Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (103-58) vs Cleveland Indians (94-67)

In Series Previews by berselius66 Comments

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.

Team Rankings

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.

Team Leaders

Now in slightly more inconvenient table form for SK.

Cleveland

 

OBP
Tyler Naguin (.372)

ISO
Carlos Santana (.239)

HR
Santana/Mike Napoli (34)

R+RBI
Napoli (193)

wRC+
Naguin (135)

BSR
Rajai Davis (10.0)

Defense
Francisco Lindor (27.7)

SP K/9
Corey Kluber (9.50)

SP BB/9
Josh Tomlin (1.04)

SP ERA
Kluber (3.14)

SP FIP
Kluber (3.26)

RP K/9
Andrew Miller (14.28)

RP BB/9
Miller (0.62)

RP ERA
Dan Otero (1.53)

RP FIP
Miller (1.53)

WAR
Lindor (6.3)

Chicago

 

OBP
Dexter Fowler (.393)

ISO
Kris Bryant (.262)

HR
Bryant (39)

R+RBI
Bryant (223)

wRC+
Bryant (149)

BSR
Bryant (6.8)

Defense
Addison Russell (22.5)

SP K/9
Jon Lester (8.75)

SP BB/9
Kyle Hendricks (2.06)

SP ERA
Hendricks (2.15)

SP FIP
Hendricks (3.20)

RP K/9
Aroldis Chapman (15.53)

RP BB/9
Hector Rondon (1.41)

RP ERA
Chapman (1.01)

RP FIP
Chapman (0.82)

WAR
Bryant (8.4)

For a more complete breakdown of individual positions for each team, I direct you to Myles’s player preview.

Pitching Matchups

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.

Game 2: Jake Arrieta, RHP (23.9%, 9.6%, 3.10, 3.52) vs Trevor Bauer, RHP (20.7%, 8.6%, 4.26, 3.99) Wednesday, 7:00 PM CT

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.

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Comments

  1. Millertime

    Also, didn’t Hendricks last just 3.1 innings against the Giants due to being hit by a line drive? I don’t think it was performance reasons why he left that game.

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  2. Author
    berselius

    Millertime:
    Ryan Merritt pitched in the NLCS?For the Indians?

    Millertime:
    Also, didn’t Hendricks last just 3.1 innings against the Giants due to being hit by a line drive?I don’t think it was performance reasons why he left that game.

    Whoops, fixed. Need more sleep.

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  3. PFD

    Impossible to get anything done at work today. Can’t stop thinking about the Cubs taking the field in the World Series in a few hours.

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  4. SK

    I understand you don’t want someone in a Chief Wahoo mask but the “Indians” appear to have a mascot that’s a cross between Barney the dinosaur and Mr. Snuffleupagus.

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  5. SK

    It would appear that Javier Baez will be the second Hispanic or Latino Cub to play in a World Series, after backup catcher Mike Gonzalez in 1929 who appeared in two WS games that year against the A’s.

    Unless Albert or Willson beats him to it.

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  6. Smokestack Lightning

    Something I heartily endorse: Rewatching game 6. Doing it now.

    God, they beat the shit out of Kershaw. Amazing.

    Note: Buck and Smoltz weren’t quite as slobbery over Kershaw as it seemed. Wound a little tight, we were.

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  7. Perkins

    Pinch-Running Tom Goodwin,

    Honestly, one of the big reasons I want the Cubs to win the World Series this year (beyond “obviously” and “it’d be fucking awesome”) is so the Sox fans I know can finally shut up about 2005. Though I’m sure a few of them would still do some mental gymnastics about how that team was somehow better than the 2016 Cubs.

    I don’t love Cubs fans as a group, but Sox fans have to be the most miserable fan base I’ve seen.

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  8. Perkins

    To day’s World Series base ball squadron:
    Dexter Fowler, CF
    Kris Bryant, 3B
    Anthony Rizzo, 1B
    Ben Zobrist, LF
    Kyle Schwarber, DH
    Javy Baez, 2B
    Chris Coghlan, RF
    Addison Russell, SS
    David Ross, C

    Surprised to see Coghlan in RF and Zobrist in LF, instead of the other way around. Actually surprised to see Coghlan at all. Watch him hit a HR and shut me right up.

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  9. myles

    Perkins:
    To day’s World Series base ball squadron:
    Dexter Fowler, CF
    Kris Bryant, 3B
    Anthony Rizzo, 1B
    Ben Zobrist, LF
    Kyle Schwarber, DH
    Javy Baez, 2B
    Chris Coghlan, RF
    Addison Russell, SS
    David Ross, C

    Surprised to see Coghlan in RF and Zobrist in LF, instead of the other way around. Actually surprised to see Coghlan at all. Watch him hit a HR and shut me right up.

    Head-scratcher that Contreras isn’t in the lineup. I guess you want to make sure Coghlan doesn’t face a single lefty in the entire series, so keeping on the bench means that he could get Miller’d anytime he gets a PH appearance.

    Man, is Coghlan awful against lefties.

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  10. Perkins

    myles,

    Yeah, he doesn’t do much good as a PH if you don’t want him facing Miller. Also, Kluber has a ~100 point platoon split between RHH and LHH. Willson is still probably the better hitter, though.

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  11. Rizzo the Rat

    I understand stacking the lineup with lefties against Kluber. But not only is Heyward a much better fielder than Coghlan, he’s probably a better hitter, too. This is the most I’ve been annoyed by a lineup decision in quite a while.

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  12. umbra

    Guys.

    Guys.

    What if…

    …Kyle Schwarber wasn’t really hurt and this was all a ploy to use him as a Double Super Secret Omega Weapon in the World Series and Theo Epstein is the Kwisatz Haderach, the One Who can Be Many Places At Once?

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  13. josh

    I don’t get the Kyle Schwarber move. Seems like an odd time to start an unknown variable. I mean if he gets handed the golden sombrero, will that be it? Or are we riding that horse no matter what? I like the guy, but I just think it’s a weird time to roll the dice.

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  14. Rizzo the Rat

    Who knows, though? Maybe a Cubs uniform magically turns Coghlan into a good hitter and has the opposite effect on Heyward. This team does weird things to people.

      Quote  Reply

  15. JonKneeV

    Rizzo the Rat:
    I understand stacking the lineup with lefties against Kluber. But not only is Heyward a much better fielder than Coghlan, he’s probably a better hitter, too. This is the most I’ve been annoyed by a lineup decision in quite a while.

    Over the course of a season, ya Heyward is probably the better hitter. The eye test says, however, that Heyward is a complete liability at the plate. He’s struck out in key situations with less than two outs. You can’t count on him to get a base hit. Pitchers are challenging the zone so he’s not likely to get on base via a walk.

    The counter to this is that the Indians are going to be aggressive on the basepaths and it would be nice to have Heyward’s arm in right.

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  16. myles

    So, my official guess is Cubs in 6. Our hitting is just too good for their starting pitching. We are a meat grinder. Think we lose Game 1 and 4, and win 2 ,3, 5, and 6. Kluber starts 1 and 4, we win all the other games.

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  17. myles

    JonKneeV: Over the course of a season, ya Heyward is probably the better hitter. The eye test says, however, that Heyward is a complete liability at the plate.He’s struck out in key situations with less than two outs. You can’t count on him to get a base hit. Pitchers are challenging the zone so he’s not likely to get on base via a walk.

    The counter to this is that the Indians are going to be aggressive on the basepaths and it would be nice to have Heyward’s arm in right.

    I think Heyward is probably a .220 wOBA at this point. He’s been horrifically bad. Put another way, I’d use the DH for Heyward and let Arrieta bat for himself. I’m completely serious.

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  18. myles

    Rizzo the Rat:
    myles,

    How do you arrive at that number?

    Well, in the playoffs, he’s 2 for 30 with a double, triple, and a walk. His wOBA this year (when he hit .230/.306/.325) was .282. I just sort of guessed downwards given how bad he’s looked. I freely admit it’s unscientific, but he (to me) truly looks like less of a threat right now than the best hitting pitchers in baseball. That’s an incredible statement to make.

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  19. Smokestack Lightning

    myles:
    So, my official guess is Cubs in 6. Our hitting is just too good for their starting pitching. We are a meat grinder. Think we lose Game 1 and 4, and win 2 ,3, 5, and 6. Kluber starts 1 and 4, we win all the other games.

    I like your version of future events. However, I think if Kluber pitches on 3 days rest, Cubs blow his ass up the second time (if not tonight).

      Quote  Reply

  20. myles

    Smokestack Lightning: I like your version of future events. However, I think if Kluber pitches on 3 days rest, Cubs blow his ass up the second time (if not tonight).

    Very possible. 3 days rest is a hell of a thing. Still think that Kluber on 3 is better than Merritt, and I think Salazar will be used in relief as a long-man to allow Miller to pitch in every game (and I mean every game – as soon as a problem lefty comes up after the 5th inning, he’ll come in and pitch for 2+ innings).

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  21. Millertime

    I want this to go 7 games, mainly because the only time I can actually watch baseball from the comfort of my own house is when it’s on Fox, so I’ll probably get to watch more games this week than I did all season.

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  22. myles

    Millertime:
    I want this to go 7 games, mainly because the only time I can actually watch baseball from the comfort of my own house is when it’s on Fox, so I’ll probably get to watch more games this week than I did all season.

    I’m not sure I can take 7 games of this. I’m quickly devolving into every stereotype of the fan who takes it too seriously.

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  23. mikeakaleroy

    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.

    This was quite the journey you took us on, B.

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  24. dmick89

    myles: I’m not sure I can take 7 games of this. I’m quickly devolving into every stereotype of the fan who takes it too seriously.

    Same here. I’m obviously hoping for a sweep. I’m not sure my sanity can take 7 games of this.

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  25. Author
    berselius

    myles: I’m not sure I can take 7 games of this. I’m quickly devolving into every stereotype of the fan who takes it too seriously.

    I’m skipping dinner at a hibachi place tonight, so you know it’s dead serious.

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  26. Author
    berselius

    mikeakaleroy: This was quite the journey you took us on,B.

    I literally spent 10-15 minutes poking around old marlins season stats on B-ref trying to figure out who this Mike Tomlin guy was that I was remembering (dying laughing)

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  27. Rizzo the Rat

    I’m just not buying the argument I’m seeing (not just on this site) that Heyward is much worse than his 2016 numbers (which, of course, are already far below his career norm). The argument I’ve seen is just “he looks terrible.” People always say that when someone has 30 bad PA, even though we know it has to happen sometimes through chance alone. Just once, I’d like to hear, “this batter is having a bad stretch, but he looks good, so it’s probably just a fluke!”

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  28. Rizzo the Rat

    I’ll give “eye tests” credibility when I see someone demonstrate an ability to determine which slumps are flukes and which ones aren’t.

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