You can put away the “metrics”. The 2016 World Series will be decided the old fashioned way. With all due respect to the late John Houseman, the winner will “EARN IT” on the field, not on the stat sheet.
Both are solid, all around teams and both have dubious histories in their team “DNA’s”.
Only one will break their championship drought and that makes this Series such a “delicious” match-up.
The game still comes down to the most elementary confrontation in team sports, the pitcher vs. the hitter.
With that in mind, we’ve abandoned those “position-by-position” break downs. Instead, here are some things to look for in this 2016 World Series:
Indians’ hitters vs Cubs’ pitchers:
If they get the chance, Cleveland will run on game one starter Jon Lester. Look for a couple of bunt attempts as well.
Lester is 7-1 in his career vs. Cleveland, however some of the Indians’ hitters have had good numbers against him. Ol’ buddy Mike Napoli is a career .600 hitter (6 for 10, 2 HRS, 5 RBI) against the southpaw while players like Jason Kipnis (3 for 8) and Rajai Davis (.304 in 46 career AB’s) have also had some good at-bats.
What will be interesting is if Indians manager Terry Francona starts the right hand hitting Davis (career 12 for 35, .343) against the righty Lackey in game four.
Look for the Indians to try and take Hendricks to the opposite field. The Cubs right hander will have the advantage of unfamiliarity with Cleveland’s line up.
It will be up to the Indians left handed hitters to make things tough for both Hendricks and John Lackey, who has a ton of post season experience.
The Indians do not strike out a ton but what’s important to note about their lineup, they are efficient and opportunistic.
The Tribe led the major leagues this season with 60 sacrifice flies and also had 31 sacrifice bunts. Those numbers could prove to be huge in this Series.
The Cubs pitchers will have to keep Napoli away from prime RBI opportunities and will have to deal with an unknown quantity in Jose Ramirez.
Chicago has the edge in the starting rotation and they’ll need to allow the offense to get a lead against the Indians beleaguered rotation.
As dominant as Aroldis Chapman can be, he’s shown that he can be vulnerable. Chicago’s middle relief will come into play.
Cubs’ hitters vs Indians’ pitchers:
The Cubs’ offense can come at you in waves and I expect them to have a game or two where they’ll be putting up some numbers.
Cleveland will need to slow down Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo has shaken his early post-season woes.
A couple of “x-factors”.
Jason Hayward has been awful offensively, but facing all those righties on the Indians’ staff may help him finally make a contribution.
If Kyle Schwarber is on the roster, despite the rust, he could still “break up” a game with one swing.
The potential match ups with Andrew Miller (especially vs. Bryant, Rizzo and Baez) will be thrilling.
Miller gave up eight home runs this season. It’s interesting that four of those came against National League teams.
What’s made this bullpen formula work for Cleveland are the arms that back up Miller’s early and sometimes late entrances.
Brian Shaw and Cody Allen have been “lights out” in the post season but the Cubs lineup is the best they’ve seen all season.
If the Cubs can “dent” the Indians bullpen early on in the series, that could go a long way towards determining their success.
Corey Kluber is being counted on to live up to his status as the staff’s “ace.”
Trevor Bauer’s status is an unknown but left hander Ryan Merritt will provide a safety net and Danny Salazar is ready to join the roster.
“Doing the little things” has always been the credo for winning baseball.
The team that executes those little details is usually the team that wins a best-of-seven series.
As a whole, Cleveland’s lineup grinds out at-bats. The Indians are not power laden, but they’re very efficient with situational hitting.
Chicago’s offense is not predicated on the long ball even though they hit 199 home runs during the regular season. They are more versatile than just being a one dimensional team.
Cleveland will play more “small ball” and that usually serves a team well in the post season.
Cleveland was 13-7 vs. NL teams, Chicago was 15-5 vs. AL teams
Both managers have shown a penchant for the unconventional. What will be worth watching is “how unconventional” they may get.
The bullpen usage will come under intense scrutiny and because they’ve both been so good, we could see an extra inning game or two.
This series may be the “coming out party” for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor who just may be the best player on the field.
The consensus is that the Cubs are the best team in baseball. They’re an exciting young team that is greatly talented and seem to be primed to get the 108-year old monkey off their back.
The Indians, who have a 68-year drought of their own, can best be described with the phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Looking back throughout baseball history, every championship team has a flaw of some kind. To win in the post-season, a team needs to “overcome” their flaws.
Despite a sub-par starting staff, the Indians have rode their bullpen and continued to find ways to win. I think that trend continues in this World Series.
Cleveland in 7.
MVP: Jason Kipnis