The Cleveland Indians cruised through the American League playoffs with a sparkling 7-1 record and will now await their National League opponent in the 2016 World Series.

Whether the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers prevail in their clash, the eventual Fall Classic winner will break a lengthy drought. The Cubs famously have not won a title since 1908, while Indians fans have been waiting since 1948. Los Angeles hasn’t lifted the trophy since 1988.

The National League Championship Series is tied at two games apiece, and the potential for a memorable World Series between two title-hungry franchises looms. With that in mind, here is a look at the event’s schedule, as well as a breakdown of the potential pitching matchups.

Schedule information is courtesy of


World Series Schedule

Pitching Analysis

Cleveland Indians

The Indians clinched their spot in the World Series on Wednesday, which gives them the luxury of setting their pitching staff exactly as they like while the two National League teams battle in a six- or seven-game series.

Factoring in a combination of how Cleveland started its pitchers in the postseason and overall performance, here is a projected starting rotation for the World Series:

Corey Kluber is the clear-cut ace and the Indians’ best chance of matching someone like Clayton Kershaw or Jon Lester. He finished the year with a 3.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 227 strikeouts in 215 innings. He could also be used in a potential Game 7 out of the bullpen, much like Kershaw was in the decisive Game 5 of Los Angeles’ division series win against the Washington Nationals.

The Indians will likely use Trevor Bauer in Game 2 even though he threw just 21 pitches in his American League Championship Series start because of a pinkie laceration, per’s Richard Justice. Blood was dripping onto his jersey, but he will have the chance to recover with the break in-between series. 

Manager Terry Francona trusted Bauer in Cleveland’s first postseason game this year, and that trust will still be there in the World Series.

The Indians will probably use Josh Tomlin in Game 3, especially since he has been more effective in the postseason than during the year. He has allowed just three earned runs with a 0.94 WHIP in 10.2 playoff innings after posting a 4.40 ERA this season.

Rookie Ryan Merritt proved his mettle in Game 5 of the ALCS with 4.1 shutout innings. He wasn’t intimidated by the Rogers Centre crowd in Toronto and supported the impressive numbers (1.64 ERA and 0.55 WHIP) he posted in 11 innings of work during the season.

Steve Gardner of USA Today noted injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar (on top of the setback to Bauer) have taxed the Indians bullpen. However, the group that has tallied a 1.67 ERA in 32.1 innings of playoff work will have the chance to recuperate during the break.

Andrew Miller won the ALCS MVP with 7.2 shutout innings, but Kluber pointed out there are a number of capable options behind the starting staff, per Gardner: “We have a lot of guys down there that can mix and match. We’ve got guys that have unbelievable stuff and we have a lot of faith in them to come in and finish games for us.”

The bullpen will need to continue doing so if the Indians are going to win the World Series.


Chicago Cubs

The assumption here is the NLCS goes a full seven games with the Cubs pitching Lester in Game 5 and the Dodgers answering with Kershaw in Game 6. Therefore, the NL representative will take the field for Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series with just one day of rest since the Game 7 showdown on Sunday.

That would mean veteran John Lackey would open up the Fall Classic for Chicago if manager Joe Maddon stuck with his postseason rotation. Here is a look at how things would set up:

From a statistical standpoint, the Cubs have the best remaining pitching staff in the playoffs. They finished first in all of baseball with a 3.15 ERA, have two legitimate Cy Young candidates in Lester and Kyle Hendricks, count last year’s National League Cy Young winner as a No. 3 starter (Jake Arrieta) and have a bullpen that features fireballers Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman.

Lackey may not stand out among that group, but the playoff-tested veteran has 25 postseason appearances and 22 postseason starts on his resume. In addition to his solid 3.26 ERA in those games, he won a title in 2002 with the Anaheim Angels and 2013 with the Boston Red Sox. He started Game 7 of the World Series in 2002 as a rookie and allowed just one earned run in five innings.

With Lackey supporting the numbers of Lester (2.44 ERA and 1.02 WHIP), Hendricks (2.13 ERA and 0.98 WHIP) and Arrieta (3.10 ERA and 1.08 WHIP), the Cubs won’t be overmatched when comparing their pitching to Cleveland’s if they reach the World Series.


Los Angeles Dodgers

Kershaw will pitch Saturday’s NLCS game, so he won’t be set to start the World Series for the Dodgers. However, he has proved throughout the postseason that he is willing to take the ball on short rest. He will start Game 2, which will set up Los Angeles’ rotation exactly how it was for the series against the Cubs:

The three-time Cy Young winner and 2014 National League MVP is the best remaining weapon in the postseason. Kershaw started Game 4 against Washington and came in for a pressure-packed save in the very next contest. He also prevailed against Hendricks in the NLCS with seven shutout innings in a 1-0 Dodgers win.

Don’t overlook Rich Hill, though, after he finished the season with a 2.12 ERA and 1.00 WHIP and threw six shutout innings against the Cubs. New York Times bestselling author Molly Knight said Chicago’s shutout losses in Games 2 and 3 of the NLCS were largely because of the southpaw combination:

Kenta Maeda (seven earned runs in seven postseason innings) and 20-year-old Julio Urias (four earned runs in 5.2 postseason innings) are still major question marks, but Los Angeles would win the World Series if it prevailed in just games started by Kershaw and Hill.

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