By Bill Axtell
The 2016 World Series was excellent in most respects, although it still annoys me to see the baseball season drag into November. Seems to me the season should end with the arrival of football weather and game conditions that are far from optimal, but nobody asked me.
This year’s Fall Classic illustrated and drove home a baseball truism that fans already grasp, namely, that if you see a pitcher often enough, you can figure him out.
I don’t think teams “figure out” pitchers so much as they learn which pitches to lay off.
Terry Francona didn’t have much choice about using Andrew Miller several times in the post-season in situations that don’t call for a closer. Because of late-season injuries, he was missing two-fifths of the Indians’ starting rotation. Miller never got battered by the Cubs, but he was not “lights out” when he needed to be.
Joe Maddon did likewise, bringing in Aroldis Chapman to pitch a whole lot more than a closer typically pitches. And he was “rewarded” for doing so when Rajai Davis deposited a two-run HR into the left field stands at Progressive Field to tie Game Seven at 6-6.
Alas for the Tribe, they would lose in extra innings to the better team, a team with more offensive firepower and an excellent starting rotation including Jon Lester and John Lackey, both of whom brought a fair amount of World Series experience to the task.
Cleveland battled gamely through two rounds of play-offs in which they were the underdog. Their success certainly can be attributed in part to Francona’s jury-rigging of a pitching staff.
They have nothing to be ashamed of. The Indians won 14 of 18 decisions vs. the Tigers, 14 of 19 games vs. the Royals, and made fast work of Boston and Toronto in the ALDS and ALCS respectively.
Likewise, the Cubs’ victory is hardly tainted by injuries to Indians starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco: with their backs to the wall, the Cubs reeled off three straight wins and ended the longest drought in US pro sports.