Playoff Prospectus: PECOTA Odds and World Series Game 3 Preview

This preview, written by Baseball Prospectus’s Editor-in-Chief Aaron Gleeman, forms part of the main site’s comprehensive coverage of the postseason, “Playoff Prospectus”.

For the first time since October 10, 1945–when Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Hal Newhouser blew out the Cubs in the deciding seventh game–Wrigley Field will be home to a World Series game. Three of them, in fact, as a weekend full of baseball in Chicago kicks off tonight. Tickets are still available, assuming you’re willing to sell your first born, ink a deal with the devil, and stand for nine innings next to some other crazed and significantly less financially stable Cubs fans. It’ll be an amazing environment.

Jake Arrieta vs. Trevor Bauer in Game 2 was certainly a pitching mismatch, but nothing highlights this series’ disparity in rotation depth and quality quite like Game 3: Chicago trots out the National League ERA champion to face Cleveland’s soft-tossing 32-year-old with a 4.58 career ERA.

Kyle Hendricks is hardly a flame-thrower, even relative to Josh Tomlin, but the different between them is “control” vs. “command.” Tomlin throws everything over the plate, avoiding walks and forcing hitters to put the ball in play, whereas Hendricks throws strikes and locates most pitches exactly where he wants them. Both pitchers have excellent walk rates, but Hendricks struck out 40 percent more batters and gave up half as many home runs. From a distance they may appear to be made from the same mold, but Hendricks is the premium version and is especially dangerous with the Cubs’ excellent defense behind him.

Of course, if Terry Francona treats Tomlin as merely the appetizer to the bullpen entrée, his goal becomes simply avoiding a blowup in the first 4-5 innings and whether he can navigate through the Cubs’ lineup three times is a non-issue. Tomlin has been more effective than expected in the postseason so far, relying on his curveball more than usual, but in the regular season he served up 36 homers in 174 innings. Grinding out long counts against Tomlin won’t work, which takes away one of the Cubs’ biggest strengths, but he’s so hittable that swinging away is a fine option.

Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin) at Chicago Cubs (Kyle Hendricks), 8:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 64% Cubs, 36% Indians

Projected Starting Lineups

Indians vs. Hendricks (R) Cubs vs. Tomlin (R)
Carlos Santana (S), LF Dexter Fowler (S), CF
Jason Kipnis (L), 2B Kris Bryant (R), 3B
Francisco Lindor (S), SS Anthony Rizzo (L), 1B
Mike Napoli (R), 1B Ben Zobrist (S), LF
Jose Ramirez (S), 3B Javier Baez (R), 2B
Lonnie Chisenhall (L), RF Willson Contreras (R), C
Tyler Naquin (L), CF Addison Russell (R), SS
Roberto Perez (R), C Jason Heyward (L), RF
Josh Tomlin (R), P Kyle Hendricks (R), P


Kyle Schwarber was not medically cleared to play defense, so he’ll begin Game 3 on the bench after starting at designated hitter in the first two games of the series. Schwarber currently has the highest OPS (1.274) in postseason history among hitters with 40 or more plate appearances, so the Cubs would obviously love to have his bat in the lineup for nine innings, but given how shaky he looked in left field before blowing out his knee it’s possible saving him for a high-leverage pinch-hitting appearance makes the most sense anyway.

To read the rest of the piece, please head on over to the main site.

Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports.

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