So far in this chaotic and unpredictable 2016 MLB postseason, we know the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs will be heading to the World Series.
This has been a team led by a strong rotation and bullpen. Impressive starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin, for instance, did not even have to pitch that many innings, as they were backed up by the three-headed monster bullpen of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen.
Allen is the main closer, but Andrew Miller perhaps played the most integral role in this championship series relieving staff, as he garnered the ALCS Most Valuable Player award. He took on a fireman spot in the bullpen, filling in for multiple innings in most of the wins, even notching a clutch save in game three with a depleted pen.
Miller’s approach has always been to fill any role that helps his team the most, and he has proven to be an ultimate workhorse.
Meanwhile, the Indians’ offense is centered around the 22-year-old shortstop, Francisco Lindor. While the rest of the lineup struggled in Championship Series, Lindor hit an impressive .368, even going 3 for 4 in game four to propel Cleveland to its first World Series appearance since 1997. All eyes will be on this stud, as he has come up through the Indians’ system as a top prospect and is proving that he can replicate this success at the big-league level.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs seem to have a infallible mix of youth and experience. Jon Lester, a 32-year-old veteran starting pitcher, has stepped up, as he was the catalyst behind wins in the first and fifth games. He has continued his consistent record this season (19–5 with a 2.44 ERA and 197 strikeouts) with a sparkling postseason 0.86 ERA.
Twenty-six–year-old Kyle Hendricks pitched well, despite losing to the sure-handed Clayton Kershaw in game two, and reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta has struggled this postseason to a tune of a 4.91 ERA and only 10 strikeouts in two starts. And, of course, the flame throwing Aroldis Chapman anchors the steady bullpen.
Much of the youth on this team can be found in the lineup, led by second-year NL MVP candidate Kris Bryant, whose .316 average has propelled the Cubs to lead the Dodgers 3–2 in this NLCS. First-baseman Anthony Rizzo has struggled, but his performance sparked the Cubs offense in game five. Short stop Addison Russell, 22, has hit two home runs in the series at key moments and 3B Javier Baez, 23, has been phenomenal, hitting three RBIs in the game five win and hitting an exceptional .371 all postseason.
Despite the success of the LA Dodgers’ youth in Yasiel Puig (25) and Corey Seager (22) this series, players like sophomore outfielder Joc Pederson and veteran 2B Howie Kendrick have plagued the offense.
Los Angeles was depending on another strong performance from ace Clayton Kershaw. But last night, the three-time CY Young Award winner never had it, giving up four earned runs and seven hits in fewer than six innings.
Kershaw’s lackluster playoff narrative seems to continue, as his ERA in postseason elimination games rose to a troublesome 6.07. This Dodgers offense proved to be anemic, as LA struggled with only two hits against league ERA leader Hendricks and Chapman.
The Cubs achieve their first National League pennant in over a century, especially behind strong performers like starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks and 3B Kris Bryant, who should lead the way in the World Series. In the fall classic, the Cubs look to reverse a 108 year curse against Cleveland.
The Indians offense, on the other hand, is too dependent on Francisco Lindor, and its starting pitching has not been as dominant as Chicago’s.
What will keep the Indians fighting is the ace-like performance from bullpen pitchers like Miller and Allen. But will that be enough to overcome the powerful and consistent Chicago starting lineup?