cubs

2016 World Series preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians — A battle of the droughts

With the conclusion of the ALCS and NLCS, we have reached what may be the most anticipated World Series in quite some time with the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, taking on the Chicago Cubs, whose World Series-winning drought famously dates back more than a century to 1908, and their last World Series appearance taking place in 1945 — before the World Series was even televised.

Regardless of the lack of World Series success the teams have had in their respective histories, they both deserve to be in this year’s Fall Classic; the Cubs had a MLB-best 103 wins during the regular season, while the Indians’ 94 wins left them one victory behind the Rangers, giving them the second-best record in the American League. The Indians bulldozed their way through the American League playoffs, sweeping the Red Sox in the ALDS and beating the Blue Jays in the ALCS, losing just one game to win the series in five. The Cubs’ path to the World Series was a little more difficult; they needed four games to beat the Giants in the NLDS and the Dodgers took them to six games in the NLCS.

The American League won this year’s All-Star Game for the fourth straight season, giving the Indians home-field advantage in the World Series. As a result, Games 1 and 2 will be in Cleveland. Wrigley Field will host its first World Series game in 71 years on Friday when Game 3 takes place, with Games 4 and, if necessary, 5 following it over the weekend — assuming there are no weather issues that affect the schedule. If Games 6 and 7 are necessary, they are scheduled for Cleveland on Nov. 1 and 2, respectively. First pitch for all games, except Game 5 on Sunday, are scheduled for 8:08pm Eastern; first pitch Sunday is at 8:15pm Eastern. All games are on Fox in the U.S.

The Cubs have the advantage in the starting rotation, led by likely National League Cy Young winner SP Kyle Hendricks, who pitched 7.1 innings of 2-hit ball in Game 6 of the NLCS to clinch the pennant for the Cubs. During the regular season, Hendricks was 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA. SP Jon Lester also had a big season for the Cubs, going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA. After a strong start to the season, SP Jake Arrieta was inconsistent in the second half en route to a 18-8 record and 3.10 ERA. If a fourth starter is needed in the series, the task would likely fall to veteran SP John Lackey, who is a two-time World Series champion, having won it with the 2002 Angels and 2013 Red Sox. Injuries have had an affect on the Indians’ rotation, with SPs Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar missing significant chunks of the season; Carrasco is out for the season, but Salazar has recently started throwing and could be added to the World Series roster. Leading the Tribe’s rotation is SP Corey Kluber, who led the team during the season with a 18-9 record to go with his 3.14 ERA. Behind him in the rotation are SP Josh Tomlin, who was 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA this season, and SP Trevor Bauer, who is confident he’ll be able to pitch in the World Series despite a well-publicized finger laceration caused by a recent drone accident. If Bauer can’t go, P Ryan Merritt may get his second start of the postseason; he went 4.1 scoreless innings in the Game 5 clincher.

While the Cubs have the better rotation, the bullpen advantage goes the other way, with the Indians. RP Andrew Miller, who was acquired from the Yankees in a midseason trade, was an X-factor in the ALCS and could be the same against the Cubs. He can come in in the middle of the game if needed or pitch later in the game to get the ball to closer Cody Allen with the lead intact. In six appearances in the postseason, Miller has struck out 21 batters in 11.2 innings while earning a win and a save and not allowing an earned run. Allen is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities this postseason. Like the Indians, the Cubs acquired a top-level reliever from the Yankees before the trade deadline, RP Aroldis Chapman, who saved 18 games for the Cubs during the regular season after the trade. His numbers in the postseason haven’t been great, however. Chapman has gone 8 innings, with 10 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA. He is 1-0 and a has 3 saves in 5 opportunities. That’s not the way you want your closer to be pitching heading into the World Series.

Offense is another part of the game in which the Cubs have the edge.  OF Javier Baez has been leading the charge at the plate for the Cubs, with 13 hits in 38 at-bats, with 4 doubles, 1 home run and 2 steals. 3B Kris Bryant is right up there with Baez; he’s 13-for-39 with 5 doubles and 1 home run. 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Addison Russell have underperformed in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Each of them is currently hitting under .200 so if they can get back to the offensive production the Cubs have come to expect from them, that would give the Cubs more of an offensive boost. For the Indians, SS Francisco Lindor is the sole regular hitting over .300; he has 10 hits in 31 at-bats, with 2 doubles and 2 home runs. Other key hitters, like 2B Jason Kipnis and 1B Mike Napoli have sub-.200 batting averages in the postseason. If they can’t get out of their slumps early in the series, don’t expect them to have much success against the Cubs’ stellar starting pitchers.

Neither team is lacking in the managerial department, with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Indians skipper Terry Francona both considered among the best in the majors.

My preseason prediction for the World Series was the Blue Jays over the Cubs. Toronto fell just shy of making it, but the Cubs are in it. With the way the Cubs played all season and the strong starting pitching they’ve gotten in the postseason, I’m going to pick them to win their first World series title in 108 years. I think the series will go six games, which would mean the series would finish in Cleveland and the Cubs wouldn’t be able to celebrate the title at Wrigley.

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