My World Series Pick: From the Bird’s Nest
Cleveland and the Cubs. Who picked that back in March?
The Cubs went into the playoffs as the favorite. And they got a stern test from both the Giants and Dodgers before celebrating Saturday night at Wrigley Field. (Have those that were there 'til the wee hours even gone home yet?)
The Indians went into the playoffs as the underdog. Surely they couldn't handle the power of Boston and Toronto? But handle it they did. And, they did it in convincing fashion, winning six playoff games in a row before their only loss.
So who wins this thing? I've gone back and forth since Sunday morning.
I love the Cubs' starters. Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks, Lackey. Each one is capable of pitching a gem. More importantly, each is capable of pitching deep into the game. Cleveland might have the best pitcher of all in Corey Kluber. But they have questions after that. Will Trevor Bauer be good to go after gushing blood from his pinky in his only ALCS appearance? Josh Tomlin will pitch game two if Bauer can't go. But then what? Cleveland doesn't really have a fourth starter. This could mean a three man rotation on short rest. Good news for Cleveland: Danny Salazar is on the eleven man pitching staff. He'll probably pitch out of the pen (something he's never done as a big leaguer) but his presence adds to the pitching depth.
I love Cleveland's bullpen. I've been saying Cleveland reminds me a lot of Kansas City a year ago. They can shorten the game to five innings with a lethal bullpen. And, it's not just Andrew Miller and Cody Allen out there. They are the door slammers, but Brian Shaw and Cody Otero are solid. Add Salazar to the mix and it will be difficult for Chicago to play from behind. And, the two games/day off/three games/day off/two games gives both managers the luxury of getting more appearances out of their top guys. That's advantage Cleveland.
I love Chicago's power. Up and down the lineup they can hit it out of the park. And, the Cubs have gotten a big boost with the return of Kyle Schwarber. Just six months removed from knee surgery, Schwarber has been added to the roster and is expected to DH. It's a potentially scary lineup. To be sure, some of the Cubs have struggled in the postseason, but they were clicking on all cylinders after falling behind 2-1 to the Dodgers.
I love Cleveland's lineup, too. Again, they remind me of Kansas City. They may not be thought to have the power of the Cubs, but they have six players who hit ten or more home runs and three who hit more than twenty. They are an outstanding gap hitting team. And, they've got the ability to move runners, whether with a steal or hit and run. They can take advantage of the Cubs in that department. But, as the old saying goes, you can't steal first base and that Cubs rotation can be awfully stingy.
The Indians have home field advantage thanks to the American League's win in the All-Star game. Ironically, tonight's starter, Kluber, was the winning pitcher in that game. The extra game at home could be important if this series goes deep, and I think it will.
So, now you can see why I'm torn.
I have no dog in the hunt. I have friends who are Cubs' fans. I have friends who are Indians' fans. Neither team gets my sentimental vote because neither have won a World Series since I've been alive.
After analyzing way too much, I wind up looking not at who won, but how they won in order to get to this point. And, I look at those last three games in the NLCS and watched the awakening of guys like Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, who had been big holes in the lineup. If that Cubs lineup shows up, I'll be right in this prediction.
Cubs. In seven.