12up Logo12up Logo

Underlying Stats Might Mean Jon Lester is Due for Major Step Back

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 07: Starting pitcher Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field on May 07, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel

Chicago Cubs veteran starter Jon Lester leads Major League Baseball with a 1.16 ERA, which was aided by his start on Sunday where he pitched 6.2 innings and didn't surrender a single earned run against a vaunted Milwaukee Brewers lineup.

While on paper the numbers look phenomenal, and they are, some underlying metrics suggest Lester could be due for some regression.

While ERA is a solid statistic, it isn't always the best representation of talent. While Lester's 1.16 ERA is fantastic, it may be a product of some good luck for the 35-year-old.

When you look at Lester's xwOBA (Expected Weighted On-base Average) which takes into account his opponent's batted ball profile, he ranks 51st among National League starting pitchers. That means Lester is getting incredibly fortunate, as while he isn't necessarily negating hard contact, he has avoided surrendering runs.

Maybe looking at Lester's xwOBA is digging into the weeds too much, but this statistic is more indicative of a player's skill than some of the more traditional numbers, as it removes defense from the equation, focusing instead on quality contact.

There's no doubt that Lester is Chicago's No. 1 starter, especially given the woes of Yu Darvish, and he'll continue to be the team's ace throughout the 2019 season.

While he's dominated early on, the underlying metrics suggest his success has a good deal to do with luck. Hopefully he doesn't regress too much throughout the rest of the campaign, but it's hard to imagine him keeping up this outstanding pace.