You could have made a case for any number of teams in Major League Baseball to be serious contenders to win the World Series in October this season. For most of the year, you could have not-so-quietly whispered that you thought this season might finally be the one that saw the end to the most well known (and still active) curse in professional sports history.
That’s right, the Chicago Cubs, who have famously not won baseball’s most prestigious championship since 1908 — even played in one since 1945 — had as strong a case as anybody, even if you were too superstitious to say it. In fact, you didn’t have to say anything if you didn’t want to — among the many great reasons to like the Cubbies, they were at the top of our National League power rankings. and now, here they are, with just the Cleveland Indians standing in their way. Here are seven more reasons why the Cubs will win the World Series this year.
1. Intelligent manager and front office
The Cubs were long known as an extremely regressive organization with rumors once circulating that their scouts had no access to data and did not know how to use Microsoft Excel or an email account. Those stories are as recent as five years ago, but now the Cubs are a leader in their industry concerning data, technology, and finding market inefficiencies. Manager Joe Maddon and team president Theo Epstein are well-respected, intelligent experts, and they’ll team up to bring the Cubs to the promised-land.
2. World Series experience
While the team is youthful, the Cubs have a surprising amount of World Series experience in their dugout. Jon Lester, John Lackey, and David Ross won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox; Lester won it with them twice. Ben Zobrist won the World Series last season with the Kansas City Royals. Maddon took the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series, and Jason Hammel played a role on that team as well. Experience is another notch in the Cubs’ belt concerning a potential World Series win this year.
3. Great starting pitching
The Cubs have great, deep starting pitching. Jake Arrieta has struggled a bit recently, but he still has a 2.42 ERA in 583 innings since the start of the 2014 season and pitched well against the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. Lester has been fantastic in a Cubs uniform as well, with a 2.89 ERA in 407 2/3 innings since joining the Cubs last year. Kyle Hendricks is the unsung hero of the pitching staff, leading all of Major League Baseball in ERA this season at 2.13 and tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings in the clinching Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s a tough top-three for a playoff series, and don’t forget John Lackey and all of his playoff experience, too.
4. The kids can play
Outside of the normal names you recall with the Cubs, they have several additional young players who show abilities to play well at the major league level. Willson Contreras, a catcher who they’ve also played in the outfield a bit, had a .845 OPS and 12 home runs in 76 games played since coming up with the Cubs in June. He also hit a big home run off Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS.
Albert Almora Jr., who made the postseason roster after spending most of the season at Triple-A, is just 22 years old and provided 0.7 WAR in only 47 games. Javier Baez, who played all over the field in a super-utility role, had 3.4 WAR with 14 home runs, including two game-winning homers — and he’s only 23 years old. Did we mention that he was the NLCS co-MVP with Lester? Baez is just one of the kids who is playing a major role.
5. Shutdown relief
The Chicago Cubs had some struggles in middle relief earlier this year, but they’ve seemingly fixed that with a flurry of moves. They’ve added left-handers Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman, and those guys have played a major role in the ‘pen. The Cubs are nearly unbeatable when they enter the eighth inning or later with a lead, which means the Indians will pretty much have to get at their starting pitchers in the World Series or risk having the game end early.
6. Top of the lineup
Few teams can match the greatness that the Chicago Cubs have at the top of their lineup this season. With Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Zobrist, the Cubs have four of the top 40 hitters in baseball, according to WAR. They also combined for 102 home this year, which is excellent. Bryant is likely to be named the National League MVP, after hitting 39 homers with 121 runs scored and 102 RBI, while putting together 7.7 WAR. With other quality hitters hiding in the lineup as well, the Indians will have a rough time dealing with that top-four of the Cubs.
7. World Series odds
The biggest reason to believe that the Cubs are going to win the World Series this season? The odds say they have the best chance. According to Fangraphs, the Cubs are favored at a 64.5% chance over the Indians at 35.5% (they’ve been the frontrunners since July, with a 18.5% chance — still better than all other teams in Major League Baseball at the time). The odds don’t always tell you what’s going to happen, and even 64.5% is no sure thing, but with the best record in baseball, their pitching, their defense, their management, and their hitting, it’s hard to bet against the Cubs. the Chicago Cubs have a 47.7% chance of winning it all (back in July, they were still in front, with a 18.5% chance — still better than all other teams in Major League Baseball at the time). The odds don’t always tell you what’s going to happen, and just under 50% is no sure thing (but neither was a one-in-five shot), but with the next closest team coming in at just 34.7%, it’s hard to bet against the Cubs.
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