by Vinny Varvaro
“Good Pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.” – Casey Stengel
The Chicago Cubs were expected to be here in the 2016 World Series, based on the fact they had the best young hitters all season. They had the reigning Cy Young award winner, last year’s top free agent lefty signee and toss in a couple of geniuses (Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon) and yes, the Cubbies should be playing this late in October.
Chicago’s foe in this year’s Fall Classic is another team who hasn’t won a championship in forever (68 years), the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe has an underrated, former World Series winning manager in Terry Francona leading them. They took over the AL Central lead on June 4 and finished the season on a 64-43 run and have mowed through the post season on the arm of reliever Andrew Miller.
It’s amazing that these two franchises haven’t won a title in a combined 176 seasons, but it can be argued (not very well) that these have been the two best teams all season.
Starting with Game 1 in Cleveland the pitching matchups we will see may go down as classics. That free agent lefty in Chicago named Jon Lester will face the Indians’ Corey Kluber. The right-handed former Cy Young winner, Kluber (2-1 in the post season with a 0.98 ERA) is tough on lefties and Chicago has three lefties and two switch hitting regulars to contend with. Lester has been equally as dominant and even more in the three games this post season (21 IP, 14 H, 14 K, 1.38 ERA)
The rest of the Cubs staff is frightening to face. Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey have all been stellar all season as well as the playoffs, save Arrieta’s one clunker against the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Aside from Kluber, Cleveland’s starters don’t get the fanfare Chicago’s gets and this post season that can be attributed to Miller. He has been almost unhittable since coming to the Indians from the Yankees in a summer trade. Francona has used him for as many as 2+ innings leading up to the underrated closer Cody Allen (5 SV, 12 K, 7 2/3 IP in ’16 playoffs.) Trevor Bauer has not been good and has that sliced open bloody finger that may prevent him from pitching, but is scheduled for Game 2 for now. Calling Ryan Merritt?
All this pitching talk aside, both these teams have hit well all year and can never be counted out that a game or two we can see an offensive explosion. With the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and whoever plays hero for the day for the Cubs.
Cleveland has bats that can rake, too. See that electric DP combo Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor as well as veteran slugger Mike Napoli. Francona juggles his lineups around, so you’ll see the likes of Coco Crisp on occasion.
Chicago has the edge in both pitching and at the plate and Cleveland has the homefield advantage. Both teams have tremendous support from its fans and cities given the time since both have won or even appeared in a World Series.
I don’t like predictions, but let’s say the Cubs will win in 5 at Wrigley. Expectations will have been realized and a couple of geniuses (one deserving, one gets too much credit, you decipher who is who) will be canonized.
Sorry Casey, there will be no vice-versa this time. #FlyTheW