Very few World Series matchups in recent history offer more intrigue than Cleveland facing the Chicago Cubs in a series that will ultimately be remembered for one of these organizations ending a long championship drought.

But this would be a fantastic matchup without all of the historical context, and one you simply don’t want to miss. So let’s take a look at the championship schedule before breaking down both of these teams.



It was easy to overlook this Cleveland team coming into the postseason. They were dealing with a number of injuries, and they were facing the big bats of the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Surely, they would be steamrolled by David Ortiz, Mookie Betts and the star-laden lineup that Boston possessed.

Not so fast, folks.

Cleveland’s pitching, instead, dominated both Boston’s boppers and the big bats of the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. Cleveland’s staff through eight games has an ERA of 1.77, a WHIP of 1.01 and 81 strikeouts in 71 innings.

Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin have been fantastic as starters, giving up just five runs between them in five starts and 29 innings pitched. Reliever Andrew Miller has been basically unhittable as the team’s stopper out of the bullpen and has yet to give up a run. Closer Cody Allen hasn’t given up a run, either, and has five saves. 

The team’s bullpen, in general, has been superb. In the ALCS, Cleveland’s relievers gave up just four runs in 22 innings. In Game 3, the bullpen was required to throw 8.1 innings after Trevor Bauer had to be taken out of the game with a finger injury.

The result? Six relievers gave up just two runs and Cleveland won, 4-2.

In part, Cleveland’s bullpen has been so successful because manager Terry Francona doesn’t have strict roles assigned for his various components, instead using pitchers when he feels he needs them. It’s why a pitcher like Miller—who easily could fill the closer role—has found himself in the setup role, but he has also appeared in games in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

“Everybody (puts) the ego aside on this team,” reliever Bryan Shaw told Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch. “If guys were down there (saying) ‘I’m pitching my inning or I’m doing this,’ I don’t think we could have gotten to where we’re at right now.”

Cleveland’s bullpen has had to be superb—after Kluber and Tomlin, the team doesn’t have great starting pitching. But the team’s offense shouldn’t be an afterthought, either.

Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli provide the pop. Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez do a little bit of everything. Rajai Davis has been a revelation. Cleveland doesn’t have the bats that the Cubs possess, but they didn’t have the bats that the Red Sox and Blue Jays possessed, either.

But here they are. And once again, they’ll rely on their bullpen, their defense and timely hitting against a Cubs team that, on paper, is clearly more talented. 


Chicago Cubs

The Cubs were the best MLB team during the regular season, and it was never really in doubt. Few teams have the star power, depth and balance that the Cubs possess. 

Offensively, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each hit over 30 home runs and 100 RBI, while Addison Russell added 21 dingers and 95 ribbies. Then there’s Javier Baez, who has hit .342 this postseason with one home run, four doubles, seven RBI and seven runs scored. 

And hey, for good measure, the Cubs also throw Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler and Willson Contreras at opposing pitchers, while Jason Heyward provides excellent defense in right field for the team. Good luck finding many weaknesses with this unit.

Oh, but it doesn’t end there. Players like Albert Almora Jr. and Jorge Soler are available off the bench, and Kyle Schwarber might return from a season-long injury to improve the team’s depth as well, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. And the ever-brilliant Joe Maddon is pulling the strings, and he always seems to know exactly what strings to pull with this lineup.

Of course, the team’s pitching is pretty stacked, too. 

The Cubs have a much more reliable postseason rotation than Cleveland, leaning on Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Lester has given up two runs in 21 postseason innings. Hendricks has given up just three runs over 16.1 innings. Arrieta and Lackey have been shakier this postseason but both had solid regular seasons and have October experience.

In the bullpen, Aroldis Chapman has also been a bit shakier, giving up three runs in eight innings pitched, though he does have three saves. Travis Wood and Carl Edwards, however, have given up one run in a combined 8.1 innings pitched, so Chicago’s bullpen has solid options as well.

Like Cleveland, the Cubs also play very good defense. And unlike Cleveland, which is without starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco and outfielder Michael Brantley, the Cubs are mostly healthy.

The argument for the Cubs is pretty simple: They’ve been the best team in baseball all year, they’re the better team on paper and their offense woke up against the San Francisco Giants. They were constructed to win a title, and they certainly feel they are capable of living up to those expectations.

“We’ve been believing it all year,” Cubs shortstop Addison Russell told Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal. “And the moment’s here.”

Indeed it is. Cleveland’s performance thus far has been magical, but the Cubs appear to simply be the better team.



The Cubs will end their World Series drought, winning this matchup in six games.


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