Well, here we are. The World Series. I kind of still can’t believe it, despite the fact that the Cubs were the best team in baseball this year. Maybe even because of that, given how random the playoffs can be.
Cleveland AL rankings:
- OBP: 4th
- SLG: 6th
- wRC+: 4th
- Defense: 1st
- BSR: 1st
- SP ERA: 2nd
- RP ERA: 2nd
Cubs NL rankings
- OBP: 1st
- SLG: 4th
- wRC+: 1st
- Defense: 1st
- BSR: 4th
- SP ERA: 1st
- RP ERA: 4th
It’s almost as if good teams are the ones who reach the world series. I knew Cleveland was no slouch to have gotten here, but their overall numbers were much better than I thought.
Now in slightly more inconvenient table form for SK.
For a more complete breakdown of individual positions for each team, I direct you to Myles’s player preview.
K%, BB%, ERA, FIP listed for each pitcher.
Game 1: Jon Lester, LHP (24.8%, 6.5%, 2.44, 3.41) vs Corey Kluber, RHP (26.4%, 6.6%, 3.14, 3.26), Tuesday 7:00 PM CT
Lester has come up exactly as big in the postseason as the Cubs hoped when the signed him. In his three playoff starts combined he pitched 21 innings, struck out 14, issued two walks, and allowed just two runs. He sneered at the Dodgers attempts to get in his head with bunts and Ryan Theriot impressions, and the whole not throwing to first thing has weirdly morphed into a plus for him as baserunners are so out of their element messing around with that shit that it messes up their secondary leads, not to mention the always looming threat of Sherriff Ross gunning them down. Cleveland did steal the most bases in the AL so this could be a tougher challenge than the last round.
Kluber won the Cy in 2014, and while his numbers have regressed a bit since that season he remains a great pitcher to head up a staff. He gets a shitload of strikeouts, but he’s also a guy who gets plenty of weak contact – he led the AL in that statcast-y category this year. He has pitched 18.1 innings so far, a lighter workload considering how Francona has expertly used Andrew Miller to shorten games this postseason. He also has allowed just two runs this whole postseason, one on a solo shot by former Cubs lottery ticket Josh Donaldson and another in the following inning thanks to a Jays mini rally precipitated by two leadoff walks. He struck out 20 but walked 7, which makes me hope he’s a good candidate for the Cubs to bust out their pitch count meat grinder. His sinker is his main pitch but both his slider/cutter (there’s some disagreement in classification?) and curveball are his out pitches – both were tops in the AL by pitch value.
According to his b-ref page, one of his nicknames is Hans Kluber, which is fucking awesome.
Bauer is the guy who infamously tried to add a new pitch to his repertoire in the playoffs, the blood-ball. It’s like a spit ball, but more dangerous. He also said that Phantom Menace is the best Star Wars movie so fuck this guy (dying laughing). Aside from the bloody ALCS start, which didn’t even last an inning, he went 4.2 innings against the Red Sox and gave up three runs with six strikeouts and no walks. Two of those runs were off the long ball. He’s also known for being traded for pennies on the dollar by the Dbacks, not the first time that org has had a tough time dealing with people who do anything at all differently from their gritty old school ways, or making evaluations in general. His former catcher Miguel Montero in particular did not have great things to say about Bauer’s ability to listen to anyone else. Bauer threw a ton of fastballs in Arizona and early in his career in Cleveland but since then has come to rely more on a two-seamer, and stopped throwing his slider entirely, at least according to pfx. His curveball is his best pitch.
Jake was 2016 Jake in his last start. Of all the Cubs starters he still has the highest ceiling, so it would be great to see him bust out a vintage Arrieta start like he did in St. Louis last month. He has struck out ten and walked just one in his eleven postseason innings so far, but he’s also given up twelve hits and six runs. His slider seems to be most of the way back, hopefully he finds it on Wednesday.
Game 3: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (22.8%, 5.9%, 2.13, 3.20) vs Josh Tomlin, RHP (16.3%, 2.8%, 4.40, 4.88), Friday, 7:00 PM CT
I keep wanting to call him Mike Tomlin, which I know is wrong. Even worse, I keep thinking that Mike Tomlin was a former Marlins relief pitcher, not the coach of the Steelers (dying laughing). I was thinking of the Orioles closer of my youth, Mike Timlin, who never played for the Marlins.
Josh Tomlin is an extreme pitch-to-contact guy, but he gets far fewer grounders than I would have guessed. He’s also been around way longer than I expected, having made 109 starts with the Indians. The fact that I thought he was a rookie shows how little I know of the AL, heh. As a part of that whole pitch to contact thing he also gives up a ton of home-runs – 36 this year and a career rate of 1.56 per nine. He throws a little bit of everything, but it’s mostly fastballs and cutters. The fastball is okay, results-wise, but opponents have been crushing his cutter.
Hendricks is getting the start here because he pitches so great at Wrigley. He didn’t look so hot in his first two playoff starts, lasting just 3.1 innings against the Giants (leaving due to an injury) and getting nibbly in his first start against the Dodgers, walking four but limiting the damage to just one run in 5.1 innings. But that last start in the clincher, just woow. Hendricks would be lined up to start a possible game seven if it gets that far, and I feel pretty good about that at this point.
Game 4: John Lackey, RHP (24.1%, 7.1%, 3.35, 3.81) vs Johnny Wholestaff, RLHP, Saturday, 7:00 PM CT
Lackey was fairly lackluster in his NLCS start, allowing two runs in four innings and getting yanked after walking two batters to lead off the fifth. Perfectly adequate is all the Cubs would need, but even better would be great.
The Indians haven’t announced who will start this game. It might be Danny Salazar, coming back from an elbow injury. Even if he was healthy, there would still likely be a lot of pitches thrown by relievers as he’s not a guy who is very efficient. Rookie Ryan Merritt got the nod for this spot in the ALCS and pitched 4.1 shutout inning in the second start of his entire career. And don’t forget that Andrew Miller is likely to pitch, oh, 25 innings or so in this series. It would be pretty hilarious if Tito just went ahead and started him.
Prediction: Not really a prediction, just a hope for multiple reasons. I want Cubs in 4 or Cubs in 5 so they can win at Wrigley, which would be pretty fucking awesome. Also so I can watch said game at home, stupid plasma physicists aren’t Cubs fans, apparently. Jerks.