I will be going through each position for the Cubs and Indians and stating which team has the advantage. As an avid Cubs fan it will be hard for me to put my bias aside, but I promise I will do my best. All stats have been obtained from the teams’ respective MLB.com team sites. If you want a more in depth look at the Indians roster, check out Nick Surges’ blog here.
Cubs: The Cubs have used a platoon approach at catcher for the entire 2016 season, the playoffs included. David Ross will catch Jon Lester, Miguel Montero will likely catch for Jake Arrieta, and Wilson Contreras for Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. The veteran experience of Ross (39) and Montero (33) has already proven valuable so far in the playoffs as each of them hit a clutch HR. Wilson Contreras is a hot hitting rookie who also has some pop. He is hitting .400 this postseason with a HR and 4 RBIs.
Indians: The Indians have used 27-year-old Roberto Perez as their sole catcher during the 2016 playoffs. He has batted .174, but he does have a HR and a couple RBIs.
Cubs: Anthony Rizzo is the Cubs superstar first baseman. He is in the MVP race this year and is a huge leader within the Cubs’ clubhouse. He started off the postseason as cold as you can be, batting .067 in the Divisional Series, but improved drastically in the NLCS, batting .320 with 2 home runs.
Indians: The veteran slugger, Mike Napoli, is the first baseman for the Indians. He has A TON of power, hitting 34 home runs during the regular season. However, he strikes out quite a bit as well, with 194 during the regular season (3rd in the majors). He is batting .179 this postseason with 10 Ks and 1 HR.
Cubs: The Cubs have started Javier Baez at second base for all of the playoffs. During the regular season Ben Zobrist primarily started at second, but because of Javy’s hot bat and superb fielding abilities he has overtaken the starting role sending Zobrist to the outfield. Javy has been nothing short of brilliant in the postseason, batting .342 on his way to winning a split MVP award in the NLCS.
Indians: Chicago native (Northbrook, IL) Jason Kipnis is the Indians starting second baseman. Yes, he is the one who “celebrated so hard he hurt himself”. After the Indians Game 5 win of the ALCS he sprained his ankle – sucks to suck. He should be ready for game 1, but has sported a meager .167 postseason average.
Cubs: Addison Russell will be the Cubs starting short stop for the World Series. He always plays stellar defense, but his hitting has been very up and down this year. He went 1/15 in the NLDS and 6/22 in the NLCS. It was good to see him square up some balls at the end of the NLCS (2 HRs), but he has underwhelmed throughout the playoffs.
Indians: 22 year old, Francisco Lindor is arguably the Indians best hitter. He hit .301, with 15 HRs, 78 RBIs and 19 SBs during the regular season and has continued mashing into the playoffs (batting a stellar .323).
Cubs: MVP front-runner, Kris Bryant has only added on to his regular season success this postseason. He is batting .333 in the playoffs with 5 doubles and a home run. Look for Kris to continue driving the ball in the World Series.
Indians: Jose Ramirez is holding down the hot corner for the Indians. The 24 year old had an excellent regular season, batting .312 with 84 runs and 22 stolen bases. He has not fared as well in the playoffs, batting .222 with only 1 extra base knock.
Cubs: The Cubs have switched around their outfield quite a bit during the playoffs. Their primary starters have been Ben Zobrist in left, Dexter Fowler in center, and Jason Heyward in right. Heyward’s post-season performance has been absolutely brutal, to cap off an equally awful regular season. He only has 2 hits in 28 at bats. The former World Series champ, Ben Zobrist, has not done very well in the playoffs either, batting only .167. Dexter Fowler has done pretty well for the Cubs in the playoffs, batting .262 with 4 doubles and a HR. I can’t find the exact stat, but the Cubs have won a vast majority of their games when Dexter gets on base to lead off the game. Albert Almora and Jorge Soler may see an increase in playing time if Jason Heyward can’t get his act together.
Indians: Luke Chisenhall, Coco Crisp, and Tyler Naquin have been the primary outfield starters for the Indians this postseason. Chisenhall has led the pack, batting .269 in the postseason with 4 RBIs. Veteran, Coco Crisp has batted .214 and Tyler Naquin .188. The Indians, like the Cubs, have also used a platoon approach in the outfield. Brandon Guyer and 36-year-old Rajai Davis have played significant roles as well. Davis has had a terrible postseason, going 0/12, but Guyer has excelled, batting .375. Look for Guyer to get more playing time as the Indians will likely play the hot hand.
Cubs: Jorge Soler was slated to be the probable DH for the Cubs, however with recent news of a Kyle Schwarber return, this may not be the case. Soler has batted very badly so far this postseason – he still doesn’t have a single hit in 8 at bats. If Schwarber (recovering from a torn ACL in April) can come back and play at even ½ his potential he will provide a HUGE boost for the Cubs. Recent reports have stated that Schwarber flied to Cleveland Monday night and is going to be the likely starter at DH. Schwarber batted .333 with 5 HRs in last year’s playoffs, which is obvious proof that the young slugger can perform in the postseason.
Indians: Carlos Santana has been the Indians’ designated hitter for all of the 2016 playoffs. He has largely underwhelmed, batting only .172, but he does have a lot of power. He hit 34 home runs with a solid .259 average during the regular season. The Cubs will certainly have to avoid any mistake pitches over the plate if they want to limit Santana’s impact.
Cubs: The Cubs made a huge move at the trade deadline, acquiring one of the best closers in the game today, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman has been mostly excellent in his tenure with the Cubs, but he has two glaring weaknesses. He is only comfortable pitching in the 9th and does not like inheriting any base runners. The 100+ throwing closer needs to sort these issues out if he intends to shut down the Indians in high leverage situations.
Some other pitchers in the Cubs bullpen are long relievers Travis Wood and Mike Montgomery. They have both excelled in the postseason, pitching a combined 13.4 innings and allowing 5 earned runs which brings their combined ERA to 3.36. Carl Edwards has been the other bright spot in the Cubs’ bullpen – he has not given up a single run in 3.2 innings pitched. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Justin Grimm have all struggled, putting up a combined ERA of 6.35.
Indians: The Indians’ bullpen has been nothing short of brilliant this post season. They too made a trade deadline acquisition of their own, acquiring electric reliever Andrew Miller. Miller has not given up any runs this postseason in 11.2 innings pitched – wow. Cody Allen has been the Cleveland closer for the entire regular season and has continued dominating his role into the playoffs. He too has not given up a single run in 7.2 innings pitched, and is 5/5 on save opportunities. The Cubs will need to score early if they want a chance of beating this tough Indians bullpen.
Cubs: Cubs ace, Jon Lester has completely dominated this postseason. He is the Cy Young front runner, and also won co MVP in the NLCS. He has given up only 2 runs in 21 innings pitched, holding opponents to a .189 BA. Kyle Hendricks is the Cubs #2 starter and had a magnificent regular season as well – he had a league low 2.13 ERA. He has proven that the regular season was no fluke, as he has a 1.65 ERA and held opponents to a .164 BA in the playoffs. Jake Arrieta is the #3 SP in the Cubs rotation. The former Cy Young winner has largely underwhelmed this year. In the playoffs he has a 4.91 ERA. Control has been the problem for Arrieta as of late, but if he has his slider/curveball working he is still a formidable starter. Big John Lackey rounds up the Cubs starting rotation. He has been an innings eater, being pulled early in each of his postseason starts. The fiery right-hander has allowed opponents to bat .333 against him this postseason, and has produced a 5.63 earned run average.
Indians: The Indians had potentially the best starting pitching rotation in all of baseball. However, two of their top starters, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, have both missed time dealing with injuries. Salazar is going to be on the Indians’ postseason roster, but probably will only be used in a relief role, as he has not pitched since early September. The Indians one remaining ace is Corey Kluber. He has posted a .98 ERA in the playoffs, holding opponents to a .197 batting average. He will be facing off against Jon Lester in game 1 this evening. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin will be the likely starters in games 2 and 3. Bauer has had a rough postseason, posting a 5.06 ERA and giving up 2 HRs. Tomlin has been excellent though, putting up a 2.53 ERA and holding opponents to a .184 earned run average.
Thank you for reading. Let’s hope for an exciting World Series, and of course a Cubs victory.