World Series Preview: Cubs Versus Indians, October 25 - November 2, 2016

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World Series Preview: Cubs Versus Indians, October 25 – November 2, 2016

Chicago Cubs

indians mascot sliderThey’re here.

You’ve made it. You’ve lived just long enough, became a fan just soon enough, and cheered just loud enough for the Chicago Cubs to answer: We are going to the 2016 World Series.

Take a moment and cherish it, because there are only two outcomes after this – one good and one bad. But regardless of the outcome, this moment, right now, is real and meaningful.

Don’t forget it.

The Chicago Cubs will take on the Cleveland Indians in the biggest best of seven contest of our lives. The first two games will be in Cleveland (I’ll be at Game 1! Brett will be at Game 2!), followed by three straight in Chicago next weekend, and two more in Cleveland after that, if necessary.

I’d love to offer some sort of wise-beyond-my-years, cosmic advice on how to handle yourself, your emotions, and your fandom regardless of the outcome in this World Series, but I’m in no position to make any such statement. I’m a wreck – a beautiful, terrible, sloppy wreck – and I’m guessing you are, too.

After all, I’m a Cubs fan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (7-3) beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in convincing manner during Game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. With just four more wins, they can really make history.

The Cleveland Indians (7-1) have lost just one postseason game in 2016, and are the very last team standing in the Cubs’ way.

Game Times and Broadcasts

Progressive Field

  • Tuesday, October 25 at 7:00 CT on FOX, 670 The Score, ESPN Radio
  • Wednesday, October 26 at 7:00 CT on FOX, 670 The Score, ESPN Radio

Wrigley Field

  • Friday, October 28 at 7:08 CT on FOX,, 670 The Score, ESPN Radio
  • Saturday, October 29 at 7:08 CT on FOX,, 670 The Score, ESPN Radio (My birthday!)
  • Sunday, October 30 at 7:08 CT on FOX,, 670 The Score, ESPN Radio

Progressive Field

  • Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 CT on FOX,, 670 The Score, ESPN Radio (Brett’s birthday!)
  • Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 CT on FOX,, 670 The Score, ESPN Radio

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters (regular season stats):

  • Jon Lester (2.44 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.47 xFIP; 3.79 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (3.10 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 3.68 xFIP; 2.50 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 3.59 xFIP; 3.86 K/BB)
  • John Lackey (3.35 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 3.80 xFIP; 3.40 K/BB)
  • TBA – (probably Lester)
  • TBA – (probably Arrieta)
  • TBA – (probably Hendricks)

Approximate Lineup*:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, LF
  5. Javy Baez, 2B
  6. Kyle Schwarber, DH (big question mark, of course)
  7. Addison Russell, SS
  8. Jason Heyward, RF
  9. David Ross, C

*The Cubs lineup will vary on a nightly basis. They will likely use three different catchers, get Jason Heyward in and out of the starting lineup, and have to decide upon a DH (with the very real possibility that it ends up being Kyle Schwarber).

Cleveland Indians

Starters (regular season stats)*:

  • Corey Kluber (3.14 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.50 xFIP; 3.98 K/BB)
  • Trevor Bauer (4.26 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 4.13 xFIP; 2.40 K/BB)
  • Josh Tomlin (4.40 ERA, 4.88 FIP, 4.13 xFIP; 5.90 K/BB)
  • TBA –
  • TBA –
  • TBA –
  • TBA –

*Not unlike the Cubs with Schwarber, the Indians may get Danny Salazar back in time to start in the World Series. In addition, Bauer is a possibility for Game 2, but it depends on the healing of his finger. From there, the Game 4 starter might be Corey Kluber once again, but nothing has been decided. We’ll let you know when the news comes out.

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Carlos Santana, DH
  2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
  3. Francisco Lindor, SS
  4. Mike Napoli, 1B
  5. Jose Ramirez, 3B
  6. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
  7. Coco Crisp, LF
  8. Tyler Naquin, CF
  9. Roberto Perez, C

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

You can’t talk about the Cubs’ postseason pitching without talking about the performances from Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. But, I did just take a comprehensive look at Hendricks’ most recent start against the Dodgers here, and we’ve covered the NLCS Co-MVP a lot over the past two weeks, as well. In addition, we recently looked into Aroldis Chapman’s struggles and successes in the ninth inning, so let’s take a random pitcher out of left field (literally), and breakdown his postseason with the Cubs.

How about Travis Wood?

Wood has appeared out of the bullpen in six of the Cubs ten postseason games. During that stretch, he’s tossed 4.2 innings, while allowing just one earned run (1.93 ERA) on three hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .176/.250/.176 off Wood, and he’s recorded a ton of ground balls in the process. He also did this with his bat. Wood’s quietly been huge in the playoffs. That said, we’ll have to see if he’s relied upon as frequently as he was against the Dodgers, who happened to have a lot of left-handed batters, against whom he matched up well.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

From (numerical) zeroes to (figurative) heroes, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo have completely changed the tune of their respective postseasons with huge series against the Dodgers. Check out their slash lines from the last six games:

  • Addison Russell:
    .273/.273/.591 (.864 OPS), 2B, 2HRs

Russell hasn’t drawn a walk, but he’s added three (big) extra-base hits (in addition to his usual stellar defense), propelling his slugging percentage and overall production well into the range of his true-talent capabilities. He was a huge part of the NLCS, and it would be great to see him continue that against the Indians.

  • Anthony Rizzo:
    .320/.370/.640 (1.010 OPS), 2 2Bs, 2HRs

In the NLCS, Anthony Rizzo reminded everyone that there are two MVP candidates on the Chicago Cubs, and he’s one of them. In addition to four extra-base hits, Rizzo drew a pair of walks and even stole a base. He has completely turned his offensive performance around and looks like a strong bet against the predominantly right-handed Indians starters.

Cleveland Indians – Pitching

Not unlike the Cubs, the Cleveland Indians have one pitcher you simply can’t exclude from any conversation: Andrew Miller. As fate would (of-freakin’-course) have it, the one guy atop the Cubs’ midseason Trade Deadline wish list, Miller, wound up on the team they’re facing in the World Series. The Cubs ultimately went out and got his former teammate and possibly the only other pitcher who can compare to Miller, Aroldis Chapman, but Miller has taken his performance to the next level this October.

Through six postseason appearances, Miller has already thrown 11.2 shutout innings. He’s given up just five hits and two walks during that stretch, while striking out a ridiculous 21 batters. His opponents are hitting just .132/.171/.184 in the playoffs.

Miller also took home the ALCS MVP honors, after allowing just 3 hits (no walks, 14 Ks) in his 7.2 innings of work against the Blue Jays. And while you might be hoping that exhaustion and fatigue will finally creep up on him, remember that Miller is a former starter and he hasn’t pitched since Game 5 of the ALCS on October 19.

The Cubs will see him a lot and they will, sometimes, get shut down.

Closer Cody Allen was very good again this year, striking out 33.0% of the batters he faced, but he also walked 10.2%. He was also bit by the long ball (relatively speaking, for a closer), giving up 1.06 HR/9.

More on the starting pitchers coming on the days they are due to start.

Cleveland Indians – Offense

Also like the Cubs, the Indians have a gold-glove-fetching, impact bat at shortstop who’s been tearing it up this October, in Francisco Lindor. Lindor was drafted exactly one spot ahead of Javy Baez in the 2011 MLB Draft, and has been living up to his potential this offseason.

Through eight playoff games (32 plate appearances), Lindor is slashing .323/.344/.581 with a walk, two doubles, and two homers. That said, he has struck out 10 times during that stretch. He’s certainly not the guy you want up at any given time, but he does have his kryptonite.

On the other hand, Jason Kipnis hasn’t been having much of an October, slashing just .147/.194/.324 with more strikeouts (7) than hits (5) in his 36 plate appearances. That said, he did have yet another solid year at the plate in 2016 (.347 wOBA) and can turn things around at any minute (just like Rizzo and Russell did).

All in all, I think you have to like the Cubs chances, but anything can happen in a seven-game series. So remember to enjoy this calm before the storm, because nine days from now, everything will be different. One way or another.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami