Joe Maddon: Jon Lester Getting Better With Age

"Jonny, he's just taken his career to another level," Maddon says.

Laurence Holmes Show
May 14, 2019 - 2:12 pm

(670 The Score) Cubs manager Joe Maddon has been as thrilled as anyone by left-hander Jon Lester's brilliance in 2019, as it has given him a rock to plan around every fifth day and a leader to set the tone for a team that has surged since an ugly 2-7 start.

While Lester's numbers -- headlined by a 1.16 ERA that would lead MLB if he qualified with enough innings -- are admittedly eye-popping even to Maddon, his continued ace-like performance isn't a surprise. In Maddon's mind, Lester has the profile of a pitcher who gets better with age.

"Motivation and competition," Maddon said of Lester's success on the Laurence Holmes Show on Tuesday afternoon. "In part of of his mind, he has to realize it's not going to go on forever. He loves to compete. He's an absolute competitor. He's really just learned his craft so well, all the years that he's gotten to this point, he's continued to learn. He continues to try to do better at what he's done in the past. It's a competitive thing. It's a learning thing, and I think he's having a blast right now. We all mature as we move along, but I just think Jon has grown up so much over the last couple of years. What you're seeing right now is a culmination of so many different moments he's been through, and now he's processing it as perfectly as you can."

Lester, 35, has upped his strikeouts-per-nine-innings mark from 7.4 in 2018 to 9.1 this season and dropped his walks-per-nine-innings rate from 3.2 to 1.9 in the same time frame. His 1.11 WHIP is far better than his career 1.25 mark. 

Maddon believes some of Lester's best qualities are his ability to focus and battle through in-game adversity.

"Jonny, he's just taken his career to another level," Maddon said. "He's in great shape physically and mentally. And he's one of the best teammates you'll ever have."