2016 World Series Preview

cubbies

The Chicago Cubs are back in the World Series for the first time in 71 years.



Offense

Mike – The Chicago Cubs have a line that, top to bottom, instills fear into almost any team. I mean, who would hate to face Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and company? Hell, if I’m starting a franchise in MLB The Show and doing a fantasy draft, I’d be happy just drafting the Cubs lineup.

Ben Zobrist will provide a tough out in nearly every at bat thanks to his ability to show patience as well as fight off pitches. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we are talking about Zobrist winning a 15 or 20-plus pitch battle that swings a game. Also, Javier Baez and Bryant are the two best hitters entering the World Series in terms of batting average right now at .342 and .333, respectively.

That being said, the Indians come in with a manager’s dream. Three left-handed bats and five switch-hitters allows Terry Francona to have some fun when setting each game’s lineup. The Cubs lineup is more likely to scare you at face value, but Cleveland has just as dangerous a lineup at the plate. Plus, getting to potentially use DH Carlos Santana in four games rather than three is a bigger deal than many may think.

Ryan – Javier Baez has been an absolute revelation for not only the Chicago Cubs this postseason, but for all of Major League Baseball. Baez, the NLCS Co-MVP, recorded a .318 average in the NLCS and has a .342 average overall. Safe to say he will continue to anchor the Cubs hopes offensively.

More good news for Cubs fans too, Anthony Rizzo remembered how to hit again! After a .067 average in the NLDS, Rizzo tore the cover off the ball against Los Angeles and recorded a .320 average.

Speaking of good hitting, only one Indians starter this postseason has a cumulative average over .300 (Francisco Lindor – .323). Furthermore, the Indians as a team are batting .203 in the postseason. Cleveland has won 5 of 7 postseason games by 2 runs or less. We’ll talk more about this later.

One would think that Chicago has the upper hand offensively, and the stats don’t lie, they do. Chicago is tied for 1st with 76 hits, 1st with 48 runs scored and a .222 overall team average. If the bats stay even a little warm, Chicago might be breaking another streak in a few weeks.

Defense

Mike – The move by Chicago to move Zobrist to the outfield in order to make room for Baez has paid off in more ways than one. Baez has been lights out at second base, playing as flawless at the position as one can. The infield just gets even better for the Cubs with Bryant, Russell and Rizzo. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better infield than what Chicago has. Sure, the Indians trot out Kipnis and Lindor to the middle of the infield, but nothing compares to what Chicago has.

As far as the outfield goes, the Indians have the ability to play multiple players and get a reliable effort. Depending on who is on the mount, Cleveland can play Crisp and Davis or Guyer and Naquin, and they’ll be okay. It’s a great situation to be in if your Cleveland because you don’t have to worry about losing quality with a switch. Play the matchups, and the team has been rewarded.

Ryan – To echo Mike’s sentiment, the Cubs indeed struck gold with sticking Baez at second base. When you’re good, things seem to keep going your way. Chicago is sound at every position and they’re fast too, so the broader outfield dimensions at Progressive Field should pose little threat.

The Indians are deep in the outfield with speed and their infield is beyond solid with the emergence of Francisco Lindor, as quite possibly the American League’s top defensive shortstop.

Basing specifically of stats, Cleveland has been far superior this postseason. The Indians have recorded only one error 639 innings, whereas Chicago has recorded eight errors in 828 innings. With that being said, Cleveland’s defensive efficiency ratio is only .002% higher than Chicago. As fancy stats state, the higher a team’s DER (defensive efficiency ratio) is, the better the team is considered to be defensively.

Pitching

Mike – If you look back at the offensive preview of the series, notice how I said the Cubs lineup puts fear into almost any team. It won’t with the Indians, and it’s because of the pitching. Look at what Cleveland did to the high-powered bats of the Blue Jays in the ALCS. The pitchers — led by the dominant Andrew Miller — shut down the big bats of the Jays. I don’t think they can do the same to Chicago, but the Cubs won’t be putting up 10 runs in a game at all in this series.

Sure, the Cubs boast the better of the starting rotation thanks to Lester, Arrieta and Hendricks, but the Indians bullpen that features the aforementioned Miller and closer Cody Allen can shut down the Cubs bats as soon as they come into a game. If the Indians can get a lead by the time the sixth or seventh inning rolls around, it’ll be tough for Chicago to even overcome a one-run lead. And who knows, as long as he doesn’t bleed out, Trevor Bauer may very well be able to contribute in this series.

Ryan – Another category where Chicago seems to have the clear cut upper hand.

If we are comparing rotations, there is no question. The Cubs have arguably one of the best left-handed postseason pitchers ever in Jon Lester, one of the league’s most dominant pitchers in Jake Arrieta and one of the likely contenders for this season’s Cy Young Award in Kyle Hendricks. Long story short, Cleveland needs to get runs early and often if they want to make a difference. As we have seen, Cubs pitchers tend to improve as the game goes on.

Cleveland’s pitching staff is no slouch though. The Indians, as mentioned, have won 5 of their 7 games by 2 runs or less. That is a solid testament to their pitching staff as a whole. Cleveland rolls into the World Series boasting a 1.77 staff ERA, and Chicago sits at a 2.93 staff ERA.

Cleveland will use Andrew Miller like the Swiss army knife he has become and Chicago will do their best to either avoid Miller or try to crack the uncrackable code. Either way, we’re in for a treat.

Major League vs. Rookie of the Year

Mike – This isn’t even an argument. You have Ricky Vaughn, Willie Mays Hays and Jake Taylor against who? Henry Rowengartner? Come on now. I don’t care how fast the kid throws, there’s just no way in my mind that he can stop the team on a mission by himself. I’ll take the team of misfit toys over that Cubs team any day.

Ryan – The story behind Rookie of the Year is highly improbable. Kid snaps his arm and becomes an ace for the Cubs? The best part of that movie was when he slapped the doctor in the face and the doctor screamed “FUNKY BUTTLOVIN.” I will never not laugh at that because I am truly a child at heart. On a side note, not crazy Gary Busey is fantastic in this movie.

As for Major League, this is one of my personal favorites. Like Mike said, you’ve got Wild Thing, Willie Mays Hays, Jake Taylor and more. How can you beat that? This movie is a classic, filled with one-liners that have been recited for years. Bob Uecker is responsible for that. I’m not sure they could ever make a baseball movie this good again. Cleveland takes the competition here.

World Series Prediction

Image result for cleveland indians logoMike – This is where I get stuck. I can honestly make a strong case for both teams ending their team’s curse, but, for some reason, I just see Cleveland becoming Title Town 2016. Miller has shown me nothing that says anyone will get to him this series, and the Indians’ ability to make mid-game changes with switch hitting has me thinking they will be able to counter anything the Cubs will do. The Cubs will end the curse one year, but it won’t be this one.

Cleveland in 6 games

Image result for chicago cubs logoRyan – As for a prediction, I would love to see either side win this World Series. Either way, we get a very, very long curse broken and one city will rejoice. Chicago seems to have been doing all the right things this season from the beginning of last offseason to now (aside from that disgusting Jason Heyward contract). At some point, it just becomes your year and it seems like it is the Cubs year.

Cleveland has played their tails off to get to this point and they shouldn’t be disappointed in themselves. I can’t think of any Major League writer who successfully projected Cleveland would win the American League pennant this season. Way to shock the sports world.

Chicago in 5 games

Written by Ryan Wolfe

Ryan Wolfe is the founder and editor-in-chief of BLTD Sports. He can be heard on the BLTD Podcast. Ryan's writing is also featured over at TheHockeyWriters.com.

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