2016 World Series Preview
A detailed look into the series featuring the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians.
The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians will be playing each other in the 112th edition of the World Series. Let that sink in for a second.
The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and the Indians since 1948. These are the two longest droughts in baseball.
Between the Cubs well known futility and the general ineptitude of Cleveland sports, it doesn’t seem possible that these two teams will be playing each other for the championship.
So without further ado, let's break into a position by position breakdown of the two teams.
Starting Pitching: The Cubs have the best starting rotation in baseball. Jon Lester will get the ball game one, most likely followed by Jake Arrieta and ERA leader Kyle Hendricks. The injuries to the Indians starting rotation have been mentioned ad nauseum, and nobody should deny the incredible effort from Corey Kluber and others, but the Cubs are simply the best in baseball right now. Advantage Cubs rotation.
Catcher: Usually when you have a catcher platoon, a team's catchers are very average. This is not the case from the Cubs. David Ross, Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras have all hit a home run this postseason and Ross and Contreras have two of the best arms in the league. With Cleveland, there is a reason they were trying to trade for Jonathan Lucroy at the trade deadline. Advantage the catching trio of the Cubs.
1B: Anthony Rizzo seems to have broken out of his early postseason struggles. In his last three games, he has had seven hits in just 14 official at bats with two home runs. Don't forget about his gold glove caliber defensive capabilities as well. Mike Napoli is coming off of a great year where he hit 34 homers and drove in 101 RBIs. Though not as good of defender or contact hitter as Rizzo, Napoli’s power still makes him a threat, just not as much as Rizzo when he is on. Advantage Rizzo and the Cubs.
2B: This is probably the trickiest position of the bunch. From a full body of work, Jason Kipnis has been the better player. Throughout the season he hit for a .275 average and 23 home runs, all while improving his defense, but has a less than stellar postseason. This is in contrast to Javier Baez, who has arguably been the best position player throughout the entire playoffs so far. He has moved up to fifth in the batting order and single handedly carried the Cubs through their first few games. Oh, and he is a pretty good defensive player as well. This may very well be a cop out but I am calling it Even.
3B: No disrespect to the Indians Jose Ramirez, but Kris Bryant of the Cubs is in all likelihood the National League MVP. Bryant hit for an incredible .937 OPS this season with 39 regular season home runs and 102 RBIs. Hard to believe that it is only his second season in the league. Advantage Bryant and the Cubs
SS: The battle of the 22 year old shortstops. Francisco Lindor is arguably the best young shortstop in the league. The same case can be made for Addison Russell. Their defensive is similar, the only difference really being that Russell has a little more power and Lindor being the better contact hitter. Another close call but this one goes to Lindor and the Indians.
LF: The Indians play an outfield by committee, but it looks as though veteran Coco Crisp will be the main starter in left, his age has definitely caught up with him but he can still hit and run, though not as well as he used to. Ben Zobrist is the Cubs resident veteran position player and had a very good start to the year before cooling off in the second half of the season. Advantage Zobrist and the Cubs.
CF: Cleveland will split time between Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis, depending on matchups. Rajai Davis may be used more in this series due to the conception that Cubs pitcher are terrible at holding runners on base. The Cubs centerfielder and leadoff hitter is Dexter Fowler. When he was injured for a stretch of July, that's when the Cubs went on their worst run of the year. Fowler makes the Cubs go. Advantage Fowler and the Cubs.
RF: Before the season, if you were to compare Jason Heyward of the Cubs and Lonnie Chisenhall of the Indians, it would be completely laughed off as Heyward would get the nod every single time. Despite Heyward still being a very good defensive outfielder his complete offensive ineptitude this season has really hurt his value, while Chisenhall hit for a respectable .767 OPS. Advantage Chisenhall and the Indians.
DH: In the shock of the postseason, Kyle Schwarber will be on the Cubs World Series roster after missing six months with a torn ACL and LCL, a pretty miraculous recovery time given the circumstances. Even though it is a nice story, he has had six total at bats in the Arizona fall league and I doubt that the Chicago postseason home run leader has his timing back. Meanwhile, despite not having the best OBP, Carlos Santana did hit 34 home runs and .865 OPS. Although there is some serious upside with Schwarber, big advantage to Santana and the Indians.
Bullpen: The Indians have the best backend of the bullpen in the league with Cody Allen and Andrew Miller. The Cubs are no slouches themselves, with Aroldis Chapman, among others, but there is a reason that Miller was named the ALCS MVP. The Cubs better hope that the Indians bullpen is very tired with all the innings they pitched, otherwise late inning runs will be hard to come by. Advantage Andrew Miller and Co.
A championship drought will end for one of these two franchises. On paper, the Cubs have the better lineup, but if their offense struggles like it did for a couple of games against the Dodgers, it will be tough to come back against the Indians in the late innings.
The first game of the series is very important for the Indians. After Kluber, there really is not much to write home about for the starting rotation. If the Cubs win the opening game, it could easily be a five game win or a sweep for the Cubs. The Indians have been resilient all post season, but this is the most balanced lineup they will have faced to date.
Final prediction: Chicago Cubs in 6 games