1908 vs. 1948
By Joe Smeltzer
The World Series is here.
On one side, there’s the Chicago Cubs, who are making their first Fall Classic appearance since 1945 and looking for their first World Series title since 1908.
On the other side, there’s the Cleveland Indians, who have not won a World Championship since 1948. So, somebody’s curse is going to end, and it’s perfect for baseball.
I’ve been saying for months that a Cubs-Tribe World Series would be great for business, as it pits a large media market (Chicago + the Midwest) against a small, but loyal, market (Cleveland).
Both of these franchises have interesting back stories, as the Cubs were built back up to dominance by Theo Epstein, Joe Madden, Jed Hoyer and the young team that Epstein and Hoyer put together.
Cleveland is under the guidance of Terry Francona, who worked with Epstein to break the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, and is looking to take the lead over his former boss in the
Let’s take a look at some key matchups in the Fall Classic.
Indians starting pitching vs. Cubs offense
Chicago’s offense is phenomenal; there’s no other way to describe it. The lineup includes a player who will likely be named the National League’s MVP after the season in third baseman Kris Bryant. Also in the lineup is franchise cornerstone and a perennial All-Star in Anthony Rizzo, young studs up the middle in Javier Baez and Addison Russell and a playoff savvy vet in Ben Zobrist.
The Cubs lineup is not without its weak spots. I don’t see Dexter Fowler as an ideal leadoff hitter, and the right fielder Jason Heyward has been invisible throughout the whole postseason. But the assets far outweigh the liabilities when it comes to the Cubs’ offensive attack.
For Cleveland, the rotation is, in my opinion, the best in the AL…when healthy. Unfortunately, they are not healthy, but getting Danny Salazar back is a boost. But how good is Salazar going to be? Is the combination of rust and lack of playoff experience going to be too much for Salazar to handle?
The Tribe won’t have their No. 2 starter in Carlos Carrasco due to injury as well. It is true that the Indians are no less healthy than they were when they defeated Boston and Toronto to get here, but how long can it last?
In conclusion, I would take the Cubs offense against any pitching staff in baseball, especially one that is depleted.
Cubs starting pitching vs. Indians offense
You don’t win 103 games and an NL Pennant by being one-dimensional. The Cubs pitching staff is on par with their excellent hitting.
Jon Lester was arguably the best pitcher in the NL this season and is a two-time World Series Champ. Jake Arrieta was the NL’s best pitcher last season and still is a beast. John Lackey still has stuff left in the tank at 38 years old, as well as World Series experience and Kyle Hendricks has been the best Chicago starter of all for the past two months and led the MLB in ERA. Of all 4 Cubs starters, there is not a weak link of the bunch. But can they contain Cleveland’s offense?
Cleveland does have a good lineup. But aside from shortstop Francisco Lindor, none of their big guns are in top form. Mike Napoli, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana are a combined 15 for 87 in the postseason for a collective .172 batting average.
If the Tribe want to score enough runs, their leaders need to show up.
The main reason the Indians are here is their bullpen. The fact that Andrew Miller, who Francona now uses as a middle reliever or closer or anytime, was named the ALCS MVP should tell you what the bullpen means to the Indians.
With the combination of injuries in the starting rotation, the bullpen needed to be lights out. And boy was it ever.
Over 8 postseason games, the Indians bullpen has accumulated a 1.67 ERA over 32.1 innings of work. If you do the math, the Tribe relievers have had to go an average of nearly 5 innings a night in the playoffs. That’s a heavy work load.
Although the Cubs do have the beast that is Aroldis Chapman, their bullpen is probably the most underwhelming part of their team, as they have just a 3.53 ERA over the postseason.
Although I am skeptical of how much Cleveland’s relievers, particularly Miller, have left in the tank, I’m still giving Cleveland the edge if the game is tied in the late innings.
Prediction: Cubs in Six
The Cubs are more talented than Cleveland is. They are healthier than Cleveland is. Their pitching rotation is much more organized than Cleveland’s is.
Terry Francona is a fantastic manager, and he is the biggest reason why the Tribe has defied the odds in winning the American League. But Cleveland’s bullpen can’t pitch five innings a night forever. For Cleveland to win, more than likely, either Trevor Bauer or Josh Tomlin will have to throw a gem against this Cubs offense. I have my doubts about that happening.
Chicago will win its first World Series since 1908.
Harry Carey will be smiling.