Quick Prediction Update: The LA – Chicago series played out as I predicted in my NLCS preview: Cubs in 6. This runs my postseason prediction win-loss total to 6-2 (the two losses were when I picked against Cleveland in both of their series).
Here’s a quick breakdown of the LA vs. Chicago series that just wrapped up:
In the two LA wins, Kershaw looked amazing. In his first start he threw 7 scoreless innings and Hill was untouchable during his 6 innings (2 hits and 6 strikeouts). However, in the losses, the Dodger starting pitching was an entirely different story. Maeda kept his streak of not getting through the 6th inning intact (4 IP in start #1 and 3.2 IP in start #2), and Urias turned in an extremely rough performance giving up 4 runs in 3.2 innings pitched. The nail in the coffin was when Kershaw didn’t show up with his best stuff in Game 6, giving up 5 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings. My prediction of a Jansen bullpen meltdown was misplaced. Jansen looked sharp throughout the NLCS and his increased workload never caught up with him. Instead of Jansen, it was the rest of the Dodger bullpen that couldn’t handle the significant uptick in usage (especially Blanton).
For the Cubs, Lester looked good throwing 13 innings in his two starts and giving up a total of 2 runs and 9 hits. Surprisingly, his case of the yips (fielding and throwing to first) was never significantly taken advantage of by LA. Henricks went 12 and 2/3 innings in his two starts surrendering 1 run and 5 total hits. Lackey and Arrieta were mediocre to sub-par however, the bullpen often picked up their slack. After an offensive drought in games 2 and 3, the Cubs hitters broke out and put up 23 runs in the final three contests.
World Series Preview:
For the season, the Cubs put up the second most runs and held their opponents to the fewest runs (+252 run differential – first in the league). Cleveland was in the top ten in both run scoring and run prevention (+101 run differential – 4th best in the league). The Cubs and Indians did not face each other during the regular season.
The Tribe come off two impressive post-season series wins taking down the high powered offense of both the Red Sox and Blue Jays and going 7 and 1 in the process. I have done a very poor job of evaluating their play (as witnessed in my only two playoff losses being their two series). I am mystified regarding how losing a #2 and #3 starting pitcher has not had the negative impact that I expected and although I have always given a huge amount of credit to their bullpen, the performance (Miller and Allen and to a lesser extent, Shaw) has been superb.
The Tribe will have home field advantage in the World Series and have constructed a roster with players who have had regular DH experience throughout the season (playing in the AL, duh…). Making short work of the Jays has also allowed the team a few extra days of rest entering the series and that should only help their over-worked pen.
The Cubs enter the series riding the high of eliminating the Dodgers at home, being in the World Series for the first time in 71 years, and having a roster that will be less affected by playing a DH than other NL teams (since they are deep at multiple positions and Schwarber may also be available to DH). Their bullpen wasn’t particularly overworked in the last series (although the overall performance was just OK, and not lights out). Interesting to note, Aroldis Chapman faced the Tribe twice as a Yankee during 2016 (prior to his trade to the Cubs) and earned a win and a save in his two appearances (3.1 IP, 1 hit, no runs, and 5 strikeouts).
The 2016 playoffs have given the fans of both the Cubs and the Tribe reason to rejoice. I love to see long suffering come to an end for a fan base so this is going to be a special World Series regardless of which team wins. Both managers have done a tremendous job with their respective teams but the Cubs appear to have the advantage in fielding, starting pitching, and base-running. Keeping with my motif of underestimating Cleveland throughout the 2016 post-season, my prediction is…. drum roll… the Cubs in 6.