He had a terrific career, one in which he played for five different franchises: the Red Sox, the Oakland Athletics, the Cubs, the Washington Nationals, and the St. Louis Cardinals.
He overcame cancer, he went to five All-Star Games, and won three World Series, with considerable contributions in all of them.
Is Lester a Hall of Famer?
Never say never, but he probably isn’t.
He Falls Just Short Of Hall Standards
He is the kind of guy a fan roots for: likable, a winner, and by all accounts, a great teammate.
However, he doesn’t quite have a strong Hall of Fame case.
For starters, he accumulated 46.2 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement, FanGraphs’ version) over his long career: very solid number, but not quite elite.
Lester would rank 54th among Hall of Famers with his fWAR output, among 80 pitchers.
What does this say?
It wouldn’t be a crazy thought if he eventually enters the Hall, but there is not too much statistical evidence to back his case.
His career ERA is closer to 4.00 than 3.00: 3.66.
He won 200 games, which is a solid amount for old-school voters that still have that stat in high regard, and struck out 2,488 hitters, also worthy of praise.
We also have to consider other important accolades: his five All-Star berths (2010, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2018), his three World Series championships with two teams (2007, 2013, 2016), having won the National League Championship Series MVP award in 2016, leading the NL in wins in 2018, and pitching a no-hitter in 2008.
It should also be mentioned that he was a monster in the postseason.
In 154 innings, Lester compiled a phenomenal 2.51 ERA, winning several series almost by himself.
He is a celebrity in Boston, where he helped win two Fall Classics, and in Chicago, after pitching in for the Cubs to break a 108-year long curse.
33 pitchers in history have won 200+ games, struck out 2,400+ batters, and had a career ERA less than 3.70. 24 of those guys are in the Hall of Fame.
However, only three of that group have won three World Series: Curt Schilling, Don Drysdale … and Jon Lester.
Thank you, Jon. pic.twitter.com/oKfDT1e5Vj
— Marco Scola (@Marco_Scola) January 12, 2022
It’s quite a resume, but his high-ish ERA will likely be too much overcome in the minds of voters.
A Lack Of Individual Hardware Hurts His Case
Another important point against Lester is that he was never the Cy Young award winner.
Lots of Hall of Fame voters want pitchers to be, at least for a short period or a season, among the true elite, and individual awards are the best way to know if that was true.
Lester finished in the top ten in the Cy Young race five times, four of which he was in the top five.
However, the closest he was to taking it home was in 2016, when he finished second behind future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer.
Lester’s peak wasn’t terribly impressive for Hall of Fame standards, either.
His highest fWAR output in a season was 5.4, which he achieved twice (2009 and 2014).
For reference, that’s what Scherzer finished with during the 2021 season at 37 years old, and nowhere near his highest output.
All in all, Lester should get some Hall of Fame consideration and deserves to have his case examined by voters, but in the end, the most likely scenario has him falling a bit short.
— 9 Inning Know It All (@9InnKnowItAll) January 12, 2022
That’s nothing to be ashamed of, frankly, as he was a true hero for two historic franchises.