Former Cubs ace Jon Lester’s 200th win bolsters Hall of Fame case

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Jon Lester’s 200th win bolsters Hall of Fame case originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Cubs watched from a distance this week as former ace Jon Lester picked up his 200th career win with the Cardinals.

“Now we can really go all in on kicking his butt,” Cubs manager and Lester’s former personal catcher David Ross joked. “I'm happy for him, very happy.”

Lester, who's scheduled to pitch Saturday, will go for win No. 201 when he faces the Cubs at Wrigley Field this weekend.

As he returns as a visitor for the second time this season, after coming back with the Nationals in May, he might be a few miles closer to Cooperstown.

That's right. Two-hundred wins in today’s game is no small feat.

“The milestone of 300 wins is almost, the way the game is played now and the way things are done, it's just different,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “It’s going to be harder for guys to get 300 wins.”

Lester is the 119th pitcher in MLB history to reach the 200-win plateau — and the 30th lefty. Twelve of those southpaws are in the Hall of Fame.

“You look at the fellow lefties that have won 200 games, it’s an elite group of guys,” Hottovy said.

Lester is in good company among active pitchers with 200 wins and only one of three, along with Houston’s Justin Verlander (226) and Zack Greinke (219).

After Lester, the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer (190) and Clayton Kershaw (185), and Cardinals teammate Adam Wainwright (183) are the next closest.

Lester's 200 wins — 77 of which came in a Cubs uniform from 2015-20 — don’t even count his nine in 22 career postseason starts.

“If you look at those totalities and what he's done, not just during the regular season,” Hottovy said, “I think he's one of the best that's played the game. That's the bottom line for me.”

Lester's other accolades include:

  • Three World Series championships

  • Five All-Star Game appearances

  • 2,478 career strikeouts (41st in MLB history)

  • Twelve seasons of 30+ starts

Lester has been in these Hall of Fame conversations for several years, including as far back as spring 2017, coming off the Cubs’ World Series title.

“I’d like to think that I’ve so far had a pretty good run,” Lester told NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer in spring 2017. “We’ll see where we’re at, at the end. That whole thing is something you can’t really focus on right now. 

“Obviously, that’s every kid’s dream when they play sports, to be the best, to get recognized, and the ultimate recognition is going into the Hall of Fame.”

Lester has built quite the résumé in his 16 seasons in the big leagues and will go down as a big-game pitcher when his career is all said and done.

He appears headed back to October this fall with the Cardinals, who hold a three-game lead for the NL's second wild-card spot as of Thursday.

In the meantime, he could add to that win total over the final week of the regular season.

"He's definitely a guy that should get a long look as a guy who should be potentially in the Hall of Fame at the end of his career," Hottovy said. 

"Getting to 200 wins nowadays is a lot different than the 300 wins that we used to have in the past."

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