Cubs win, Cubs win, Cubs win

Well, it’s finally happened. After 71 years, the Billy Goat curse is no more. And who do the Cubbies get to play for top prize? None other than the team with the next longest drought as World Series champions.

After the jump, more on this year’s improbable World Series matchup!

With teams that have gone a collective 176 years since claiming their last World Series titles, it’s no surprise that this is the first Fall Classic meeting of the Cubs and Tribe. What’s perhaps more surprising is that first time World Series matchups are nothing new. In fact, this year marks the sixth time in seven seasons with a first time matchup of league champions.

The Cubs are the second team, and second league champion (after the 2003 Yankees), to feature three age 30+ starters with 180 or more strikeouts. The Indians counter with a pair of thirty-something relievers with 70+ IP and 300 ERA+,  the first team with that one-two combination. Overall, Cub pitchers ranked first in the NL in fewest hits, runs and earned runs allowed, while Cleveland hurlers allowed the fewest hits among AL teams and ranked second in fewest runs and earned runs allowed.

On offense, both teams ranked second in their leagues in runs scored. The Cubs led the NL in walks and on-base percentage and ranked second in OPS. Cleveland led in stolen bases and ranked in the top 5 for BA, OBP and SLG. Both teams had three players with 90+ runs scored, but the Cubs had the same number drive in 90 or more compared to just one 90 RBI man for the Indians. Both teams have two 30 home run men and one more with 20 dingers.

Both teams had just one player with 80 walks, but Chicago had three more with 70 or more free passes compared to just one for Cleveland. The Indians have a pair of qualified .300 hitters, while Chicago has two batting .290 or better. Cleveland has four players with 100 strikeouts and twice as many whiffs as walks, compared to just two for Chicago.

Looking at situational hitting, 32% of Cleveland baserunners scored compared to 31% for Chicago. Both teams scored 50% of their baseruners from 3rd base with less than two out, while the Indians had a 55% to 52% edge in advancing baserunners from second base with nobody out. On defense, Cleveland allowed runs by 51% of baserunners at third base with less than two outs, compared to 48% for the Cubs. Those similar results are consistent with similar ratios of 0.75 and 0.77 for ground balls to fly balls, and 1.02 to 1.01 for ground outs to air outs (Cub totals first in both cases).

If Cleveland’s base stealers can get on base, they look to have a good chance to steal, with an 81% success rate on the season, and going against Cub batteries that allowed successful steals on 78% of attempts. In comparison, Chicago was successful on only 66% of steal attempts while Cleveland batteries threw out 39% of would-be base stealers. Despite that apparent speed edge, the teams had almost identical totals for extra bases taken on hits (i.e. advancing more than one base on a single, or more than two bases on a double), with only a slight 45% to 43% edge for Cleveland in percentage of opportunities doing so. Also, despite their speed, Cleveland grounded into double plays in 12% of opportunities to do so, compared to just 8% for Chicago, the latter figure likely aided by the Cubs edge in walk rate at 10.8% of PAs compared to just 8.6% for Cleveland.

With a batting lineup laden with switch-hitters, Cleveland enjoyed a platoon advantage in 70% of PAs this season compared to just 57% for Chicago. That may be a problem for Chicago’s right-handed pitchers who had the fifth worst OPS differential facing left-handed batters among all major league teams. In contrast, Cleveland pitchers fared better in OPS against without the platoon advantage, for both their left-handed and right-handed pitchers, the only team to do so this season. Those platoon advantages have helped Cleveland batters post the majors’ best OPS differential when swinging at the first pitch, and 5th best after an 0-1 count, results likely aided by being selective on the first pitch, with the 8th lowest percentage of first pitches swung at.

Cleveland pitchers were challenged when facing better teams, with the 7th worst OPS differential when facing .500 or better opponents. In contrast, Cub pitchers enjoyed the 10th best OPS differential in that split. Cub pitching owned AL opponents with the majors’ best OPS differential in inter-league play, 30 points better than the second place Mets. The Indians were middle of the pack with almost the same OPS result facing opponents in each league. The two teams did not face each other this season, and split four games last year.

Indian pitchers fared better when pitching with the lead, posting the majors’ best OPS differential in that split, compared to a 13th best result for the Cubs. Neither team’s pitchers did well when their team was behind, with Cub pitchers posting the majors’ worst OPS differential in that split and the Indians not far behind with the 4th worst result. When facing batters the third time through the order, Cub starters had the 7th lowest OPS differential compared to 11th lowest for Tribe starters. When facing batters a first time, Cleveland relievers were middle of the pack with the 15th best OPS differential while Cub relievers had the 3rd worst OPS differential in that situation, actually faring slightly worse in that split than overall.

On defense, Cleveland committed twelve fewer errors than the Cubs on the season, though both had the 7th lowest totals in their leagues. On a position basis, the biggest edge for the Indians is at third base with just 14 errors compared to 25 for Chicago, in almost identical numbers of chances. The biggest Cub edge is at first base with just 6 errors compared to 18 for the Indians.

What does it all mean? Beats me, but if I had to pick a couple of keys for each team, it would be:

  • Indians offense: getting on base to take advantage of a fairly clear speed advantage
  • Indians defense: limiting walks to Chicago’s batters. When walking four times or less, the Cubs are only 48-46, compared to 55-12 with more than four free passes.
  • Cub offense: taking the lead early, as the Indian bullpen looks really solid from the 6th inning onwards
  • Cub defense: racking up the K’s. With nine strikeouts or more, Cleveland was only 24-38 for the season. That ninth strikeout is pretty important as the Indians were just 6-16 when fanning exactly 9 times, compared to 15-5 with eight whiffs and 11-6 with seven.
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David P
David P
6 years ago

Nice summary Doug! Would be interesting to see this series with both Carrasco and Salazar healthy and at full strength. Anyway, I think Cleveland needs to win the first two games to have a chance. They don’t want to go into Chicago with the series tied (or down 0-2). Chicago pitchers were much better at home (2.72 ERA vs 3.60 on the road), and Cleveland hitters were much worse on the road (.691 OPS vs .827 at home). Cleveland will also be at a disticnt disadvantage in those games since they’ll have to sit either Carlos Santana or Mike Napoli.… Read more »

David P
David P
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Did I? Well let me add that Trevor Bauer is awful. Can’t pitch at all. 🙂 🙂 🙂

bstar
bstar
6 years ago

Kyle Schwarber is in the lineup tonight as DH. Maddon said on his radio show that there’s one more “lineup surprise” but didn’t specify (I’d love if they got Contreras’s bat in the lineup).

Last ten starts, including postseason:

Lester: 7-1, 1.16 ERA
Kluber: 7-2, 2.54 ERA

bstar
bstar
6 years ago
Reply to  bstar

It’s Chris Coghlan starting in right field for the Cubs instead of Jason Heyward. Small sample size, but Coghlan had an .842 OPS in the second half (only 83 PA).

David P
David P
6 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Starting Coghlan over Heyward is weird, right? I know Heyward has his offensive struggles but it’s not like Coghlan will win a silver slugger award any time soon (68 OPS+ this year, 99 career; .180 OPS in 17 postseason PAs).

More importantly Coghlan is REALLY bad in right field. If you average his defensive runs saved (-1) and total zone runs (-16), then he’s at -8.5 runs in only 319.1 innings in right.

As an Indian’s fan, I’m loving this move.

David P
David P
6 years ago
Reply to  David P

I swear I wrote my comment before Dave Cameron of FanGraphs also called it weird.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/chris-coghlan-is-starting-in-the-world-series-and-thats-weird/

bstar
bstar
6 years ago
Reply to  David P

Coghlan hit well for the Cubs this year in a small sample size after almost playing himself out of baseball with the A’s at the start of the season. And I’ve never thought of him as a terrible defender out there.

But in a general sense, yes, Maddon’s affection for Coghlan has always been a bit of a mystery. He does have the Zobrist-like, Swiss-Army-knife versatility so maybe that’s it.

David P
David P
6 years ago
Reply to  bstar

That has to be a first, right? A guy with only 5 PAs all season starting a WS game, and game 1 no less.

Course we’ve already had Ryan Merritt starting an ALCS game, with only one career start under his belt.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
6 years ago
Reply to  David P

According to a comment on Twitter it is a first, at least for position players only. Prior to the DH era pitcher Virgil Trucks had 3 PA during the regular season but had 2 starts for the Tigers in the 1945 WS. He rejoined the Tigers after being discharged from the armed services in September of that year and the rule was that returning servicemen were eligible for the WS. He had 1 start of 5.1 innings during the regular season but had 13.1 innings pitched in the WS and 5 PA as a batter. Tommy Bridges was in a… Read more »

Doug
Doug
6 years ago
Reply to  David P

I verified it using P-I. Excepting pitchers, no WS game 1 starter has previously had 5 or less regular season PA.

40 year-old Jimmie Wilson became the oldest player to catch a WS game when he made his career farewell by starting at catcher for the Reds in 6 of the 7 WS games in 1940. Wilson batted .353 for the series, after just 41 PA in 16 regular season games. David Ross should become the second oldest WS catcher this year, pushing 39 year-old Rick Dempsey (1988 Dodgers) down to third.

Paul E
Paul E
6 years ago

Doug,
Thanks for all the hard work, research, and insight.
Let’s hope they get reasonable weather – I can still see the original sellout-Bowie Kuhn-sitting in the commissioner’s box with a dark suit, heavy sweater, drinking hot cocoa….and, probably wearing two layers of thermal underwear to keep himself from shivering on national TV. I guess I’m talking ’75 WS Red Sox – Reds? Maybe Yankees -Reds in ’76.
Does anyone recall when these night games started?

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
6 years ago
Reply to  Paul E

The 1976 WS was a cold one.

Doug
Doug
6 years ago
Reply to  Paul E

Here’s a piece on the coldest WS games.

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/looking-back-at-the-coldest-wo/423058

The award goes to game 4 of the 1997 series in … Cleveland. 38 degrees with an 18 degree wind chill. Snow flurries on and off throughout the game.

Paul E
Paul E
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Per the 1969 MacMillan tome, “Isbell scores Jones with the tie-breaking run in the sixth on a single in a game played in bitterly cold weather and snow flurries” on 10/09/1906. This was Game 1 of the Cubs -White Sox Hitless Wonders series. Per one of the commenters in the article, Game 2 was supposedly just as cold. Macmillan makes no reference to the weather for this game

Paul E
Paul E
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Per the 1969 MacMillan tome, “Isbell scores Jones with the tie-breaking run in the sixth on a single in a game played in bitterly cold weather and snow flurries” on 10/09/1906. This was Game 1 of the Cubs -White Sox Hitless Wonders series. Per one of the commenters in the article, Game 2 was supposedly just as cold. Macmillan makes no reference to the weather for this game

Doug
Doug
6 years ago

The first World Series night games were in 1971.

The last World Series day game was in 1984.

no statistician but
no statistician but
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

I remember sitting in a high school English class in 1960, must have been around 2:30 Central Time, and hearing the last inning of the Series via a radio the teacher smuggled in. Being a Yankee fan, the top of the ninth gave me hope.

By the way, the final score was 10-9, time of game: 2hrs, 36 mins.

Steven
Steven
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Game Six of the 1987 Series was played during the day.

birtelcom
Editor
6 years ago

National League DHs have the following batting line in the World Series: .242 BA, .309 OBP, .382 SLG, .690 OPS.

AL DHs in the World Series: .242 BA, .330 OBP, .409 SLG, .739 OPS.

birtelcom
Editor
6 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

And AL pitchers in the World Series, from 1973 on: .085 BA, .115 OBP, .119 SLG, .235 OPS (in 334 PAs). NL pitchers in the World Series, from 1973 on: .128 BA, .172 OBP, .151 SLG, .323 OPS (302 PAs).

oneblankspace
6 years ago

Of the 16 pre-expansion teams, 14 of them have won a World Series in the expansion era. One of the other two will this year.

If the Indians win this year’s Series, and the Indians and Cubs both make it back for next year’s, 2017 will feature the 3rd longest combined drought in World Series history.

David P
David P
6 years ago

Here’s an oddity…in the first WS plate appearance, Brandon Guyer drove in a run via HBP.

Has anyone else done that? PI shows 4 players with a HBP and an RBI in their first WS game but someone with a subscription will have to do the rest.

And as I’m typing this Roberto Perez becomes just the second player with 2 home runs in his first WS game. Again, no idea who the other is.

David P
David P
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Okay, how about this? Perez’ 0.076 WPA is the lowest ever for a postseason game with 2+ home runs and 4+ RBIs, Next lowest is Gary Matthews with 0.104 WPA in the 1984 NLCS, a 13-0 blowout of the Cubs over the Padres.

Mike L
Mike L
6 years ago

I’m an attorney when not obsessing over politics and baseball. Client emailed me yesterday–I emailed back that I was in CLE and would get back to her later. She said “you are at the World Series?” No, Continuing Legal Education. You have to admit, it’s a type of mistake that might happen once in a career.

birtelcom
Editor
6 years ago
Reply to  Mike L

Yes, we lawyers will recognize the need for keeping up with our CLE credits. Kluber, Lindor, Miller, et al. are generating enough CLE credits that they can skip passing the bar exam in Ohio. Cleveland has allowed only 15 runs to score against them in their nine pots-season games so far. The Indians have had only a few regular season sequences in the last 35 years in which they have allowed as few as 15 runs in nine games.

birtelcom
Editor
6 years ago

The top age 28-30 seasons by an Indians pitcher, in terms of b-ref pitching WAR:
Stan Coveleski 24.7 WAR
Corey Kluber 18.1 WAR

Coveleski post-season in his age 30 year:
3 starts, 3-0, 0.67 ERA
Kluber post-season (so far) in his age 30 year:
4 starts, 3-1, 0.74 ERA

Franchises with 2 or more pitchers who accumulated 18+ WAR in their age 28-30 seasons:
Braves, Maddux/Sain/Spahn
Cubs, Jenkins/Reuschel/Vaughn
Red Sox, Clemens/Martinez
White Sox, Walsh/Wood
Indians, Coveleski/Kluber
Dodgers, Hershiser/Koufax
Athletics, Grove/Plank
Giants, Hubbell/Mathewson

Doug
Doug
6 years ago

At 4 hours, 4 minutes, game 2 is the 4th longest 9 inning game in WS history. None of the three longer games saw fewer than 15 runs scored by the two teams, compared to 6 for the Cubs and Indians. Previously, the longest 9 inning game with 6 or fewer runs scored was game 1 in 2003, at 3 hours 43 minutes. 28 of the 30 longest 9 inning games have been played since 1993. The longest pre-expansion 9 inning game was game 2 in 1956 at 3 hours 26 minutes, currently 46th on the list. In 17 World… Read more »

oneblankspace
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

I can think of some other players who played 2b and OF, but they did not make the Series during both of their playing eras.

oneblankspace
6 years ago
Reply to  oneblankspace

And one of those (Biggio) only had 4 games in the Series.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Danny Murphy: 1905 – five starts at second for the Philadelphia A’s, who lost to the Giants as Christy Mathewson threw three shutouts, IMHO the great post-season pitching performance EVER 1910 – five starts in RF for the Philadelphia A’s, who beat the Cubs 1911 – six starts in RF for the Philadelphia A’s, in what I call the “Home Run Baker” WS A .305 BA with 12 RBI and 10 runs in 16 games is pretty good. Murphy was a good solid player in the DBE; not really a serious HOF candidate (only 35.9 WAR/ 1496G/ 5979PA), but probably… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
6 years ago

I got it by using the PI and Excel spreadsheets. I’ll leave it for others to solve.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
6 years ago

Besides Danny Murphy, Craig Biggio and Bip Roberts, who else made the 2B-to-OF transition?? Looking at a list of the best 2nd baseman (from B-R’s JAWS), most of them seem to be career 2nd baseman.

Doug
Doug
6 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

Alfonso Soriano comes to mind right away. Also Tony Phillips.

Looking at the list, I also see:
– Mark McLemore
– Eric Young (the retired one)
– Juan Samuel (he went from 2nd to the outfield, back to 2nd, back to OF, and finally to 1B/DH)
– Chuck Knoblauch (he was briefly a regular outfielder at the tail end of his career)
– Delino Deshields (ditto)
– Jerry Hairston
– Howie Kendrick (not sure if that change will stick)

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Others:
Tony Phillips
Derrel Thomas
Don Buford
Pete Rose

oneblankspace
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Polly Molly played a little second in his younger days

Kerry W
Kerry W
6 years ago

“With nine strikeouts or more, Cleveland was only 24-38 for the season. That ninth strikeout is pretty important as the Indians were just 6-16 when fanning exactly 9 times, compared to 15-5 with eight whiffs and 11-6 with seven.”

Interesting stat, although the 9 SO stat by itself is a fluctuation due to small sample size. But certainly 9 is some sort of threshold. For the Cubs the difference is not nearly so dramatic (59-25-1 for 8 or less SO, 44-33 for 9 or more).

Kerry W
Kerry W
6 years ago
Reply to  Kerry W

There is a similar situation with walks:

Cleveland was 46-50 with 3 or fewer BB, 48-17 with 4 or more,
Cubs were 48-46-1 with 4 or fewer BB, 55-12 with 5 or more.

A clear threshold for each team.

Doug
Doug
6 years ago

The Cubs get shut out a second time. Only 5 teams have won a World Series in which they were shut out twice (none since the Pirates in 1960), and only two did so when shut out twice in the first three games, including the 1945 Tigers who came back to beat the Cubs in seven. This is the 23rd World Series with a 1-0 game (1949 and 1966 are the only series with two). Teams which lose a 1-0 game are only 8-14 in those series; however, the home/road split is quite interesting: – lose 1-0 at home, series… Read more »

oneblankspace
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

During the regular year (as Vin Scully calls it), the Indians were 3-0 in 1-0 games, and the Cubs were 0-3.

bstar
bstar
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

The Cubs were shut out by the Dodgers twice in the last series, by the same scores of 6-0 and 1-0, were down 2-1, and came back to win Game 4 with John Lackey on the mound.

The difference this time is instead of facing Julio Urias they get Corey Kluber on 3 days rest.

Kahuna Tuna
Kahuna Tuna
6 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Small correction, Doug: The 1956 Series was won by the Yankees, who lost Game 6 1-0 in Brooklyn (in 10 innings) but routed the Dodgers the next day, 9-0.

The other team to lose a road game 1-0 but win the Series was the 1948 Indians—Game 1, facing the Boston Braves’ Johnny Sain.

David P
David P
6 years ago

The Indians, who were second in the AL in runs scored, have now scored 6 or fewer runs in 13 straight games (11 postseason + last two of regular season). Their longest such streak during the regular season was only 8 games.

Kahuna Tuna
Kahuna Tuna
6 years ago

WS teams whose rightfielders have the lowest sOPS+ among all position players have a 6-11 record in Series play (data available since 1930). Lowest sOPS+ among Cubs regulars is 77 for the rightfielders (Heyward in particular). Just one data point that might prove significant.

oneblankspace
6 years ago

Looking at all-time wins in World Series games in Chicago…

West Side South Side Comiskey Wrigley US Cellular Total
SOX 3 1 4 2 10
CUB 4 2 1 2 9
DET 1 5 6
PHA 2 2 4
NYY 4 4
CIN 3 3
CLE 2 2
BOS 2 2
LAD 2 2
NYG 0 0
HOU 0 0
oneblankspace
6 years ago
Reply to  oneblankspace

Thanks for the formating assistance.

oneblankspace
6 years ago

That didn’t look like I wanted it. Anyway:

Sox 10 (3 at West Side Grounds, 1 at South Side Park, 4 at Comiskey Park, 2 at US Cellular)
Cubs 9 (4 at West Side Grounds, 2 at South Side Park, 1 at Comiskey, 2 at Wrigley)
Tigers 6 (1 at West Side, 5 at Wrigley)
Philadelphia A’s 4 (2 at West Side, 2 at Wrigley)
Yankees 4 (all at Wrigley)
Reds 3 (Comiskey)
Red Sox 2 (Comiskey)
Dodgers 2 (Comiskey)
Indians 2 (Wrigley)
NY Giants 0-2 at Comiskey
Astros 0-2 at US Cellular

no statistician but
no statistician but
6 years ago

I think I’m right in saying that only twice have teams come from a 3-1 Series deficit to win by taking the last two games away from home: Tigers in 1968 and Yankees in 1958. On the other hand, only the Royals in 1985 and the Pirates in 1925 did the trick at home. In other words, the Cubs have the Indians right where they don’t want them. Or will the Indians fold again?

Kahuna Tuna
Kahuna Tuna
6 years ago

One other team came back from a 3-1 Series deficit by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road: the 1979 Pirates.

Doug
Doug
6 years ago

The 1979 Pirates also did it.

And, the Boston Americans came back from 3-1 down in the 1903 WS to win four in a row, the middle two (games 6 and 7) on the road.

FWIW, the 1919 Black Sox, down 4-1 in the series, won games 6 and 7 on the road, before falling to the Reds at home in game 8.

oneblankspace
6 years ago

I looked at all teams with a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven postseason series, ignoring home field. Of those teams, 40 won in 5 (most Recently Cleveland’s ALCS this year), 23 won in 6 (most recently 2015 Royals ALCS), 5 won in 7 (1912 BoSox, 1967 Cardinals, 1972 A’s, 1992 Braves NLCS, 2008 Rays ALCS), and 12 lost in 7 (1925 Senators, 1958 Braves, 1979 Orioles, 1985 Blue Jays ALCS, 1985 Cardinals, 1986 Angels ALCS, 1996 Cardinals NLCS, 2003 Cubs NLCS, 2004 Yankees ALCS [led 3-0], 2007 Indians ALCS, 2012 Cardinals NLCS, too many Cardinals in this last category) With… Read more »

Doug
Doug
6 years ago
Reply to  oneblankspace

So, the team leading 3-1 in the series, is:
– 40-41 in game 5
– 23-17 in game 6
– 5-12 in game 7

Even though that 3-1 leader has won 68 of 80 series, if they don’t win game 5 (which is a 50-50 tossup), it’s also only a 50-50 tossup they’ll win in 6 or 7 games, with a 28-29 record in those games. In reality, though, it’s still a 70% chance (1 – (17/40)*(12/17)) that that the series leader will prevail even after losing game 5.

Doug
Doug
6 years ago

Rajai Davis is the 6th and oldest player to steal 3 bases in a WS game. He joins the youngest (Melvin Upton for the 2008 Rays) as the only players to do so in a losing cause.

Kahuna Tuna
Kahuna Tuna
6 years ago

Lowest Game Scores compiled by starting pitchers on teams that lost World Series Game 6: • 10, in an 8-3 loss that ended the Series: Mordecai Brown, 1906 Cubs—1.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R/ER, 1 BB, 0 K. • 15, in an 11-4 loss (actually Game 7 after a Game 2 tie): Smoky Joe Wood, 1912 Red Sox—1 IP, 7 H, 6 R/ER, 0 BB, 0 K. The Red Sox won Game 7. • 16, in an 11-5 loss: John Tudor, 1987 Cardinals—4+ IP, 11 H, 6 R/ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The Cardinals lost Game 7. • 17, in… Read more »