Post-Season Predictions: Final Update
I assumed that Cleveland would once again prove me wrong when they went up 3 games to 1 against the Cubs. However, the Cubs came back and made me look good. I had Chicago winning in 6 so picking the winner and being off by only one game looks good on paper. I only picked two series incorrectly during the entire post season (Wild Card games included). Both losses occurred when I went against Cleveland (versus Toronto and Boston).
Game 7 reflections and other random thoughts:
I don’t remember a game when players went from being potential goats to evening-up the ledger almost immediately. Want an example? Baez’s makes two terrible errors and then he subsequently homers. Want another one? Ross throws the ball away then hits a home run in his next at bat. The last time I saw things balance out so quickly for someone was the episode of Seinfield where he throws a $20 out the window and by the end of the episode gets a $20 back.
There is always a lot of talk about using the best relief pitchers in the highest leverage situations rather than simply to get the final three outs of a game. Francona demonstrated this with his use of Miller once he joined Cleveland via trade during the regular season. He continued this throughout the post season and was joined by Maddon when the Cubs deployed Chapman in new and interesting ways. Although there was a lot of positives to this strategy, both managers appeared to overly rely on this strategy and appeared to deploy the big guns when it seemed ill advised or even unnecessary. Unfortunately for both teams a combination of wear, tear, fatigue, and batter familiarity finally caught up with the bullpen studs. They became more hittable at the most crucial times in game 7. Although the results from using top bullpen arms in high leverage situations (regardless of inning) paid dividends multiple times, it will be interesting to see whether teams emulate this approach next season or whether it becomes a strictly post season (or even just Cleveland and to a lesser extent Cub) phenomenon.
Does Chapman resign with the Cubs or does someone internally (or more likely, externally) take the closer role? The Cubs are going to have to pay up if they want to keep Chapman. 2017 will be his age 29 season. His ERA+ in his last three seasons have been 185, 244, and 273, he has a career 1.88 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), and a .99 WHIP. If not Chapman, then who will be the premier bullpen arm the club signs? The top two free agent options with ‘closer experience’ include 29 year old Kenley Jansen (ERA+ of 213 and a FIP of 1.44 in 2016 and a career mark of 13.9 strikeouts per 9 innings) and almost 32 year old Mark Melancon (257 ERA+ and FIP of 2.42 in 2016 and a career average of 8.2 strikeouts per 9 innings). Both will cost a ton to sign. It will be interesting to see the direction Theo and company decide to take.
What will the Cubs starting line-up look like next year? They are extremely deep throughout the roster and it will be interesting to see if they make any significant moves. Will they re-sign Fowler who has elected free agency? Will Schwarber end up in the outfield full time, will he get anytime at catcher, or do they sell high and trade him to an AL team that can DH him? Where does World Series MVP, Ben Zobrist, play if Baez is at second, Russell is at short, and the outfield becomes Schwarber, Soler, and Heyward? These are all interesting questions and problems most teams would love to have.