Unlikely Opponents Square Off in Fall Classic

Unlikely Opponents Square Off in Fall Classic

Bill Axtell
As predicted by precisely no one, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians will meet in the 2016 World Series.
Oh, the up-and-coming Cubs, with a critical mass of youthful stars, a solid starting rotation and Aroldis Chapman, were on everybody’s radar. Experience the club acquired in 2015 seems to have helped. Not to mention the off-season acquisition of super utility player Ben Zobrist and the trade deadline acquisition of former Cincy closer Chapman.
But there weren’t a lot of people picking Cleveland to represent the Junior Circuit.
The Indians have one burgeoning superstar in Francisco Lindor, whose defense at a team’s most important position measures up to his prowess at the plate. Cleveland also has 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber heading up a fine rotation, albeit one depleted by late-season injuries.
The story of the post-season has been Tribe skipper Terry Francona’s unorthodox handling of his pitching staff, bringing in closer Andrew Miller to quell potential rallies in the middle of a ball game, and calling upon Ryan Merritt to start the final game of the American League Championship Series in spite of the fact that he had pitched a mere 11 innings at the major league level. Everything Tito has done has turned to gold.
Both teams ranked well in major categories on the mound and at-bat. Chicago had the lowest WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) in the majors as well as the lowest ERA. They ranked second in the National League in runs scored (behind only the Colorado Rockies) and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). Their manager is the highly-respected Joe Maddon, who led the Tampa Bay Rays to their only World Series appearance in 2008.
Suffice to say no one will take the Cubs lightly.
Cleveland boasts the second-best ERA in the American League. Like the Cubs, the Indians scored the second-most runs in their league. As any Tiger fan can tell you, what the Indians lack in marquee names on offense they more than make up for in the form of tough outs up and down the line-up.
Cleveland seems to know what it has to do to win. It’s a formidable advantage, knowing what you have to do to win. And the Indians dominated not only the big-swinging Tigers during the regular season…but the big-swinging Red Sox in three games in the American League Divisional Series and the big-swinging Blue Jays in five games in the ALCS. Tribe pitchers held the AL’s most prolific offensive team to eight runs in those five games.
Thus I’m picking the Cleveland Indians to end a World Series championship drought of 68 years. And to allow the Cubs not to damage their brand by winning the whole shooting match.