Here we go: The 2016 World Series begins, with the Cleveland Indians enjoying home field advantage thanks to the All-Star game, while the Chicago Cubs, with the burden of expectations, curses and the best record in the majors this season, are for some reason the road team in game 1.
But forget about the weird way of deciding home field in the World Series. Baseball is probably the sport that least depends on home field advantage compared to the NFL, NBA and NHL. If the Cubs are a better team at this point of the year, they’ll win it. And it’ll come down to their lineup players ability to be consistent, and not fall asleep for two games before it’s almost too late. The Indians don’t have the rotation the Dodgers have, not with the injuries weighing it down, but they plan on giving their bullpen as many innings as possible, which could be worse for the Cubs.
And while Chicago have had some late surges in this postseason that got them out of some sticky situations, they can’t afford to fall behind within the first five innings. As we’ve seen, the Indians going to Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, with some Bryan Shaw for about 4-to-5 innings as deadly as relief unit can be. While the Indians can’t rely on their arms every night, the Cubs would be wise not to test them, and show their batting superiority as soon as possible.
Road to the World Series: The Cubs finished the season with 103 wins, the best in the majors, winning the NL Central. They went on to beat the San Francisco Giants 3-1 in the NLDS and the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in the NLCS, making it to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
The Indians were a surprise AL Central winners, winning 94 games. They beat the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS with a clean three-game sweep, following that up with a dominant 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. It’s the Indians first world series since 1997.
Starting pitchers: The bullpen, especially for the Indians, has been terrific in the postseason, but the starters have had a big deal in these two teams making the world series too. No one has been better for the Cubs than Jon Lester, posting an 0.86 ERA through 3 games, getting the decision in his favor twice (2-0 overall). Through 21 innings he’s allowed only two runs, and while he isn’t striking out too many batters (six in 7 innings is his best), he’s doing an excellent job of keeping batters hitting it to the ground, which helped him earn the NLCS co-MVP against the Dodgers. He’s faced a lot of Rajai Davis in his career, allowing a .304 batting average and one home run in 46 at bats.
For the Indians, it’s going to be Corey Kluber. He’s 1-1 with a 0.98 ERA in the postseason and even his loss, occurring on his last appearance on October 18 when the Indians lost their only game in the ALCS to the Blue Jays, wasn’t terrible. He gave up two runs (one homer) and 4 hits in 5 innings, and the bullpen, for once, couldn’t put the Indians in a better position. He held his opponents scoreless in his two previous trips to the mounds in the playoffs. He’s had very little experience against current Cubs batters, but has allowed just .098 batting average against him so far.