Jon Lester’s 2017 campaign could perhaps be described as enigmatic. The lefty ace improved some of his 2016 numbers, raising his K-rate from 8.75 to 8.97 and generating over 2 percent more whiffs while still garnering nearly 46 percent grounders. But his ERA spiked from 2.44 to 4.33 for a variety of reasons, as Eno Sarris pointed out at FanGraphs.
So what does Steamer project for Lester in 2018? The forecasting model predicts a 3.89 ERA and 3.91 FIP over 195 innings, giving him a respectable 3.4 fWAR. Steamer doesn’t believe Lester’s BB/9 will fall back to the 2.31 he put up in 2016, though it does have walks decrease to 2.78 per 9 innings.
In addition to Sarris’s thoughts linked above, we recently used some Cubs Insider-exclusive modeling to look at how Lester’s spin rate can be predicted by his mechanics. Perhaps health, better sequencing, and tighter mechanics could restore Lester’s dominance. If not, I’ll still take 3.4 fWAR from a 34-year-old pitcher