The World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians is set to begin in Cleveland. And the entire season boils down to one question: Which team will be the champion? While it’s easy to point to the Cubs’ record, which was nine games better than the Indians during the regular season, it’s fair to say that regular–season records don’t matter as much at this point. Regardless, we analyzed both rosters and found four reasons why the Cubs will beat the Indians in the World Series.
1. Better health
The Indians experienced some injuries this season. They lost outfielder Michael Brantley for all but 11 games and then watched starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar go down late in the season. Heading into the World Series, Salazar is set to return to action for the first time since September 9. Unfortunately, the Indians still lack Brantley and Carrasco, as well as second baseman Jason Kipnis, who hurt his ankle.
On the flip-side, the Cubs’ only major, long-term injury this season involved the loss of outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber. In just the third game of the season, power-hitting Schwarber collided with center fielder Dexter Fowler, tearing his ACL and LCL in his right knee. Surprisingly, it looks like Schwarber — who sat out the entire season — will activate for the World Series. The long and the short of it: While the Indians have some injury problems, the Cubs are mostly healthy.
2. Better pitching
Cleveland’s staff involves some good pitchers, including Game–1 starter Corey Kluber and ace reliever Andrew Miller. But they lack Carrasco and suspect that Salazar will be rusty, which makes for a thin pitching staff. Trevor Bauer has an injury on his pitching hand related to a drone accident; Josh Tomlin isn’t exactly the kind of guy you expect to run out in the postseason, much less the World Series. With all the injuries, this rotation is mediocre at best.
The Cubs, however, have Jon Lester, John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks, and Jake Arrieta as their starting pitchers. They could all be the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in Cleveland’s rotation. You could even make a case for Mike Montgomery — currently residing in the Cubs’ bullpen — as someone who would likely start if he were on the opposing side. In the end, the Cubs’ pitching is a major advantage.
3. Better offense
During the season, the Cubs scored 808 runs while the Indians scored 777. The difference isn’t great, but it is somewhat significant. Having to send the pitcher to the plate, the Cubs played the majority of their games at a mathematical disadvantage in relation to the Indians. However, the addition of the DH for Chicago in the first two games — and potentially the final two, should it go the full seven — levels the playing field. Adding Schwarber and removing Lester and Arrieta? That’s a major win for the Cubs.
In Chicago, the Cubs will return to their usual lineup while the Indians will lose their designated hitter, meaning that either Mike Napoli or Carlos Santana must sit out in in Games 3–5. On top of that, the core of the Cubs’ lineup, which contains potential NL MVP Kris Bryant, as well as Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez, and others, is just flat out better than Cleveland’s. The edge on offense goes to Chicago.
4. More experience
For the Indians, the World Series experience boils down to Napoli and manager Terry Francona. Miller was a part of the 2013 Boston Red Sox, but he was injured and didn’t make an appearance in the postseason. For the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon took one previous team to the World Series. Among the players with World Series experience, Chicago has catcher David Ross, second baseman Ben Zobrist, and pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey.
This category isn’t the most predictive of future success, but you shouldn’t count out experience. If you must give out an edge in this category, it goes to the Cubs. Overall, most of the important categories lean toward the Cubs having the edge. That doesn’t mean that the Indians should be counted out, of course, but there’s a solid chance that the Cubs’ 108-year World Series drought may come to an end soon.