided to trade him for the A’s and then tried to bring him back in the off-season.
It doesn’t work. Instead, Lester signed on to be a key employee of the developing Cubs. They were only 73-89 last season, so while there is promise, Lester is still risking. It pays off. In 2015, they made it to the NLCS after a 97-match regular season. In 2016, they won the World Series.
Lester finished second in the NL Cy Young polls that season after winning 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, ultimately the best season of his career. He threw eight innings without scoring in the NLDS’ 1-0 win in game 1. He was the co-MVP of the NLCS after allowing two runs with nine hits in 13 innings. He secured a Game 5 win to give the Cubs a 3-2 series lead home, when they faced Kershaw in Game 6. He took a Game 5 win of the World Series to prevent a loss. type. He then took the field for a two-day break in Game 7 to excel in three innings, serving Aroldis Chapman closer to the team in position to win.
It was his special season. And the Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908. Jon Lester is the best and most important free agent in franchise history.
See? Even the condensed version is a hell of a story.
In total, Lester ended his regular-season career with a 200-117 record. He has 3.66 ERA (117 ERA+) and 1.28 WHIP. He hit 2,488 shots in 2,740 plays. He’s a five-time All-Star with four Cy Young top 10 finishes, including two fourth place finishes and one second place finish. In an era where pitchers are getting fewer than 200 innings per season, Lester has had eight 200-inning campaigns. He went through more than 180 innings in 11 consecutive seasons.
His top five statistical analogies include one Great Hall (Roy Halladay) and one going in that direction (Verlander). He is 40th in career opening games.
I don’t think anyone would suspect he’s missing Hall in the regular season, but in season after season he had a 2.51 ERA in 154 plays with 1.02 WHIP. He’s the ninth of his career in both playoffs and knockouts. In six World Series appearances in his career, he’s won 4-1 with 1.77 ERAs, 0.93 WHIPs and 34 hits versus eight walks in 35 2/3 innings. He won three rings, and on two of those teams, he was the mainstay of the rotation. It will be and His story pushes him up a bit?
My hunch is that for the BBWAA vote we are moving away from stories and more towards the stats side, although there will always be room for bonus points on post-season stats and perhaps The story with Lester got him involved in the conversation.
If I had to bet, he had 10 years on the BBWAA vote and was relegated, but then a veterans committee at some point put him in. There are much bigger crimes in Cooperstown. Lester is a player that should be remembered for generations, even if his stats don’t scream “Hall of Famer.”
https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/is-jon-lester-a-hall-of-famer-how-postseason-greatness-gives-him-a-chance-at-cooperstown/ Is Jon Lester a Hall of Famer? How post-season greatness gives him a chance at Cooperstown