World Series 2016: why each team could win

After six months of regular and postseason play, the 2016 World Series will see two teams competing, neither of which have experienced a championship in a very long time. The Chicago Cubs will try to break their 108-year curse, and the Cleveland Indians will try to break a curse of their own by becoming the latest city to win two sports championships in the same year (alongside LeBron James’ Cavaliers).

No matter which side becomes the new champion, their city wil have an incredible story. With baseball fans around the country picking sides and bets flying over the internet, this World Series is anticipated to be nothing short of thrilling. Thought its events are impossible to foresee, here are the top five reasons to believe that each team will win the World Series.

Chicago Cubs (NL):

#5: Defense

One of the best defensive units in the Major Leagues, the Cubs defense has done it all – saved games, made games, turned the tables around for the opponents, and most recently set the tone in NLCS games against the Dodgers. They have several gold glove candidates and multiple players in Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist who can play multiple positions around the field. Manager Joe Maddon will definitely not have brick gloves as one of his concerns over the World Series.

#4: It’s their year

With the best regular season team across the majors with a record of 103-58, this Cubs team has carried a level of consistent play in all angles of the game. Their endurance, tenacity, and depth in young talent has strengthened the team into one that was unflustered by changes such as the injury of Kyle Schwarber and the decline of veteran Jason Heyward. They’ve seen enough adversity even in the playoffs so far that it’s hard imagining a situation that they would not be able to commandeer.

#3: Pitching to Pressure

To say that the Cubs have a lot of experience in their clubhouse is a massive understatement. Despite the struggles of Jason Heyward, his presence among the young players has been advertised as a key part of the endurance of the team. Anthony Rizzo has also stepped up as a leading force in the Cubs offense. However, most of the attention must come to the starting rotation of the Cubs, with the reigning NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta being perhaps the coldest arm in their rotation right now.

In two NLCS starts against the Dodgers, Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks shone, allowing just one run. However, the ace of the staff recently has not been Arrieta or Hendricks. Rather, it’s been NLCS co-MVP Cy Young candidate Jon Lester. A two-time world champion with the Boston Red Sox, Lester has come up clutch in the past for the Red Sox and this year with the Cubs. Nothing has flustered him. The Dodgers’ mind games and the Giants’ Cueto were not enough to beat Lester as he still holds a career 2.50 postseason ERA and 0.43 World Series ERA before this World Series. To guess that Lester would choke in the playoffs suggests a lottery ticket.

John Lackey is a force to contend with as well. With his win in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series with the Red Sox, Lackey became the first starting pitcher in major league history to be the winner of two World Series-clinching games with two different teams. Could he make it three with the Cubs? The Indians definitely aren’t going to have it easy.

#2: Kyle Schwarber

The 23-year old left-handed batting stud Schwarber was severely injured at the beginning of the regular season and he missed almost the entirety of the year with multiple torn ligaments. After recovering smoothly and playing some Arizona Fall League ball, the Cubs see him as a major threat in the middle of the lineup, filling the designated hitter role at Progressive Field with AL rules.

The possibility of Schwarber being completely unprepared for a return to the MLB exists. However, when the Indians have to visit Wrigley Field without the DH, they will most likely either have to force Mike Napoli’s hand at left field or play without the benefit of both Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli in the starting lineup, making the Cubs’ road situation seem much less tricky. Schwarber definitely cannot hurt the Cubs’ chances and if he clicks, he could be the biggest RBI force during the World Series.

#1: Theo Epstein

A name at the tip of the tongue of every Boston Red Sox fan, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein knows a thing or two about breaking “curses” – he ended the 86-year Boston Red Sox drought by building a dynamic team from the farm and up. He’s done the same with the Chicago Cubs. Not only has he pulled young talent out of seemingly nowhere, he’s reunited with familiar faces from the Red Sox such as Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester to add the veteran experience that gives the Cubs the depth they have. It’s hard to doubt a team built by Epstein – he could simply be a genius.

Cleveland Indians (AL):

#5: Less pressure

In almost any World Series matchup that includes the Indians, the lack of a championship since 1948 would have all eyes on Cleveland. However, with the Chicago Cubs in the limelight trying to reap the benefits of their first NL pennant since 1945, the Indians are grabbing less attention than their opponents, allowing their staff to work as underdogs – that’s how they’ve liked it all season.

#4: Home sweet home

Even if the all-star game doesn’t have serious implications, the Indians and Cubs both have significantly better records at home than they do on the road. If it comes down to a Game 7, Progressive Field is probably going to play a significant role in the outcome.

#3: Running game

The biggest base-stealers in baseball have a lot to think about against the Cubs batteries, especially Lester and Ross. Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, Francisco Lindor, and Tyler Naquin are just a few of the many thefts in the lineup. Even Mike Napoli, known to be one of the smartest yet slowest baserunners, has spent his fair share of time around Lester and Lackey. The Indians were the second-best run-scoring offense in the MLB and a good chunk of the credit goes to their aggressive, decisive trips around the basepaths.

#2: Terry Francona

Like Theo Epstein of the Cubs, Terry Francona also comes from a Red Sox team that broke the curse. A clear candidate for the AL Manager of the Year award in 2016, Terry Francona has managed his bullpen like no other in the playoffs. If there’s any man that can out-think him, it’s probably Joe Maddon, but the Cubs have a reigning Manager of the Year with not as much experience as the Indians manager when it comes to winning the championship. Francona’s been there, done that – and don’t forget, if the Indians can win 3 games, Francona’s 8-3 record in playoff closeout games will only be looking to improve further.

#1: A bullpen that kills

Needless to say, the Indians have the most dominant bullpen in baseball – flawless in the postseason so far. Games in which the Indians have the lead past the fourth inning seem to be virtually over.

Known primarily for their starting pitching at the beginning of the season, the Cleveland Indians lost starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco to injuries. While Salazar returns to the rotation for the World Series, a torn-up Trevor Bauer and a streaky Josh Tomlin beg for Terry Francona to depend on his bullpen, which hasn’t led him down yet.

The leader of the pack is the only lefty in the bullpen for the Indians, ALCS MVP Andrew Miller. Traded from the New York Yankees at the deadline and leaving his role as closer, Miller has dissected the dominant offensive charges of the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays with ease. He’ll be faced with many right-handed hitters and switch-hitters but so far, the most devastating slider in baseball has been automatic, handing the closing job to Cody Allen who has been perfect at the big stage.

Who has the advantage? Which city will come away finally victorious? You can decide for yourself and watch the best-of-7 series on Fox Sports on game nights at 8 p.m.