Some team’s World Series victory drought will come to an end this year. Either the Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won since 1908, or the Cleveland Indians, whose lack of a title is a rather pedestrian 68 seasons, will put an end to their lack of baseball’s World Championship.
Make no mistake, the Cubs are very worthy of being here, having the best record in baseball with 103 wins.
They have the National League’s best offense that doesn’t play in hitting friendly Coors Field, and they have the league’s best ERA too.
They lead the NL in on base percentage and OPS, and rank 4th in the Senior Circuit in slugging. They do not run much, as they were 4th last in the NL in stolen bases.
And they actually hit better away from the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field than they do at home. In fact, the park on the north side of the Windy City, actually played as a pitcher’s park this season.
Joe Maddon, one of the game’s best skippers (along with Terry Francona), has the likely NL MVP in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, both of whom have OPS over 900.
Leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler has a .393 on base percentage, while Ben Zobrist and Wilson Contreras both are very good offensive threats.
The Cubs do have some swing and miss bats in their order though, they were 5th in the NL in that category.
Pitching wise, Game 1 starter Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and their closer, Aroldis Chapman all have ERAs under 2.00 at Wrigley Field.
Their other three starters (Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel) are all under 3.00, very formidable indeed.
However, on the road, both Lester and Arrieta, presumably the game two starter, are both over 3.00, and Lackey is over 4.00, although his start appears to be a home.
The former Angels and Red Sox hurler is 8-9 lifetime vs. Cleveland with an ERA approaching 4.
And then we have the American League’s best baserunning team, the Indians, vs. Lester, who has a known “phobia” about throwing to bases.
If the Tribe can get on against the southpaw, they need to run and run and run some more. Take advantage of every little thing possible against one of the game’s better pitchers.
And last, we will hear plenty about Francona and his relationship with Cubs’ president Theo Epstein, and how they ended the “Curse of the Bambino” in Boston and repeated with another title in 2007.
This series features two of the best managers in the sport, two outstanding young executives, one (Chris Antonetti) looking to win for the first time, and two teams with a sordid past, although with three AL pennants in the last 21 years, the Indians are the franchise with more recent success.
There is no question the Cubs are very good. Their run differential this year is the highest in the National League since 1906.
On the other hand, they played in the National League, the inferior league in our estimation. Outside of the Twins, you can argue that the five worst teams in baseball played in the NL (Reds, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Brewers).
Can the Indians pull it off? Of course, but the bats need to wake up. You can’t expect the pitching staff to continue to perform as they have thus far in the playoffs.