Lester, who finished second in NL Cy Young voting in 2016, led the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years. His 2016 season was brilliant. Lester threw 200 innings for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. (His only blemish was in 2011 when he threw a measly 191.2 innings with the Red Sox.) He won 15 games for the eighth time in his career. Steady as she goes.
Lester is no stranger to starting Opening Day either: He started four straight with the Red Sox from 2011 to 2014, as well as for these very Cubs in 2015. Another testament to the elite caliber of play he has shown over his 11-year career. A career that very well could end with a trip to Cooperstown when it is all over.
The Cubs are primed for yet another championship run that all starts with the pitching. Behind Lester, the Cubs will be returning their top four starters from 2016. Jake Arrieta, the Cubs’ 2016 Opening Day starter, went 18-8 with a 3.91 ERA. Kyle Hendricks finished third right behind Lester in the 2016 Cy Young voting. And John Lackey, who has won 176 games in his big league career. As for the fifth turn in the rotation, as my colleague Joe Favia wrote, the spot is up for grabs.
Aside from the pitching staff Lester gets to lead, the Cubs lineup will also be returning the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and returning from injury Kyle Schwarber. The Cubs will once again be scoring runs behind Lester, who with a career 3.44 ERA doesn’t need a whole lot of run support to get into the win column.
Now with three World Series rings, Lester is looking to further pad his Hall of Fame resume. In 2016, he is set to cross a few milestones off the list. He is four wins shy of 150 in his career and 139 strikeouts shy of 2,000 lifetime. Not to mention in his final start of the 2016 season, he crossed 2,000 career innings.
Playing in arguably two of the toughest markets in MLB, Lester has thrived. Which is no surprise, as we all know he has beaten cancer, and I am sure the man takes every pitch he gets to throw in the major leagues as a blessing.