Do the Cleveland Indians possess what is necessary for them to overcome the Chicago Cubs’ obvious advantages in the World Series? Maybe they do.
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Indians May Have What It Takes
The great news about this World Series is the fact that some long-suffering group of fans is going to be satisfied. Never mind that very few people in the audience were adults the last time the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians won the World Series; they have experienced one disappointment after another in the years since, although we would say that the Cubbies’ struggles have been a little more “fabled.” In 1969, they had four Hall of Famers on the roster, and didn’t even make it to the post-season, blowing a sizable lead in the NL East to the New York Mets, who went on to achieve the “miracle” by defeating the supposedly-unbeatable Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.
But this Chicago team is the best they’ve had in quite some time, even better that that than that 1969 version, because you can go up and down the lineup and not find an easy out, and there isn’t too much “charity” in the starting rotation either.
Look at what you have here. Kyle Hendricks was the major league ERA leader at 2.13; Jon Lester was second in the National League with a 2.44 ERA and has allowed only two runs in his three post-season starts. Then there is Jake Arrieta, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season but is no better than the #3 starter on this staff, and of course, John Lackey, who was acquired for his experience in the post-season (now up to 22 starts) and registered his career-best figures in WHIP ratio, strikeout rate and hits per nine innings, even though he has not had an easy time of it during October.
The fact is, it is very hard to find a weakness on this Cubs team. Well, maybe there is ONE, and perhaps that is something Cleveland can exploit.
In the World Series betting odds that have been established by the people at America’s Bookie, the Cubs are considerable favorites:
Chicago Cubs -210
Cleveland Indians +175
Take note that the Indians are that much of an underdog, despite the fact that they will play four games at home, if this goes seven. Many of the pundits are not calling for it to get that far. They cite the fact that Cleveland does not have as deep a batting order, and there is only one legitimate “ace” in the rotation, compared to three of them for Chicago. Admittedly, manager Terry Francona will have to be rather artful in the way he handles his starting pitchers, but he has a pretty good bullpen to turn to. These guys are deep, and they registered a better ERA in that department (3.45) then did the Cubs (3.56).
Of course, we do take note that Aroldis Chapman came to the Cubs in mid-season, but the same can be said for the Indians’ Andrew Miller, and isn’t it ironic that they both came from the New York Yankees, a team that has a bigger wallet, so to speak, then either of these franchises, but was in “sell” mode at the trade deadline?
We see Miller as someone who is much more comfortable going more than one inning, and Francona is not afraid to bring him in early in a ballgame. That makes him a lot of fans in the sabermetric community, for certain, but it also tells us that he is not necessarily a guy who has to go by the “book.” Listen, Chicago’s Joe Maddon is the same way, but he may not have as much flexibility with Chapman, who was much more effective (in fact. lights out) when he comes into the ninth inning with a lead.
The Cubs could be handicapped in one very important respect – they are not real good at holding runners on, and Lester is the biggest culprit in this area. He doesn’t even THROW to first base. This may not have been a huge concern in Chicago’s two previous series, but you can bet Francona is going to exploit that here. The Indians stole 134 bases in 165 attempts. That constitutes 81% success, and that makes it worth it for them to run whenever possible. In terms of what we are talking about here, that means at least four members of this lineup – Jason Kipnis, Francisco Landor, José Ramirez and (especially) Rajai Davis – should get the green light more than usual. And we think Cleveland can manufacture some runs this way. In fact, we believe the edge in speed and in the bullpen will enable this team to carry it seven, and looking at that underdog price of +175, or the specific price of +500 to win it in the maximum number of games, that is a route we are not too shy to explore.