Last year, Jake Arrieta started for the Cubs on Opening Night in Anaheim.
But Jake didn’t have a Jake! year in 2016. So I suspect Joe Maddon will choose someone else to start April 2 in St. Louis.
This MLB.com article agrees that Jon Lester will be Joe’s choice, and I agree with that.
I think choosing Lester makes sense on a number of levels. He was the Cubs’ best starter in 2016, posting 5.3 bWAR to Kyle Hendricks’ 5.0. He led the staff in innings, strikeouts and wins.
Beyond that, there’s this: Lester has been very, very good in Busch Stadium since he came to the Cubs. Granted, it’s a small sample size (three starts), but in those three starts, Lester has thrown 22 innings, allowed 12 hits and four walks (0.727 WHIP) and allowed two earned runs (0.82 ERA), along with 21 strikeouts.
If you need more evidence, overall against the Cardinals the last two years: eight starts, 52 innings, 36 hits and 13 walks (0.942 WHIP), 11 earned runs (1.90 ERA) along with 55 strikeouts.
And finally, Lester, who is generally known as an awful hitter, is 2-for-9 in his career at Busch Stadium and 4-for-19 overall against Cardinals pitching. The four hits are 40 percent of his career total.
Regarding Kyle Hendricks, who pitched so well in 2016, he pitched much better at Wrigley Field (1.32 ERA in 14 starts there, 2.95 ERA in 16 road starts), so I’d like to see the rotation set up so that Kyle starts the home opener April 10. It’s conceivable, with three off days over the season’s first 11 days, that the Cubs could go with only four starters during that span, perhaps giving Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson extra time to get ready (or have Montgomery in the bullpen and leave Anderson at extended spring training for a week or so).
So that’s where I have it: Jon Lester to start April 2 against the Cardinals. What say you?