The Cubs and Indians square off in the 112th World Series that gets underway Tuesday night (7:08pm CDT) in Cleveland.
This has a chance of being an excellent World Series between the Cubs and Indians, two teams with a lot of talent, excellent managers and long, storied histories with devoted fan bases.
One of the two longest droughts in professional sports will soon come to an end. The Cubs are in the World Series for the first time since 1945 and are looking for the franchise’s first championship since 1908. The Indians played in two Fall Classics in the 90’s (1995, 1997) but have not won a championship since 1948. The Indians beat the Boston Braves in six games 68 years ago.
The Cubs won 103 games in the regular season and seven more in the postseason. Joe Maddon’s team had success against the American League in the regular season. The Cubs were 15-5 in Interleague play but did not face the Indians. The Cubs and Indians played four times a year ago (two at Wrigley, two at Progressive Field) with each team winning two games. The Indians have home field advantage for The Series due to the American League beating the National League in the All-Star Game. Games one, two, six and seven will be in Cleveland with the middle three being played this weekend (Oct. 28-30) at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs were 46-34 on the road in the regular season and 57-24 at Wrigley Field. The Indians played a lot better at Progressive Field (53-28) than on the road (41-39) this year.
The wait is over. The Cubs are playing in the World Series. It’s the Cubs versus the Indians in the Fall Classic.
Cubs Offense vs. Indians Offense
The Cubs and Indians both have good offenses. The Cubs will have to figure out a pitching staff they have very little, if any experience against. The Indians held their own during the regular season and have done just enough to this point of the postseason.
The Indians do a lot of things right that lead to runs. Plus they are very aggressive on the bases. The Cubs will not only have to deal with the Indians running and running and running while Jon Lester is on the mound, Jake Arrieta will also have to keep the Indians from stealing one base after another. And the Cubs outfielders must get the ball in, even on routine fly balls the Indians’ catchers will tag from first and take second base.
As a team, the Indians hit .262/.329/.430 with a .759 OPS. The Cubs put together a .256/.343/.429 line with a .772 OPS. The Cubs ranked second in baseball in OBP (.343), 10th in slugging (.429) and third in OPS. For comparison, the Indians were eighth in OBP (.329), ninth in slugging (.430) and seventh in OPS (.759).
The Indians (777) were second only to the Red Sox (878) in runs scored in the American League. The Cubs (808) were third in baseball in runs scored and the Indians ranked fifth in the game.
The Cubs led baseball in walks (656) and had the ninth most strikeouts (1339). The Indians were ninth in walks (531) and struck out 1246 times, the 10th fewest in baseball.
On the bases, the Indians swiped 134 bags which was tops in the American League and the fourth most in baseball. The Cubs had 66 stolen bases, tied for 20th in baseball with the Rockies.
For the postseason, the Cubs hit .222/.277/.395 with 21 doubles, a triple and 12 home runs for a .672 OPS in 10 games. The Indians batted .208/.256/.380 with nine doubles and 11 home runs for a .635 OPS.
The Cubs scored 48 runs in the NLDS and NLCS and the Indians managed 27 runs with Francisco Lindor and Lonnie Chisenhall providing Terry Francona the only consistency in his lineup.
With each game of the series expected to be low-scoring and decided by two runs or less, the team that does the little things right and uses productive outs to score runs will come out on top.
Cubs Pitching vs. Indians Pitching
The Cubs had the best starting staff in the majors during the regular season and it’s been pretty good in the postseason, too. In the 10 games against the Giants and Dodgers, the Cubs allowed 30 runs, all earned, 75 hits with 25 walks and 71 strikeouts in 92 innings (2.93 ERA, 1.09 WHIP).
Joe Maddon is sticking with the starting four of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. And his World Series bullpen is the same it was for the NLDS and NLCS, with one subtraction from the Dodgers series.
Terry Francona received incredible results from his make-shift rotation and excellent bullpen in the ALDS and ALCS. The Indians allowed 15 runs, 14 earned, on 53 hits with 19 walks and 81 strikeouts in 71 innings (1.77 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). In eight postseason games, the Indians bullpen had a 1.67 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.
The Indians are leaning toward starting Corey Kluber in three games (one, four, seven) if The Series goes seven games. Danny Salazar is the likely starter for Game 4 with LHP Ryan Mallet piggybacking him. The Indians are not sure if Trevor Bauer will start Game 2 or Game 3. Whichever one Bauer does not start, Josh Tomlin will get the ball.
The Cubs starting staff has an edge over the Indians for the series. At the same time it will be up to Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks and Lackey to keep the Indians from getting a lead so the offense is not forced to put runs on the board against Andrew Miller and/or Cody Allen.
Cubs Pitchers vs. Indians Hitters
The Indians have seen a lot of the Cubs’ starters over the years with the exception of Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs will have to keep the Indians from running wild on the bases, especially Rajai Davis, who has had a lot of success against both Lester and Arrieta.
Here’s how the Cubs starting staff of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey have fared over their careers against the Indians’ hitters.
Jon Lester is 7-1 in 15 career starts against the Indians with a 3.03 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Lester’s last start against the Tribe came a year ago. Lester received a no-decision in the make-up game at Wrigley on Aug. 24. Lester allowed one run on six hits with a walks and six strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. The Cubs won 2-1 when Kris Bryant launched a solo homer to right off Zach McAllister in the ninth. Corey Kluber allowed one run on four hits with no walks and 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings that Monday afternoon in late August.
Lester is 4-0 in eight career starts at Progressive Field with a 3.72 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Lester has allowed 20 runs on 39 hits with 19 walks and 57 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings.
Indians Career Numbers against Jon Lester
- Rajai Davis: 14-for-46 with three doubles, three triples, one home run and four walks
- Carlos Santana: 4-for-15 with two walks
- Mike Napoli: 6-for-15 with one double, two home runs and two walks
- Coco Crisp: 2-for-13 with one home run and one walk
- Yan Gomes: 4-for-12
- Brandon Guyer: 2-for-7 with one walk
- Jason Kipnis: 3-for-8
- Francisco Lindor: 1-for-3 with one walk
- Chris Gimenez: 0-for-2
- Michael Martinez: 0-for-1
Jake Arrieta is 1-1 in four career starts against the Indians with an 8.69 ERA and 1.93 WHIP. Arrieta lost to the Indians at Wrigley on June 16, 2015 in Kyle Schwarber’s big league debut. Arrieta lasted just five innings and gave up four runs on three hits with six walks and six strikeouts.
Arrieta is 1-0 in one career start at Progressive Field with a 7.50 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.
Indians Career Numbers against Jake Arrieta
- Rajai Davis: 3-for-10
- Mike Napoli: 2-for-8 with one home run and two walks
- Coco Crisp: 1-for-8 with one double
- Jason Kipnis: 2-for-5 with one walk
- Carlos Santana: 1-for-3 with one home run and three walks
- Lonnie Chisenhall: 1-for-4
- Yan Gomes: 0-for-3
- Francisco Lindor: 1-for-3
- Chris Gimenez: 0-for-1
Kyle Hendricks gets the ball in Game 3 at Wrigley. Hendricks started Game 6 of the NLCS which means he was not available for Game 2 of The World Series. The Cubs will only have Hendricks available to start one game of The Series.
The Indians did not see Hendricks last season. Coco Crisp (0-for-3) is the only player on Terry Francona’s roster that has faced Hendricks in a regular season game.
John Lackey is 8-9 in 20 career starts against the Indians with a 3.92 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Lackey lost to the Indians last season while he was pitching in the Cardinals’ rotation. Lackey allowed two runs on five hits with five walks and two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings at Progressive Field.
For his career, Lackey is 3-5 in eight career starts at Progressive Field with a 2.94 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.
Indians Career Numbers against John Lackey
- Coco Crisp: 5-for-38 with two home runs and four walks
- Rajai Davis: 12-for-35 with three doubles and one triple
- Jason Kipnis: 2-for-12 with one double
- Carlos Santana: 2-for-10 with one home run and five walks
- Mike Napoli: 2-for-9 with one home run and four walks
- Lonnie Chisenhall: 1-for-12
- Yan Gomes: 0-for-5
- Chris Gimenez: 0-for-2 with one walk
- Brandon Guyer: 0-for-3
- Robert Perez: 1-for-3
- Jose Ramirez: 1-for-2 with one double
Cubs Hitters vs. Indians Starting Pitchers
Corey Kluber had a very good season. Kluber was 18-9 in 32 starts with a 3.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 3.26 FIP. Kluber allowed 82 runs, 75 earned, on 170 hits with 57 walks and 227 strikeouts in 215 innings.
Corey Kluber has faced the Cubs once in his career. Kluber received a no decision in a start at Wrigley against Jon Lester on Aug. 24, 2015. Kluber allowed one run on four hits with no walks and 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
Cubs Career Numbers against Corey Kluber
- Ben Zobrist: 1-for-13
- Dexter Fowler: 0-for-7
- Kris Bryant: 0-for-3
- Chris Coghlan: 1-for-3 with one double
- Jason Heyward: 0-for-3
- Tommy La Stella: 0-for-3
- Miguel Montero: 0-for-3
- Kyle Schwarber: 0-for-3
- Anthony Rizzo: 1-for-3 with one triple
- David Ross: 1-for-3
The Indians believe Trevor Bauer will be able to start Game 2 at Progressive Field. Bauer had a solid season and was 12-8 in 35 games, 28 starts, with a 4.26 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 3.99 FIP. Bauer was actually a little better outside of Cleveland during the regular season. Bauer was 6-4 in 19 games, 16 starts, with a 4.73 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. On the road, Bauer was 6-4 in 16 games, 12 starts, with a 3.67 ERA and 1.32 WHIP.
Trevor Bauer pitched seven innings of shutout ball in his only start against the Cubs. Bauer gave up just four hits with three walks and seven strikeouts on June 16, 2015 at Wrigley Field in a 6-0 Indians win. The Cubs teed off on Bauer in a Cactus League game in March 2015 with Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez launching back-to-back-to-back homers.
Cubs Career Numbers against Trevor Bauer
- Dexter Fowler: 1-for-5 with one walk
- Jason Heyward: 0-for-6
- Miguel Montero: 1-for-6
- Kris Bryant: 1-for-3
- Chris Coghlan: 0-for-3
- Anthony Rizzo: 0-for-2 with one walk
- Addison Russell: 2-for-3
- Ben Zobrist: 0-for-1 with two walks
Josh Tomlin has not faced the Cubs over the course of his career. Tomlin was 13-9 in 30 games, 29 starts, this year with a 4.40 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 4.88 FIP. Tomlin pitched in 15 games with 14 starts at home and was 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. On the road in 15 starts, Tomlin was 8-4 with a 4.31 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
Ben Zobrist (2-for-19 with one double, one home run and two walks), Miguel Montero (2-for-5 with one double) and David Ross (0-for-1 with two walks) are the only three players on Maddon’s roster that have faced Tomlin in a regular season game.
Andrew Miller – The X-Factor
Terry Francona has the option of shutting down an inning at any point during a game. Andrew Miller has been nearly unhittable and Francona has used him as early as the fifth inning. And Francona will leave Miller in for multiple innings. Miller dominated the Red Sox and Blue Jays. ALCS Most Valuable Player Award aside, Miller was so good that Cody Allen (no runs, five hits, three walks, 12 strikeouts, 7 2/3 innings, 0.00 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) is pretty much being ignored and he’s been outstanding.
This postseason, Miller is 1-0 in six games with a 0.00 ERA and 0.60 WHIP. Miller has allowed five hits and two walks in 11 2/3 innings. Miller has struck out 21 of the 41 batters he’s faced.
If the Series goes seven games, the general consensus is that Francona will use Miller in at least four of those games.
The Cubs have the talent in the roster to get to him. But no one has to this point. If the Indians have a lead, especially after the fifth inning, it will be incredibly hard to put runs on the board against Andrew Miller and then Cody Allen.
Joe Maddon vs. Terry Francona
Joe Maddon and Terry Francona are two of the best managers in baseball. And it’s very likely a game or two will be decided by a manager’s decision.
Maddon and Francona know each other’s tendencies very well from all the years playing chess in the AL East. Plus, the Cubs and Indians played four games last season.
The decisions made by Maddon and Francona during the Series will be second guessed at the time and debated afterwards if they don’t work. It will be incredibly interesting to watch the moves and countermoves these two make throughout The Series.
The Cubs are favorites and most are predicting Joe Maddon’s team will win The Series. The Indians were heavy underdogs against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. The Series doesn’t figure to be decided in four games and each game should be rather close and come down to the last inning.
Let the games begin …