The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a baseball championship in over 67 seasons. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won one in over 107 years.
My what a matchup this is shaping up to be.
With playoff rosters being announced on Monday, and Game 1 coming tonight on Fox, the obvious question is who has the upper hand?
It feels that the Cubs seem to have an advantage at every positions. Their pitching seems to be better, and of course former teammates Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller will square off against one another at some point in the series. Certainly it feels as if the Indians are a bunch of nobodies who have found themselves in the World Series. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for the occasion.
Roberto Perez has done a wonderful job this year as a defensive catcher. However when it comes to his bat, it’s almost non-existent. Cubs’ Wilson Contreras has been spectacular on both the offensive side and defensive side of the plate. Along with splitting time with David Ross who primarily catches Jon Lester (as he will tonight), the Cubs have the winners here.
Anthony Rizzo has awoken and it could spell disaster for Cleveland pitching during the World Series. After starting hitless, Rizzo caught fire and delivered blow after blow to Dodger pitching as he helped propel the North side into their first World Series in over a century. Meanwhile, Mike Napoli has held his own at first base and is clearly a wonderful signing that Cleveland made during the offseason, he’s just no Rizzo.
This one becomes a little tricky as Javier Baez has been one of the most productive players thus far in the postseason especially with being named Co-NLCS MVP with Lester. Jason Kipnis outperformed Baez throughout the whole regular season and has been very crucial in the Indians’ run this year as well. Understanding that Baez may continue to break out as his career continues, right now Kipnis is the better player and therefore gives the Indians’ an advantage at second base.
This one is easy. Francisco Lindor can be considered as a top-5 shortstop as of this moment. The same cannot be said for Addison Russell. Despite Russell stepping up after practically being non-existent during the NLDS, Lindor has continued his steady play from the regular season into the postseason. Look for Lindor to be one of the big reasons if the Indians do win the World Series.
And just like shortstop, this one is also relatively easy. Despite Jose Ramirez having a breakout season, there’s not much to compare to Kris Bryant as Bryant put up MVP type numbers this year for the National League. Bryant is already a top-5 player in the game and his numbers this year only back up what he did last year as a rookie.
I don’t like to look at each outfield position as each team has thrown their fair share of combinations into the field. Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall and newly added Coco Crisp have done a wonderful job this year as they’ve all come up with clutch hits and defensive plays. Meanwhile the Cubs will primarily send out Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward. This would be pretty easy to determine if Heyward wasn’t having the worst year of his career. Zobrist and Fowler obviously out play the Indians. If Heyward can get on track then it creates problems for the rotation of the Indians who are already understaffed. I see Zobrist and Fowler outperforming both Naquin and Crisp fairly easily. Even with Hewyard’s abysmal year I take him over Chisenhall.
With the addition of Kyle Schwarber to the World Series roster, it seems that the Cubs have all the hitting they could ever need. I don’t think Schwarber will have as much of an impact as some think because he has missed an entire season and just got his first at-bats this past week in the Arizona Fall League. Meanwhile the Indians have Carlos Santana who had an outstanding season and has proven to be a huge impact for the Indians. Look for Santana to have a bigger impact during this series than Schwarber will.
This would be tough if the Indians were fully staffed. However, they are not. Missing Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar (who is on the World Series roster) had many doubting the Indians could make a deep run into the playoffs. Josh Tomlin has stepped up and rookie Ryan Merritt pitched in the biggest game of his life against the best lineup in the American League and came out unscathed. The Indians may need some more of that magic in the coming days. Corey Kluber has been dominant in his first postseason and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The Cubs send a stellar 5-man rotation being led by Lester and Arrieta. With potential Cy Young winner with Kyle Hendricks the Cubs hold an advantage over the Indians here.
Both teams added superstar pitchers from the New York Yankees at the deadline. With Andrew Miller being the better of the two thus far, it creates and interesting and spectacular conversation about how manager Terry Francona will use him during this series. Meanwhile Chapman has looked mortal, despite his 103 MPH fastball he has given up a few runs while closing. Despite those hiccups, Chapman is still considered in the top-3 conversation for closers. Cody Allen brings another relief ace into the picture as he is considered the Indians closer and could prove to be the x-factor in the series. Beating Miller will be tough enough, let alone having to go through another in Allen.
Francona has been her before and has currently done a wonerful job in managing his team to complete huge victories. He goes with his gut and puts the best players he has out on the field when he needs them most. Meanwhile, Joe Maddon has been here once before with the Tampa Bay Rays and lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. Maddon is ahead of his time as he does things other managers wouldn’t necessarily think of doing. Maddon is ready to bring a ring home to the North side and knows he has the players capable of doing it. However, with Francona’s experience in prior World Series he has the advantage.
With that being said, the relief pitching will most likely define this series. If the Indians get an early lead, look for the starter to go at least six innings and then see Miller for two innings and Allen for the ninth. Getting by those two will be very important for the Cubs to win this series. The Cubs’ starting rotation will need to continue its run during the postseason and superstars Rizzo and Bryant will need to continue their hot bats.
Our Pick: Cubs win in six