Now I know, there is hardly anybody picking the Cubs to win the World Series this year. Pundits are so enamored with the Los Angeles Dodgers that they can't seem to even notice any other team. And with good reason—Da Bums are playing around .700 baseball, and lead their division by an astounding 17 games!
But to that I say this: don't forget about the teams that have the experience. The Cubs and Indians met in a historic World Series last year, culminating, of course, in a long celebrated and well deserved victory parade that has seemingly lasted the entire year.
Meanwhile, the Indians have started playing good ball. They currently lead the AL Central by a healthy 7 games over the upstart Twins, and are 20 games over .500. In the offseason they added slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who has belted 31 homers with a .372 OBP.
Look, I'm not the only one predicting a return to the Series by the Mistake by the Lake. In fact, none other than ESPN's Buster Olney is predicting that the Tribe will win it all. I'm a Cubs fan, so while I concur with his belief that Cleveland will return, I think the Cubs beat them again.
The Cubs, however, are a challenging team to forecast, mainly because they haven't played very well most of the year and only lead their division by a somewhat precarious 3.5 games over the surprising Milwaukee Brewers.
The path for both teams is daunting. The Cubs have to not only get through the aforementioned Dodgers, who will have home field advantage in any NL series, but also a very good Washington Nationals team, led by former Cubs skipper Dusty Baker, who would just love to beat his former team.
Unless one of the Wild Card teams win, I'm predicting a Cubs-Dodgers NLCS and an Indians-Astros ALCS. The Dodgers and Astros currently have the best records in ther respective leagues, so I'm not exactly going out on a limb with this prediction.
But I have liked the Astros for awhile now, having predicted (incorrectly, of course) a Cubs-Houston World Series last year. Hey, I got the Cubs part right, and that's truly all I care about anyway. Houston is dealing with far more critical stuff right now than baseball, and my heart goes out to them. But if they face the Cubs, I'm sorry, but my heart will belong to Chicago.
Those Nats are really, really good, so my prediction that the Dodgers will beat them in the NLDS does not go without some agony. I could very easily see them winning such a series, with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg pitching the first two games, and a healthy Bryce Harper an absolute must for them to have any chance.
In the end I'm sticking with L.A, though, especially if Clayton Kershaw is healthy and pitching well. They finally have a lineup built around their pitching that should sustain them throughout the postseason (hat tip to Juan Tamayo).
So now we come to the ultimate—a Cubs-Dodgers series. I admit that on paper the Dodgers win this match-up pretty easily. They have more of a balanced lineup, and timely hitting, with better pitching. But the Cubs have that experience factor of having done it just one year ago, and I'm thinking their confidence will shoot through the roof if they win game one. But I truly believe they will need a victory in the first game of that series.
Of course, the Cubs have to get there first, and that's no guarantee. I'm not afraid of the Brewers, or the Cardinals, but the damn Cubs just seem to continue to have that annoying habit of falling back to the pack every time they build some momentum. As they say, momentum is only as good as tomorrow's starting pitcher.
Once the Cubs top the Dodgers, the Indians (or whoever the AL throws at them) will have no chance. Beating such a great team like L.A. will reinforce the Cubs confidence level to a Shawon-O-Meter level unheard of in Cubs lore!
Overall, we all recognize how difficult it is to repeat as champions, especially in baseball. But the Cubs can do it. They will need a healthy and productive Jon Lester and they also need Kyle Hendricks to give them more innings, and sharpen his command.
But with Jake Arrieta gunning for free agent wealth, he will continue to be juiced up and ready to go, and that's three pitchers who can beat anyone on any given day. Plus, add in the Cubs having done it a year ago and that is a recipe for success, my friend.
But they have to get there first. And that may be the hardest part.
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