Two games into the 2016 World Series and we’re guaranteed one thing — we’ll be getting at least five games in this series!
It has been a fun two games thus far and I’m excited to see what the series will bring moving from Cleveland to Wrigley Field. Maybe, just maybe, for the players’ sakes, we’ll see some warmer weather. Not that the weather will seem to have an effect on Roberto Perez’s newfound Ruthian power.
But even if it stays cold, the series seems like it will stay thrilling. There has been a fair amount to discuss through two contests, so, without further ado, here are some of my thoughts:
Kluber and Miller have the two best pitches in the series
The Indians might not have a title since 1948, but it’s not like they’ve completely awful since that time, twice having come within at least two games of winning it all. That being said, Kluber’s Game 1 start was historic, at least in terms of strikeouts.
His six-inning, nine-strikeout effort will go down as one of the best starts in Indians postseason history. And it’ll go down in glory in large part because of one pitch – the two-seam fastball.
From the get-go, Kluber had this pitch working effectively. Especially to left-handed batters, Kluber was able to work the inside corner effectively because of his fastball. The front-door action on that pitch made it almost impossible for a left-hander to get a good swing on. Probably why Chicago didn’t. He also got 24 called strikes, which is pretty impressive, too.
But the Cubs didn’t have to just face Kluber and his two-seamer. They also had to see the slinging slider from Miller. That’s essentially a death sentence.
What’s even more interesting about Miller’s performance was the fact that he didn’t seem to be at his best. He continually got into trouble, but in typical Miller fashion, he was able to work out of it. The bases-loaded, nobody out situation he used whatever Houdini magic to work around is nothing short of amazing. David Ross looked more grandfatherly chasing that biting, down-and-in slider.
Twelve strikeouts between Kluber and Miller were in large part because of two dominating pitches. The Cubs have been prone to the strikeout against good pitching before (see the 2015 NLCS), and the Indians proved that to be true again in Game 1. Oh, and that doesn’t even account for Cody Allen’s three strikeouts in the ninth.
It must’ve been a nice welcome back for Kyle Schwarber, who was returning from a seven-month hiatus. Actually, speaking of Schwarber…
Schwarber has been nothing short of impressive
Justin and I talked about this in our series preview, and I think we were both pretty skeptical about Schwarber’s return.
Yes, there was always the upside of him hitting a couple of dingers and extra-base hits, but there was always the chance he’d just look terrible at plate or just not look comfortable running the bases. It wasn’t even like he’d have a full spring training or rehab assignment to get back into a flow. He faced some prospects in the Arizona Fall League, but that’s nothing in comparison to whatever he’d see against the Indians.
All of that being said and I couldn’t have been more wrong about Schwarber. Not only has he looked better than Jason Heyward, but he might have just been the jolt Chicago needed. After looking abysmal against Kluber in his first at-bat of the series, Schwarber belted what looked like a home run that turned out to be a ringing double in the fourth inning.
But that might not even have been his best at-bat of the game. He worked a walk later against Miller, which can’t be discussed enough. Miller had walked one left-handed batter all season. One. And he did it against the slider.
Schwarber added three more hits and two RBIs in Game 2’s win. He missed over 200 days worth of games and looks like he has no rust to shake off, or he did it all in that first plate appearance.
A lot of has been made that Schwarber watched a ton of video during the season to try to stay in mental shape in case a time like this arose. You can watch as much film or take as many hacks in the batting cage as you want, but none of that compares to going against live pitching. Schwarber might be an outlier in terms of injury recovery, but that makes it even all the more marvelous.
The yips are very real
Any time a player has what we determine to be the yips, the discussion always seems to come back to Chuck Knoblauch or Mackey Sasser. In situations where both players had time to think about throwing the ball, they just couldn’t do it effectively. Both had their careers cut short, mostly because of this strange phenomenon.
That no one in the minors leagues ever taught Jon Lester a decent pickoff move is one of the biggest mysteries in baseball history.
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) October 26, 2016
Then there’s Jon Lester. Throwing over 200 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA again this year, Lester will be up there for the Cy Young Award. He’s been just as good in the postseason, rightfully sharing the NLCS MVP with his 0.00 ERA in two starts.
Lester doesn’t look like he’ll be done pitching soon, but he still does have a major flaw that’s worth investigating.
He just can’t throw to bases, like at all. We saw it early in the first inning of Game 1, and it might have cost the Cubs the game. After Francisco Lindor reached with a two-out single, he stole second after Lester just wouldn’t pick off. Jose Ramirez hit a little dribbler a few batters later and Lester didn’t even step foot off the mound.
Lindor reached later and basically had a running lead before Lester stepped off. He had Lindor dead to rights. He just didn’t throw.
But a lot of people in baseball have known about Lester’s issues holding runners on. Forty-four stole bases against him in 2015, and 28 more swiped bases this year. To me, though, it’s a mystery why runners won’t take advantage of this more. The Dodgers took incredible leads against Lester in the NLCS but just wouldn’t run. Why?
Fangraphs speculated that maybe baserunners just don’t mentally believe what they’re seeing in regard to Lester just not holding runners on. But we saw it right in front of our faces that he won’t pick off even when he has a runner clear as day. Cleveland best take advantage of that next time they face him. The Indians weren’t afraid to bunt early in the postseason, so maybe bunting for hits when Lester is pitching might not be a bad strategy. Even the smallest advantage is crucial this time of year.
Thank you, Francisco Lindor
I have a few guilty pleasures. One of them happens to be Taco Bell. Specifically, the Doritos Locos Taco.
When I heard the bell was bringing back the free taco/stolen base promotion, I was thrilled. Of course, I was just hoping someone would actually steal the base. Thankfully Mr. Lindor obliged.
Not even a full inning into the World Series and everyone in America was granted access to free Taco Bell on Nov. 2.
Now that’s the hero we deserve.