As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning. Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review. Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season. As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!
Player: Jon Lester
Season stats: 4-1, 4.36 ERA, 12 G, 66.0 IP, 68 H, 11 HR, 26 BB, 40 K, 5.40 FIP, 1.424 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, -0.1 bWAR, 0.0 fWAR
Statcast: .344 xwOBA, 7.7 barrel %, 88.3 exit velocity, 37.2 hard hit %, 14.5 K %, 8.8 BB %
Best Statcast category: Hard Hit % (62nd percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (3rd percentile)
Hero/Goat: Goat 2
Positives: Dropped his ERA by .7 runs and his hits per nine by one from his 2021 time in Washington….went five innings or more in all but one start….kept lefties to a .660 OPS….walked one fewer batter in 15 more innings in the second half….had a 3.67 ERA in September….second place hitters had a .648 OPS….the first batter of the game hit .192….allowed a .726 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 2.53 ERA in the fifth inning….batters hit .243 on pitches 26-50….held the Brewers to a .745 OPS.
Negatives: Allowed four runs before he got his first Cardinal out….gave up five or more runs in his first two outings but no others….gave up four runs in each of his last two starts….right-handers had an .873 OPS against him….had a 5.12 ERA in August, in large part due to those first two outings….allowed a .304 average when given six or more runs of support….fourth-place hitters got to him for a 1.128 OPS and sixth-place hitters had a 1.140….batters hit .375 with five home runs on the first pitch….allowed a .983 OPS when batters were ahead in the count….most of his damage came in low-leverage situations, where he allowed a .933 OPS….had a 6.11 ERA in the first inning….batters slashed .304/.361/.578 on his first 25 pitches….allowed a 1.027 OPS to the Cubs.
Overview: The trade deadline acquisition of Lester, much like the one of J.A. Happ, didn’t exactly enthuse Cardinal Nation. Not only had Lester struggled mightily with the Nationals, he was a former Cub that was still beloved by that fan base. When Lester came out and bombed against the Braves in his first appearance, it seemed like the whole thing was a bust. Lester eventually righted the ship, though. Some of his peripherals weren’t that much different in St. Louis–he actually struck out fewer per nine as a Cardinal than he did as a National–but he got better results in part because of the defense behind him. Lester had put himself into position, due to success and injuries, to be the starter in the first game of the divisional series had the Cardinals gotten past the Dodgers. Like with Happ and Wade LeBlanc, the Gold Glovers helped Lester look better than he probably was.
Outlook: Lester was very non-committal about his baseball future during the season. My personal feeling is that he’ll call it a career, but we are into the free agency process now and still no announcement of his retirement. Perhaps he’s waiting to see what kind of offers he gets. The Cardinals will probably keep in touch, but with what seems a new commitment to the analytics, Lester wouldn’t seem to be the sort of pitcher they’d make a big play for.