Two championship-starved franchises will face off in this year’s edition of the World Series as the Chicago Cubs square off against the Cleveland Indians in the 112th playing of the Fall Classic.
Both teams come into the series with prominent records of futility. The Chicago Cubs are best known for their 108 consecutive years without winning the World Series. The Cubbies haven’t even been to the World Series in 71 years, their last appearance being in 1945 when World War II was coming to a close.
This certainly is not to diminish the Indians’ ineptitude, as they have gone since 1948 without winning the championship. The Tribe, however, have at least won the pennant in most college students’ lifetimes, last competing in the World Series in 1997. That year, they where they were handily defeated by the then Florida Marlins.
The Cubs entered the postseason with the best record in baseball, 103-58. They’ll be looking to become just the third team in Major League Baseball’s Wild Card era to win 100 or more games in a season and the World Series. That is a feat only the 1998 and 2009 Yankees have accomplished. The Cubs are led by their corner infield duo of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, but second baseman Javier Baez has been the Cubs best player this postseason. Baez has had his coming out party this postseason, batting .372 with a .571 slugging percentage to power a Cubs offense that was quiet against the Dodgers.
The Indians were one of the less heralded teams of the postseason, despite winning the American League Central Division. They’ve quickly proven they belong, by sweeping the pennant-favorite Boston Red Sox and dispatching the Toronto Blue Jays to win the pennant. Shortstop Francisco Lindor has been to the Tribe what Baez has been to the Cubs. Lindor is batting .323 with a .581 slugging percentage.
Both teams feature stellar defenses and pitching staffs. The Cubs topped MLB in defensive efficiency, and the Indians ranked sixth in that category. Their pitching staff is loaded with seasoned veterans like ace Jon Lester and John Lackey. World Series newcomers Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks are also threats. The Cubs bullpen is anchored by fireballer Aroldis Chapman, acquired via a midseason trade with the Yankees.
The Indians counter with Andrew Miller, who they also acquired from the Yankees mid-season. Miller has been lights out in the postseason, striking out 21 batters in merely 11⅔ innings pitched and conceding zero runs. Cleveland’s starting rotation has been riddled with injuries. Mainstays Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco have both spend time this season on the disabled list. Trevor Bauer has been most recently added to that list in a freak drone accident which badly lacerated his finger and forced him to leave his start in Game 3 of the ALCS after facing just four batters.
In spite of this, the Tribe have been able to out-pitch opponents in the postseason. They have allowed more than five runs against the two most potent offenses the American League has to offer. The Indians will need their rotation to continue its success and give the bullpen a lead.
Both teams will have to be concerned with the offensive production, especially the Cubs. Their offensive outbursts belie how well the Cubs have really been performing at the plate. Rizzo, Addison Russell and, most notably, benched right fielder Jason Heyward struggled against the Dodgers. Rizzo seems to have hit his stride, hitting home runs in both Game 4 and the pennant-clinching Game 6. The Cubs will need their offense to be performing to its maximum capability if they’re to outlast Cleveland’s strong pitching staff.
Outside of Lindor, many of the Indians have been silenced at the plate this postseason. They will need most of the lineup to come alive at the plate, as they have fallen dormant.
With both teams boasting such dominant pitching and defensive play, viewers can expect nail-biting games throughout the World Series. These two evenly matched opponents should provide one of the most exciting Fall Classics of recent vintage. The Cubs have been favored to win the World Series since the season began. However, the Indians come in having turned heads and are the hottest team in baseball. One hungry fan base will at long last be able to revel in a championship. Another will be stuck doing something they’ve done for a long time: waiting.