The Cubs are in the NL central division which is arguably the toughest division in baseball. The division consists of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cincinnati Reds. The Cardinals lead the division with an MLB best record of 86-46. Only one team from each division makes the playoffs minus the wildcard.
The Cubs have a record of 75-56 and are 10.5 games back of the Cardinals for the division lead. With only 32 games left in the season, and with the way the Cardinals have been playing this year, it is most likely that the Cubs only have a chance of making the playoffs by winning one of the two wildcard spots. The NL wildcard spots are pretty spread apart with the Pittsburgh Pirates leading the Cubs for the first wildcard spot by 4.5 games, and the Cubs leading the San Francisco Giants for the second wildcard spot by 6 games. So with the looks of things so far it seems like the Cubs will get the second wildcard spot in the playoffs, but you never know what will happen.
If the Cubs happen to make the wildcard playoffs they will play the other wildcard team in the NL. If the Cubs get the first spot in the wildcard they will play at home however, if they get the second spot then they will play on the road. The wildcard playoff spots only play one game and the winner will move on to the division series round and the loser will go home.
So, the big question, who should Joe Maddon name as the starter? Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta?
Jake Arrieta is very obviously having the much better regular season; with major league leading 17 wins and only 6 losses in 27 starts compared to Jon Lesters record of 8 wins and 10 losses in 26 starts. Arrieta also has very impressive stats to go along with his 17 wins. His ERA (earned runs average) is second in the MLB and second in the NL at 2.11 behind Dodgers ace Zack Greinke at 1.61. Another important statistic for a pitcher is the WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). Arrieta is fifth in the MLB and fourth in the NL for WHIP at .94. Arrieta is seventh in the MLB and fourth in the NL for strikeouts at 190. Arrieta is tied for first in the MLB and tied for first in the NL for shutouts at 2. Arrieta is also the number 2 guy in the NL Cy Young award rankings.
Arrieta continues to improve his stats, especially because of the no hitter he threw last Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Can anybody stop the bearded freak?
With stats so impressive, it is almost impossible for Jon Lester to finish with a better season than Arrieta. Lester’s stats have not yet proved that he is worth the 6 year $155 million contract the Cubs gave him before the 2015 season. Lester has a current ERA of 3.59 which is a big increase from his 2.49 ERA last season. Lester only has 8 wins this year which is half of what he had last year! He has a pretty solid WHIP this year with 1.21 but that is not good enough. In the WHIP category Lester has another teammate that has better stats. Not only is it Jake Arrieta but Jason Hammel has a better WHIP than Lester. He also has a pretty solid number of strikeouts this year with 166. Although Lester has solid stats he is not meeting his expectations.
Jake Arrieta is able to take over the ace position from Lester even though Lester has that huge contract. With 32 games left in the season and only a few more starts I really hope Lester can become the ace that he used to be and prove that he is better than Jake Arrieta.
Even though Arrieta has much better stats than Lester, Lester is the man with all the experience. That is one of the reasons that the Cubs signed him to that huge contract. Lester’s record in the playoffs is 6-4 in 12 starts. He also pitched as a reliever in 2 games. So that gives him 84 innings of playoff experience.
Jake Arrieta is a completely different story. He has never been involved in a playoff game, therefore he has absolutely no experience.
In my opinion, Jon Lester should start the wildcard game. I understand that Arrieta has had a much better season but Lester has the experience and he comes alive in the playoffs. If the Cubs make the playoffs this year I think that Jon Lester will prove that he is worth $155 million and he will shine during the playoffs.
Who do you think will start the game if the Cubs are in the NL wildcard game? Will it be the man with the experience in Jon Lester? Or will it be the man proving he is worthy of the Cy Young award in Jake Arrieta?