I’m still in awe. As I’ve said many times throughout the year and especially here in the playoffs, I have invested every single emotional fiber in my body in to this baseball team. From the moment Jake Arrieta threw the first pitch of the 2016 campaign back on April 4th, I’ve been in complete ride or die mode and I’m sure you have been too. Sit back, take a deep breath, and say out loud to yourself: “The Cubs are going to the World Series”. 71 long years later our Cubbies are back in the Fall Classic. We had to keep believing, we had to keep telling ourselves it’s gonna happen, and here we are. Seeing old Cubs fans crying in the ninth inning and crying after they won was the best moment of my life as a fan. I wish Saturday night would have gone on forever, but unfortunately that’s not how it works (At least we didn’t have to watch the Bears play on Sunday, that would’ve definitely brought everybody back to reality)
Now, we need 4 more wins folks. Put the National League behind you. Forget about the fact that we buried the even year Giants six feet under ground, forget the fact that we just made Clayton Kershaw look like a little leaguer, forget all that. The only thing on our mind right now is the Cleveland Indians. Allow me to introduce to you the American League Champions. We’re gonna go up and down the lineup and break down the fine gentleman we’re about to go to war with. So sit back, relax, and let me break this down for you.
The Man at the Top: Terry Francona
In his fourth season with the Tribe, the two time World Series manager led the team to 94 wins and an AL Central Division Championship during the regular season. Francona has already solidified his place in the Hall Of Fame, but this may have been his best job so far. He’s without a doubt changed the culture within that organization and in my opinion the main reason why they are where they are today. He’s a “player’s coach” in every sense of the term, and he’s been in this spot before. You could say that Joe Maddon and Terry Francona are the two best managers in baseball, and it’s no coincidence that Francona’s bunch is playing late in to October.
Carlos Santana: 1B/DH
259 AVG , .366 OBP, 34 HR, 87 RBI
I like Santana a lot. The once Single A prospect had an absolute monster year for the Tribe. It will be interesting to see what Francona does with him in terms of playing 1B or using him as a DH. There’s two things that jump off the page when you look at Santana. The first is that he can hit for power. His 34 HR ranked 14th in the American League and he’s got the threat of going deep every time he steps in to the box. The second thing is that he can get on base. His OBP ranked 8th in the AL during the regular season, but he did struggle a little bit this past series against the Blue Jays. He’s had a big year for this team and he’ll be a big part of generating runs for them this upcoming week.
Jason Kipnis: 2B
275 AVG, . 343 OBP, 23 HR, 82 RBI
I’ve been asked the question a couple times so far this week, “Which Indians player am I gonna hate the most during this series?” If I had to guess, here’s your boy. Kipnis is in your Joakim Noah, Cam Newton kind of role for this team. The Chicago native is the emotional leader of this team, he’s scrappy, gritty, all that good stuff. This is one of Kipnis’s best years in a while. He’s a well rounded player, and I think he’s very good in the field. Now, interesting story line to keep an eye on: Kipnis sprained his ankle while celebrating on the field after they won the ALCS. He’s supposedly good to go for tonight, but this is something to definitely keep in mind.
Francisco Lindor: SS
.301 AVG, .358 OBP, 15 HR, 78 RBI
Here’s the straw that stirs the drink folks. If you had to start an MLB team today, and you could pick one guy to start it with, Lindor is absolutely in the conversation. The 22 year old plays a very 2016 style of baseball. He’s an electric player to watch, he’s flashy, he’s got some power, and makes some jaw dropping plays in the field. He’s the Franchise and he’s their engine, and if the Cubs pitchers want to have success against this lineup they have to limit Lindor’s production. You’ll enjoy watching him and he’s going to be around for a long time.
Mike Napoli: DH/1B
239 AVG, . 335 OBP, 34 HR 101 RBI
Yep, Mike Napoli is back in the World Series. This is Napoli’s third Fall Classic in the last six years, each of those appearances being with a different team. Really hard to dislike Napoli. He’s a guy who has been here many times before and it’s no coincidence that wherever he goes, he wins. The last thing we need to do is leave fastballs up over the middle of the plate for the power hitting bearded man to crush all the way to Toledo. Hit your spots low and away and we’ll be alright containing Big Mike.
Jose Ramirez: 3B
312 AVG, .363 OBP, 11 HR, 76 RBI
I don’t want to say this, but I’m gonna say it. I LOVE RAMIREZ. I think Jose Ramirez is the X Factor for Cleveland in this series. He ranked 10th in the American League with a .363 OBP and 7th in the AL with a .312 AVG. This is the same guy who was sent down to the minors after struggling during 2015! When Michael Brantley went down, Ramirez stepped in and has performed in a BIG way. What a story. The dude plays with so much passion and has shown he can hit in any situation. If you have no clue who Jose Ramirez is, you’ll know by the end of this series.
Lonnie Chisenhall: Left Field
.286 AVG, .328 OBP, 8 HR, 57 RBI
A couple of weeks ago I would’ve told you that I wasn’t afraid of Chisenhall one bit. He’s just a consistent guy for this team in the bottom half of the order and I think we’ll be fine getting him out. Here’s the problem. Ole Lonny here is swinging a HOT bat right now. The man is hitting .471 with an OBP of .625 this October. Again, I don’t think Lonnie does much this series, but he’s a confident hitter right now, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Coco Crisp: Right Field
208 AVG, .323 OBP, 8 HR, 9 RBI (With Indians)
Traded to the Tribe in the last week of August, the 36 year old left fielder is another one of those guys who was brought in to help the Indians deal with the Michael Brantley injury. A couple quick things on Coco. He can hit from both sides of the plate, and he’s been Mr. Clutch for this team during this postseason run. He’s hit key home runs, one of which cleared the Green Monster at Fenway, in key spots when this team needed it most. From the AB’s I’ve seen of Coco this October, I’m impressed with how well he can hit pitches low in the zone. Not a world beater by any means, but he’s had some big moments this postseason.
Tyler Naquin: Center Field
.296 AVG, .372 OBP, 14 HR, 43 RBI
Take yourself to that scene in Moneyball where Brad Pitt walks in to the room with all the scouts. He sits back, throws three names on the board, asks Jonah Hill why he likes those guys, and he says, “because they get on base.” Enter, Tyler Naquin. Naquin had the 3rd best OBP among American League center fielders this season. The dude just gets on base. They love the match up he gives them against right handed pitchers. So, with Lester going tonight, I would expect the Indians to start Rajai Davis in CF over Naquin. We’ll see more Naquin than Davis this series, but Francona will put his best match up in the lineup.
Catcher: Roberto Perez
.183 AVG, . 283 OBP, 3 HR, 17 RBI
After all the Jonathan Lucroy drama took place at the trade deadline, Perez became this team’s every day guy behind the plate. I don’t think that Perez could hit water if he fell out of a boat, but he is one of the best all around defensive catchers in the game. The Indians pitching staff is one of the best in baseball, and every one of those guys will sing Perez’s praise. Again, not a huge threat with the bat at all, but he plays defense at a high level.
*I’ll do some game by game recaps throughout the series and we’ll talk about pitchers at that point in time, but let’s take a look at the game 1 starter*
18-9, 3.14 ERA, 1.136 WHIP
It’ll be the 2014 Cy Young Winner taking the ball in game 1 on Tuesday night. So far this October, Kluber has pitched 18.1 innings, owning a 0.98 ERA, he’s holding hitters to a .197 AVG and has struck out 20 batters along the way. Let’s just call a spade a spade: Kluber’s a stud. The man’s slider legitimately looks like he’s throwing a wiffle ball.
It’s like he’s throwing a Frisbee. During the postseason, he’s gone with the slider 30% of the time, whereas in the regular season he only threw it about 20%. The Blue Jays lineup had a lot of right handed hitters so I’m thinking that’s why he went more slider. Here’s where the Cubs HAVE to get Kluber: First pitch fastball. He throws the fastball about 55% percent of the time on the first pitch. However, the Cubs love working counts especially early in the game. It’ll be a fun chess match to watch but I think the Cubs have to attack his fastball early in the count.
And oh, by the way, I’ve got a pretty good source that told me Corey didn’t sleep well last night. I wonder why?
So there you have it folks. A little introduction in to this Cleveland Indians team. Plain and simple, it’s a damn good baseball team. There’s a reason why they’re here and they have some pieces in place that could help them win this Series. They get timely hits when they need them and they’ve got some exceptional arms to throw at you. When I go up and down the lineup and look at the match up, I just like us too much. The Cubs have been the best team all season long and they’ve got the better team in this Series.
My prediction: Cubs in 5, at Wrigley. Split the first two and then sweep them at home. Sunday night at Wrigley Field the Cubs win the World Series and all hell breaks loose. Cubs in 5, Cubs in 5, Cubs in 5. This is the team and this is the year. Do whatever you have to do to get yourself ready because Now We Go.
Take it away, left hander.