This piece, written by Baseball Prospectus’s Bryan Grosnick, forms part of the main site’s comprehensive coverage of the postseason, “Playoff Prospectus”.
Everything ends. Tonight, not only does the 2016 baseball season come to its long-awaited conclusion, but one team will end a championship drought spanning a period of time best served by using the term “century.” For Cleveland, that is “almost a century”–68 years. For Chicago, that is “over a century”–a reign of error that has cemented itself in the annals of baseball history unlike any other.
Either way, tonight is the end of an era. Either Cleveland wins and the city no longer has any tenuous claim to the title of “worst sports city,” no matter how bad the Browns are. Or the Cubs win and baseball no longer has either of its twin long-reviled playoff droughts, with golden boy Theo Epstein shepherding both the Red Sox and the Cubs to the promised land.
Before any of that, before any of the ends, there will be a little baseball. Just like the mighty Zaza Pachulia once said: “Game 7 baby!”
PECOTA Odds of Winning: 51% Cleveland, 49% Cubs
Projected Starting Lineups
|Cubs vs. Kluber (R)||Cleveland vs. Hendricks (R)|
|Dexter Fowler (S), CF||Carlos Santana (S), DH|
|Kyle Schwarber (L), DH||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|
|Addison Russell (R), SS||Lonnie Chisenhall (L), RF|
|Willson Contreras (R), C||Rajai Davis (R), CF|
|Jason Heyward (L), RF||Coco Crisp (S), LF|
|Javier Baez (R), 2B||Roberto Perez (R), C|
Nothing gets held back here. Corey Kluber isn’t fresh–this is his third start in nine days–but that almost doesn’t matter. Look for Cleveland to ride him up until the moment he looks like he’s losing a hint of effectiveness, and then it’s on to theAndrew Miller and Cody Allen show, where they’ll throw as many pitches as they can. Maybe Danny Salazar comes back or Bryan Shaw is needed, but more than likely this is a game for their three best pitchers, and no one else unless there’s an emergency.
On the other side of the ledger, Aroldis Chapman threw a lot of pitches last night, but one has to imagine that he’ll be called on for two innings or more tonight. Jon Lester appears to be some kind of available–he’d be a great change-of-pace lefty weapon against Kipnis or Chisenhall in the middle innings–but Jake Arrieta probably can’t pitch and John Lackey probably won’t. It’s all hands on deck, and judging from these two managers, we’re likely to be looking back and wondering if they pulled a pitcher or hitter too early rather than too late. They’ll run with their absolute best players, and likely not many middle relievers.
Tyler Naquin‘s brutal Game 6 defensively gets him benched against a right-hander for the first time in months, as Francona turns to Davis.
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Lead photo courtesy Tannen Maury—USA Today Sports