The Call to the Pen: 2016 World Series Preview

The Fall Classic. The World Series begins tonight between the American League Champion Cleveland Indians and the National League Champion Chicago Cubs. This is the first World Series matchup between these World Series-depraved teams. The Indians last won the Series in 1948 and the Cubs infamously have not won the World Series since 1908. The combined 172-year drought is the most between World Series opponents. No matter who wins this series, it will prove 2016 was the most unpredictable year sports. Either the Cubs will have won the World Series or the City of Cleveland will have won two major sports championships, insane.

Schedule

Because the American League won the All Star Game, the Indians will have home-field advantage.  Here’s the full schedule with the probable starting pitchers (CHC vs CLE). all games are on FOX:

Game One: Tonight at 8:08 in Cleveland (Corey Kluber vs. Jon Lester)

Game Two: Tomorrow at 8:08 in Cleveland (Trevor Bauer vs. Jake Arrieta)

Game Three: Friday at 8:08 in Chicago (Josh Tomlin vs. Kyle Hendricks)

Game Four: Saturday at 8:08 in Chicago (CLE Starter TBA vs. John Lackey)

Game Five (if necessary): Sunday at 8:15 in Chicago (Starters TBA)

Game Six (if necessary): Next Wednesday at 8:08 in Cleveland

Game Seven (if necessary): Next Thursday at 8:08 in Cleveland

Positional Matchups

At First Base: Mike Napoli (CLE) vs. Anthony Rizzo (CHC)

Napoli has been great for the Indians since he came to Cleveland from another World Series Champion (’13 Red Sox). He and Carlos Santana have been trading off playing first and as the DH. Both players are batting below the Mendoza line but of Napoli’s five postseason hits, three have been for extra bases; he has that same explosive potential he had in Boston. Anthony Rizzo has been a machine for the Cubs throughout the regular season but struggled in the postseason until Game 4 of the NLCS. It seems his bat is trending back to regular season form. Edge: Chicago

At Second Base: Jason Kipnis (CLE) vs. Javy Baez (CHC)

Maybe the most intriguing one-on-one matchup. Kipnis has been a solid hitter throughout his career (.272/.345/.423 career slashline). He hurt his ankle in celebration of winning the American League but that shouldn’t keep him out of play. Baez has been the Cubs’ best hitter in the postseason and could carry the Cubs to the promised land. Both are fantastic fielders but I’d give Kipnis the slight edge with the glove and Baez is the better hitter. Edge: Push

At Third Base: Jose Ramirez (CLE) vs. Kris Bryant (CHC)

It’s pretty obvious who’s getting the edge here but I’ll provide some insight. Ramirez hasn’t been very good in the playoffs. He’s batting .222 in the postseason with one RBI and batted .052 in the ALCS. Kris Bryant is the likely NL MVP and has been one of the Cubs’ consistent bats in the Playoffs. Edge: Chicago

At Shortstop: Francisco Lindor (CLE) vs. Addison Russell (CHC)

Another great one-on-one matchup. Lindor has been the big bat for Cleveland with two homers and four RBI (tied for team-lead in both) while batting .323/.344/.581 for a slashline. His on base percentage is low because he isn’t the most disciplined player (1 walk for 10 strikeouts). Russell was the first bat to heat up in LA for the Cubbies as he hit two BOMBS in Games Four and Five. Both are on the up but Lindor has more damage potential. Edge: Cleveland

In Left Field: Rajai Davis/Coco Crisp (CLE) vs. Ben Zobrist  (CHC)

Davis and Crisp have been platooned for much of this postseason and Crisp has even gotten involved at Center Field. Davis has been seeing the bench more and more due to his bat going dead (0 for 12). Crisp has had more success hitting a couple home runs although they are two of his three total hits. Zobrist has a ring from last year and was maybe the most important acquisition Chicago made. He also gets on-base an incredibly high percentage of the time. He is the one Cubs whose bat didn’t return to form in the latter half of the NLCS though. Edge: Chicago

In Center Field: Tyler Naquin (CLE) vs. Dexter Fowler (CHC)

Naquin is Cleveland’s 8-hitter while Fowler is Chicago’s leadoff man. Dexter batted .304 in the NLCS and was only behind Addison Russell and Javy Baez in slugging percentage. Naquin is trending downward after batting .166 in the ALCS. Edge: Chicago

In Right Field: Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) vs. Jason Hayward (CHC)

Chisenhall has been one of Cleveland’s better base-grabbers as his 10 total bases rank amongst the team’s best and he’s second on the team in batting average. Jason Hayward’s batting ability is infamously bad, although he is a good fielder. Edge: Cleveland

Catching: Roberto Perez (CLE) vs. Cubs Catching Triad

We’ll starting with Perez: He’s a fantastic catcher who calls a good game and can swing the lumber when the mood strikes. The Cubbies send out three different catchers depending on the pitcher: David Ross–the crafty vet for Jon Lester (mainly), Miguel Montero–Jake Arrieta’s buddy, and Wilson Contreras for everyone else. Contreras has played the most and is batting .400 in the postseason whereas Ross and Montero are a combined 3 for 19 with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs (Montero hit the grand slam in Game One of the NLCS). Edge: Cubs

Bench/DH:

The Cubs have the deeper bench. Whichever catcher doesn’t start usually gets a pitch-hitting spot or is brought in to catch after a pitching change. Jorge Soler and the newly returned Kyle Schwarber should see time as the DHs for the games in Cleveland. They get edged out by Cleveland’s DH in Carlos Santana. Santana can smash the ball and could be the catalyst in the Cleveland-based games with DHs and a great pinch-hitter/first baseman in Chicago. The Cleveland bench isn’t as deep as Chicago’s though, plain and simple. Edge: Chicago

Starting Pitching:

Both teams have fantastic Starting Pitching. The Cubs have a Four Horsemen-type rotation in Lester/Arrieta/Hendricks/Lackey while the Indians’ one-two punch of Kluber and Bauer can retire any of the “lineups of death.” The back-end of the Cleveland rotation is what concerns me and the fact that a Game Four starter hasn’t been named yet is concerning. Hendricks and Lackey in Chicago isn’t necessarily easy to go against if you’re Cleveland. Edge: Chicago

Bullpen:

Oh boy. The Cubs had serious bullpen issues until the acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees at the Trade Deadline. Cleveland’s bullpen was already great in having Bryan Shaw setup Closer Cody Allen and then the Indians decided to get the other reliever from the Yankees: Andrew Miller. Miller has been absolutely dominate in the postseason and could single-handedly carry the Indians to a win if they’re winning in the sixth inning–even if he has to pitch in all seven games. Edge: Cleveland

Manager:

Joe Maddon vs. Terry Francona. Tito is 8-0 in the World Series while Maddon’s only appearance was in 2008 where his Rays lost in five to a certain team in red pinstripes. Both are master tacticians when it comes to running the dugout but Tito has two rings. Edge: Cleveland

Picks:

Greg “The Prophet” Piatelli — “It’s hard to root against the Cubs because of the history but the Indians are fun. In the end, I’m picking the Indians because their pitching is too good. But the Cubs make it back next year to win like the Royals a couple years ago.”

Matty D — Indians in Seven

G-Man — This will be a great World Series, no doubt about it. The Indians have that small-ball type of team similar to the Royals of the past couple of season but their starting pitching is much better. The Cubs will need all engines firing in this series. Cleveland could run all over NLCS Co-MVP Jon Lester (Taco Bell for everyone!) and that bullpen is deadly. I think the production of the Cubs’ offense is so well diversified across the lineup that it can force the Cleveland starters to really have to work whereas the Cubs’ starters could mow down parts of the Cleveland lineup. Cubs in Six, but this could easily go the distance to Game Seven.

Who ya got winning the World Series? Let me know in the comments

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