Why the Cubs will win the World Series


The Cubs will win the 2015 World Series and if you don’t believe it, or 107 years of history, believe Stephen Colbert, who said so Thursday night on The Late Show.

In fact, Colbert guaranteed it. Hopefully, he’s more accurate than former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was with his assurances or his pitches.

(Zambrano in 2007: “I believe this year, I can win the Cy Young, and besides that, we will win the World Series. I guarantee that.” Z was fifth, though he did lead the NL in walks with 101; the Cubs won the NL Central but were swept by Arizona in the NLDS. So close.)

I don’t know if Colbert knows OPS from CBS, but he knows his Cubs history, and he kicked a goat — “knuckle-kneed sheep wannabes,” said Colbert — out of the audience in an attempt to end the Curse of the Billy Goat. 

If only it were as easy to get the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter out of the NLDS series which begins tonight. (Colbert: “The division series is important. It’s like the World Series of things that might eventually lead to the World Series.”

The Cubs finished third in the same division as the Cardinals, two spots and three games behind. And the Cardinals had the lowest ERA in MLB this year, and have won at least one playoff series in each of the last four postseasons.

But who needs analytics when you have Colbert’s guarantee?

“There was one sign of the apocalypse last night,” Colbert said. “The Cubs won a playoff game.” 

Still, here’s a few reasons he might be right:

  • Home teams have lost the first four playoff games. Home field is not much of an advantage this postseason, and the Cubs won’t have it. Of course, as anyone who knows Steve Bartman can attest, the Cubs don’t always know how to make home field an edge when they’re playing there.
  • The Yankees pointed to age as a factor in their elimination by Houston in the wild-card game, and said the long season had eroded their skills. That won’t be much of a problem for the Cubs: Kris Bryant is 23, Kyle Schwarber 22, Addison Russell 21, Starlin Castro 25, Javier Baez 22, Jorge Soler 23. The Cubs are so young that the last time the team won a playoff series (2003), its current players probably weren’t old enough to stay up and watch the end of the game.
  • The Cubs have Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Everyone saw what Arrieta did Wednesday, and the Cardinals know what Lester can do: he beat them twice in the 2013 World Series. Lester allowed just nine hits, a walk and a single run in 15.1 innings; his 0.59 2013 Series ERA was even better than his lifetime 2.57 postseason ERA.
  • The Cubs were 57-30 after July 1, the  best record in baseball, including 6-3 vs. the Cardinals (the Cubs were 2-7 vs. the Cards before July 1, accounting for the latter’s 10-8 season-series edge). Some of the games weren’t close: the Cubs outscored the Cards 53-33 in the last nine, scoring at least five runs seven times. All three Cards wins were by one run; only one of the Cubs’ was.

“It’s been 107 years since the Cubs won the World Series,” Colbert said. “Back then, the song was, (singing), ‘Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to I’ve got cholera.’ ”

Elsewhere:

  • Mets vs. Dodgers:  Take the under, because there doesn’t figure to be a lot runs scored in this series, no matter who wins. Of all four series, this one should have the most 95-mph fastballs, at least until Brett Anderson gets out there for the Dodgers. The NL West champions have the edge in postseason experience, but most of it hasn’t been pleasant. They’ve won their division for three straight years, but lost their last two playoff series, and Clayton Kershaw, the Cy Young winner, has looked more like the Curt Young winner. He has a 7.14 ERA in his last four postseason starts.
  • Rangers 5, Blue Jays 3: Speaking of left-handed aces who struggle in the postseason, the Rangers beat David Price Thursday. Again. That makes Price 1-6 for his career in the postseason with a 4.79 ERA and 11 homers allowed in 47 innings, and 0-4 vs. the Rangers with a 5.13 ERA. He doesn’t look like such a sure thing in Game 5, if there is one. Both third basemen were felled by injuries, as if the teams were grandmasters exchanging queens on the chess board. It’s hard to tell which would hurt most. Toronto’s Josh Donaldson is the apparent AL MVP, but Adrian Beltre is the Rangers’ best righty bat in a lineup full of lefties, and a Gold Glove third baseman. And backed up by Hanser Alberto, a 23-year-old middle infielder without power. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Donaldson passed concussion tests, so he should be back; Beltre’s back injury seems more serious. The Rangers have a decision to make — whether to disable Beltre and add Joey Gallo to the roster — and not much time to do it (unless they defer to Saturday’s off day). Game 2 is the first of four Friday shortly after noon. 
  • Astros 5, Royals 2: Yordano Ventura was the worst choice manager Ned Yost could have made to start Game 1, except to paraphrase Churchill, for all the others. The Royals won with their bullpen last October, but the best bullpen in baseball can’t save a team if its starter gives up three in the first two innings, as Ventura did, and never catches up, as the Royals didn’t. Royals’ starters were 22nd in ERA in MLB  this season at 4.34, the lowest of any playoff team. That’s why the Royals traded three prospects for Johnny Cueto, who starts Game 2 today. Forget Cueto’s 4.76 ERA as a Royal. The deal will be remembered for how Cueto does in Game 2. If Cueto doesn’t outperform Ventura, let alone the Astros’ Scott Kazmir, the Royals are in danger of going down 2-0, traveling to Houston, facing Dallas Keuchel and getting run over like the member of their grounds crew was by the tarp in Thursday’s rain delay. As the Royals can well remember from last year, judgment in best-of-five series is swift and often harsh.
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