Who has the edge in Cubs-Indians World Series?
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
STARTING PITCHING: Cubs
The Game 1 starters in the series — former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and playoff ace Jon Lester — are equal and opposite reactors. But the deepest staff in the American League has been without two of its top three starters (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar) since long before the playoffs began (though Salazar could return for the Series and possibly make a start). The Cubs’ four-man depth, including their own Cy Young winner (Jake Arrieta) and Kershaw-slayer Kyle Hendricks is why they’re making history.
RELIEF PITCHING: Indians
Baseball’s fourth-ranked bullpen during the season has been the backbone of the Indians’ 7-1 playoff run, led by the other lefty reliever the Cubs wanted from the Yankees: Andrew Miller (six scoreless appearances spanning 11‰ innings). The Cubs nabbed their own lefty closer from the Yankees (Aroldis Chapman) to strengthen the back end of their pen. But Miller has shown since his trade to Cleveland why he was the top reliever in the summer trade market.
The Cubs are by far the majors’ best team at turning batted balls into outs, with Gold Glove-caliber players at four or more positions, including postseason breakout star Javy Baez at second base. The Indians have one of the best young shortstops in the game (Francisco Lindor) and overall are better than average. But the Cubs’ edge is clear.
Anchored by two MVP candidates in Bryant and Rizzo, the Cubs averaged five runs during the season and are the highest-scoring team of the postseason, including 23 runs in their last three games (that includes five against Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS clincher). And they might get an added boost if lefty slugger Kyle Schwarber returns to be the designated hitter against an Indians’ pitching staff that is predominantly right-handed. But it’s not a huge edge. The Indians have their own 30-homer pair in Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli, and a formidable 2-3 in the order in Glenbrook North’s Jason Kipnis and Lindor.
Joe Maddon, a three-time manager of the year, has done what no Cubs manager has done since Charlie Grimm. But for a guy with two World Series rings as a manager (Red Sox in 2004 and 2007) and who already has busted one curse, Terry Francona might be one of the more underrated managers in the game. This postseason, Francona has pushed all the right buttons with his bullpen to overcome significant obstacles with his rotation.
The goat is dead. Schwarber could be a Cubs inspiration. Both teams are carrying generations-long anticipation into the Series (68 years since the last championship for the Indians; 108 for the Cubs). But two of Cleveland’s four pro-sports teams — the Cavaliers and the AHL’s Monsters — already won championships this year, and the Browns actually led in the fourth quarter of a game in September. Cleveland rocks the sports mojo in 2016.
WITTENMYER’S PREDICTION: Cubs in 7