Two teams with lengthy championship droughts are set to meet in the 2016 World Series, which will begin on Tuesday night.
The Cleveland Indians will possess home-field advantage thanks to an American League victory in the All-Star Game, and reached this point by bumping the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. The Chicago Cubs, baseball's best team during the regular season, got here by defeating the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. It's the Indians' first time here since 1997, and the Cubs' first time here since 1945.
Here is the schedule and broadcast information for this year's best-of-seven ALCS. All start times are ET.
|Game 1|| Tue, Oct. 25 || 8 p.m. || Progressive Field ||Jon Lester vs. Corey Kluber||Fox||MLB.tv|
| Game 2 || Wed., Oct. 26 ||7 p.m.|| Progressive Field ||Jake Arrieta vs. Trevor Bauer||Fox|
| Game 3 || Fri., Oct. 28 ||8 p.m.||Wrigley Field||Josh Tomlin vs. Kyle Hendricks||Fox|
| Game 4 || Sat., Oct. 29 ||8 p.m.||Wrigley Field||Corey Kluber vs. John Lackey||Fox|
| Game 5* || Sun., Oct. 30 ||8 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TBA||Fox|
| Game 6* || Tue., Nov. 1 ||8 p.m.|| Progressive Field ||TBA||Fox|
| Game 7* || Wed., Nov. 2 ||8 p.m.|| Progressive Field ||TBA||Fox|
* if necessary
Here are some things to know about the series.
A streak of futility ends here
It just so happens the Cubs and Indians possess baseball's longest active stretches between titles. It's a fact, then, that someone's drought is about to end with a championship reign.
The Cubs are appearing in their first World Series since 1945, and are attempting win their first Fall Classic since 1908 (which was part of a repeat performance). Everyone has their favorite factoid illustrating how long it's been since the Cubs last won a World Series. Here's ours -- and yes, it involves slices bread:
Cubs winning the WS would be the best thing since sliced bread (so the saying goes) which was invented in 1928, 20 yrs after their last WS.— Jeff Long (@JeffLongBP) October 23, 2016
On the other side, the Indians have appeared in two World Series within the last quarter-century -- losing in 1995 to the Atlanta Braves, then in 1997 to the Miami Marlins -- yet haven't won a title since 1948. For perspective on how much the game has changed since, consider that Bob Feller and Satchel Paige tied for that club's highest strikeout rate ... at 5.3 per nine -- the low man in the present-day Indians rotation is Josh Tomlin, and he fanned more than six per nine.
Times have changed -- a lot, even -- since either team ruled the league.
As everyone knows, the Indians will possess home-field advantage throughout the series due to the American League's victory in the All-Star Game. (Hey, we didn't make the rules.) Consider that a big deal, since the Indians played better at home than on the road.
Check the regular-season statistics:
Indians at home: 53-28 (.654 winning percentage; 105 run differential)
Cubs on the road: 46-34 (.575; 110)
Cubs at home: 57-24 (.704; 142)
Indians on the road: 41-39 (.513; -4)
At home, the Indians played at 106-win pace and with a positive run differential; on the road, they played like an 83-win team with a negative run differential. Ascribe the difference to the usual suspects (luck, noise, midges that double as patron saints of good luck ...) but it won't come into play during this series, at least not as much as it would otherwise.
Tons o' leather
We've covered before how the Cubs have the best defense in the majors -- and perhaps the best defense of all-time. Don't sleep on the Indians' gloves, however.
During the regular season, Cleveland ranked sixth in raw defensive efficiency and 10th when that figured was park-adjusted. The Indians were particularly skilled at turning groundballs into outs, as they ranked second in the majors in that category ... behind the Cubs. That's probably not too surprising, given shortstop Francisco Lindor is one of the best individual defenders in baseball, and Jose Ramirez and Mike Napoli are well-regarded at the corners.
The Cubs, by the way? Also paced the league in turning line drives and flyballs into outs. Bunch of curve-breakers. Javier Baez is the player to watch here.
A grand battle of wits
Because a lot of postseason analysis is dedicated to the managers and their in-game decisions, it's a good thing that the Fall Classic will feature two of the best tacticians.
Francona has already won two World Series titles with Boston, and has reasserted himself as one of the best skippers in baseball during this postseason run. The main reason? His creative usage of the bullpen. Francona has been opportunistic in when and how he's deployed Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw -- that he's done so while dealing with a depleted rotation is largely the reason the Indians are playing on instead of sitting at home.
Maddon's reputation is well-staked due to his quirkiness and eagerness to eschew tradition. This postseason, those qualities have led him to trotting out closer Aroldis Chapman for multi-inning saves -- though, obviously, that wrinkle hasn't always worked. Maddon has the more talented roster, which should mean less tinkering. Still, expect to see a trick here or there -- maybe a squeeze or a creative double switch, whatever the game's rhythm demands.
Strength versus weakness with the running game
This one's as simple as they get. The Indians were arguably the league's best basestealing team during the regular season, while both Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta are poor at holding runners.
That means the buck is going to fall on Chicago's catchers -- likely the strong-armed tandem of David Ross and Willson Contreras -- to hold the running game at bay as best as they can. How might they do that? With tons of backpicks and a little luck. Fortunately, for Ross and Contreras, Lester and Arrieta are skilled at keeping runners off base -- and that's the best way to shut down the basepaths.
Schwarber as x-factor?
As we covered on Saturday, Cubs outfielder-slash-backstop Kyle Schwarber has begun playing in the Arizona Fall League with an eye on rejoining the team for the World Series. Whether he clears the benchmarks necessary to earn his way onto the roster is anyone's guess.
If (and it's a big if) Schwarber does, he could give the Cubs another impressive left-handed bat to use at DH and as a pinch-hitter. "Could" is the key word, since there's no telling how much he'll be able to contribute after missing essentially the entire season. Of course, with the way things have been going for the Cubs, you might as well pencil Schwarber in for World Series MVP.
Schwarber is the big one for the Cubs.
As for the Indians, they're monitoring right-handed pitchers Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer's statuses. Salazar has been throwing, hoping to return in some capacity from a strained forearm that has sidelined him since September. He could well start a game, provided he's made significant progress. Bauer, conversely, figures to be fully -- or close enough to fully -- recovered from the nasty laceration that chased him from his last start.
CBS Sports predictions
Here are our guesses for the final series of the year:
|R.J. Anderson||Mike Axisa||Jonah Keri||Dayn Perry||Bill Reiter||Matt Snyder|
Anderson: The Cubs are the more talented bunch. Anything can happen over seven games, but when in doubt, take the better team.
Axisa: The Cubs have been the best team in baseball all season and they're much healthier than the Indians right now. If Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were 100% healthy and in the rotation, I think this would be a really fun series. I still have the Indians pushing the Cubs to six games, but I think the injuries -- don't forget Michael Brantley either! -- finally catch up to them in the World Series.
Keri: Indians win both of Corey Kluber's starts (with big assists from Andrew Miller and Cody Allen), but lose the rest. Too much starting pitching, too much hitting depth, too much defense for Cubs to be denied.
Perry: Kluber is rock-solid in two full-rest starts, the Tribe gets useful innings from Danny Salazar, the offense hangs runs on the Cubs' right-handed starters, Andrew Miller continues to dominate, and Francona out-maneuvers Maddon when it comes to the bullpen.
Reiter: The magic continues, Bryant and Rizzo overpower Cleveland's starting pitching, and Lester-Hendricks dominate
Snyder: They've been the best team from the first day of the season and haven't even lost three straight games since before the All-Star break. No reason to get cute here. The better team, who has proven to be mentally tough on several occasions this postseason, gets the job done.
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