Previous programming note from Myles:
Now that the season is fast approaching, and I've started to get the itch to talk baseball again, I'm hoping to pick up the pace. Hopefully I can convince the other writers to do the same. I'm going to take a look at the 2017 Cubs, starting with the best players and taking a descending order. I'm just sorting by projected WAR (ZIPS).
Programming note from Berselius:
Don't gently suggest to me what to do.
I'm going to upend this and break the descending WAR thing since there already is a half-written Rizzo post sitting in drafts.
Jon Lester (SP)
In 2016: Lester was a Cy Young contender, shared the NLCS MVP with Baez, and came out of the bullpen on short rest in Game 7 of the World Series, which you may have heard the Cubs happened to win. He posted a 2.44 ERA with a 24.8% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate, good for 4.3 WAR.
In 2017: Lester is projected to post a 3.08 ERA, 8.92 K/9 and 2.14 BB/9 (Zips does not project percentages), good for 4.2 WAR.
No More David Ross
Still cannot throw to first base
An ace anyway
Lester's peripherals took a bit of a dip last year, mostly due to a few more balls finding their way over the fence and slight regressions in strikeouts and walks. Despite that, he posted the lowest ERA of his career. Playing in front of one of the (if not simply the) greatest defenses in baseball history may or may not have helped with that. And to be honest, playing so far out in the tail of team seasons like that make me skeptical of the general ways of the way these things are valued or even how he pitched, and makes me lean more towards his bWAR number of 5.3. But whatever, Lester is good. He also endeared himself to me a bit last spring training (I think), talking about how his rocky first month or two of his Cubs tenure may have been due to anxiety stemming from changing teams and living up to the new deal, something that certainly resonated with me. Well, not the millions of dollars part. If only.
The only real question mark with Lester is the same one we had going into 2016, namely, will teams go nuts on the basepaths against him this year. David Ross backpicks and JavyTag™ magic suppressed some of it, but aside from some Brewers guys most players seemed so far out of their comfort zone in the giant leads they were able to take that they didn't know what to do. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Brewers or the Padres to try to go nuts on him this year, since they have nothing to lose and don't seem to have as much Play The Game The Right Way baggage as other teams. Maybe this year we will see Lester with a personal second baseman (Baez) to replace his personal catcher.
Aside from the whole game theory stuff, the coolest thing about Lester is that he's a good pitcher in his mid-30s and most of the projection systems aren't predicting any real decline at all. This was a fantastic FA deal by team McThoyer. *knocks on all the wood he sees*