The Cleveland Indians battle the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series. So many story lines are a part of this year's Fall Classic. The Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908. The Indians haven't won the World Series since 1948.
Somethings got to give, right? Neither team would be here without strong pitching and tough bats. Neither team would be here if Chicago's Joe Maddon and Cleveland's Terry Fancona hadn't managed their eyeballs out during the regular season and the MLB Playoffs.
But something must give. One team is going to walk away with a World Series trophy while the other team will head to the offseason with dreams of what could have been. Keep reading to find out who I'm picking to win the Commissioner's Trophy and who will come up just short in this historic World Series match-up.
Cleveland Indians vs Chicago Cubs
When: Tuesday, Oct. 25 through Wednesday, Nov. 2 (if needed)
Where: Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH
Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Analysis: It starts with pitching. Both teams' success depends on pitching. For the Cleveland Indians, it's about their starters, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Mike Cleavinger, pitching just enough so that Francona can send the venerable Andrew Miller to the mound.
Miller, who won the ALCS MVP Award as a middle reliever, has been unhittable during the playoffs. Miller's ERA is a terrific 1.45. His WHIP is an ridiculous .69. Miller is as unhittable as it gets. Cleveland's success in the 2016 World Series is predicated upon the Indians getting a lead over the Cubs. When Cleveland has a lead, it's been impossible to beat them. That's how good Miller, and underrated Bryan Shaw are setting things up for Cody Allen.
But Francona's strategy only works if the Indians get a lead. Will Chicago's pitchers allow Cleveland to get leads before Francona calls on Miller and Shaw to set things up for Allen?
I don't think so. Kyle Hendricks, who is likely to start Game 3 in Chicago, has been lights out. As has Jon Lester. Jake Arrieta hasn't been as dominant as we've seen him in the past, but he has no fear and when his stuff is working, it's arguably the best in MLB.
So even though both teams depend on pitching, they depend in pitching a different way. For Francona, he eagerly waits for his team to score runs in the first 4 innings so that he can pull his starter and unleash Miller. For Maddon, it's all about the starting pitcher. It's about Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks and veteran John Lackey pitching until the 6th or 7th inning.
Which strategy wins out? To me, the Cubs have no business losing more than a single game in this matchup. Chicago is terrific at hitting curve balls and although Corey Kluber has one of the best, if not the best, curveball in professional baseball, he hasn't faced a team quite like Chicago with hitters that have both great power and can hit for average. Outside of Kluber, finding a starter that's as strong on Cleveland's roster as Lester, Arrieta or Hendricks is difficult.
That, along with Chicago's defense, means that Cleveland is up against it in the 2016 World Series. Unless the Cubs have 4 games where they don't hit at all (maybe not an impossibility since they had 2 games like that versus the Dodgers), it's the Cubs that should have a lead going into the 4th and 5th inning of games, not Cleveland.
Chicago may not have an Andrew Miller in the bullpen. But their 4 starters are better than the Indians' 4 starters. That's the problem with Francona's strategy. To utilize Miller the right way, the Indians must have a lead before Miller steps to the mound.
Against Chicago, getting a lead is going to be difficult. I think Cleveland wins a single game in this 7-game series. I like Chicago to win the World Series 4 games to 1.
MLB Free Futures Pick: Chicago Cubs 4, Cleveland Indians 1