No matter which team walks away victorious in the World Series, the winner will end an extremely long drought. For the Chicago Cubs, they haven’t won a World Series since 1908 (108 years) and haven’t even reached the Fall Classic since 1945. The Cleveland Indians last appeared in the World Series in 1997 where they were an out away from winning, but have not won one since 1948 (68 years). Both of those droughts are the longest such droughts in the MLB.
One fan base will bask in the glory of finally getting the proverbial monkey off their backs, while the other will hold the longest drought without a World Series.
Keys to the Series
Which starting rotation will pitch better?
Both of these teams have pretty good starting pitching. The Cubs have the deepest rotation of Jon Lester (Game 1 starter), Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. The unit has combined to pitch 56 1/3 innings, with a 2.56 ERA and 42 strikeouts. Cleveland’s rotation has been slightly better this postseason, led by Corey Kluber (Game 1 starter), Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer. The Cleveland starting rotation has pitched 38 2/3 innings with a 1.86 ERA and 40 punch outs.
Can the Indians take down another powerful lineup?
Cleveland defeated two American League powerhouses in the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays to in route to the World Series. Both of those offenses were highly explosive, but the Indians didn’t back down. In fact, Cleveland hit more home runs than both teams, 11-5 and are 7-1 this postseason. The Cubs were no strangers to the long ball, out-homering the opposition 12-4 in the playoffs. Anthony Rizzo seems to have found his groove despite some early struggles. Kris Bryant can be a problem with his hitting as well. The Cubs have a deep lineup and bench and that could only get better as 23-year old catcher Kyle Schwarber, who played in just two games this season after tearing his ACL and MCL, could return and be the DH in the games played in Cleveland. The Indians didn’t score past the seventh inning, but they didn’t need to.
Can the Cleveland bullpen get the power bats of the Cubs out late in games?
Chicago showed it was able to put a bunch of runs up late in ballgames this postseason, but they didn’t face a bullpen quite like the Indians. In this postseason, the Tribe ‘pen pitched 32 1/3 innings, going 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 41 strikeouts. Andrew Miller, who was named the ALCS MVP, has pitched 11 2/3 scoreless innings, with 21 strikeouts while allowing just five hits and three walks. Terry Francona showed he can use Miller for multiple innings and Miller showed he was up for the task. Cleveland closer Cody Allen pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, three walks and striking out 12. Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero, while not quite as dominant as Miller and Allen, both showed they can get outs. The key for Chicago to avoid falling victim to this bullpen is to get on the starting pitchers early, where the effects of Miller and Allen won’t be as bad.
Which manager will make the best adjustments?
Cleveland’s Terry Francona and Chicago’s Joe Maddon are two of the better managers in baseball today. Francona returns to the World Series for the first time since 2007. In that year he led the Red Sox to their second World Series title in four years with the first being the one that broke the curse of the Sox in 2004. Maddon is also making his third World Series trip, being a coach when the Los Angeles Angels won in 2002 and he also managed the Tampa Bay Rays to the World series in 2008, but fell to the Philadelphia Phillies. Both managers do things a different way, but both connect with their respective teams. Francona has been brilliantly masterful in managing his bullpen this postseason. Maddon has a deep bench that he knows when to use players and when not to. The matchup between these two managers will be on full display in the games played at Wrigley Field. Francona will lose the use of the DH, forcing Mike Napoli or Carlos Santana to come off the bench while the other plays first base. Maddon has dealt with double-switches all season and that could be a factor in this series.
One of these two teams will end a long drought. Many expected the Cubs to be in this position, but not many had the Indians as the AL pennant winners. Regardless, both of these two teams have done what was needed to get to this point. It’s unfortunate that one of these teams has to continue their drought, but that’s the beauty of this World Series.