2016 World Series: A Position-by-Position Breakdown of the Indians and Cubs

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Oct 17, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians first baseman Mike Napoli (right) hits a solo home run in front of Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (left) during the fourth inning in game three of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians first baseman Mike Napoli (right) hits a solo home run in front of Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (left) during the fourth inning in game three of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Second Base

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) – Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) – Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The second baseman in this series offers an interesting contrast. Cleveland trots out solid, consistent Jason Kipnis while Chicago has the more mercurial Javier Baez, but both are impact players.

Kipnis has been one of the rocks of the Indians’ lineup, playing in all but five regular season games, slashing .275/.343/.469 with 41 doubles, a career-high 23 home runs, 82 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, and an OPS+ of 107. The 29-year old has also improved dramatically with the glove.

Like much of the Tribe’s lineup, though, Kipnis has struggled at the plate in the postseason. In eight games, he’s just 5-for-30, sporting a .167/.219/.367 slash line with a pair of homers and four driven in. It’s important to note that three of his five hits in the playoffs came in Cleveland’s first game, putting him in a 2-for-25 slump heading into Tuesday.

Kipnis has gone through these sorts of dry spells before and tends to be a bit streaky. If he can get back on a hot streak in the World Series, he changes the complexion of Cleveland’s offense.

Baez, conversely, has been one of the breakout stars of the 2016 postseason, handling a hot bat, flashing highlight-reel defense, and being one of the most openly emotional players on the field. In the Cubs’ 10 games in October, he’s slashing .342/.366/.526 with four doubles, a home run, and seven RBIs.

During the regular season, the 23-year old from Puerto Rico split time between second, third, and shortstop, but has become Maddon’s everyday second sacker in the playoffs. In his first full big league season, appearing in 142 games, Baez had a .273/.314/.423 slash line with 14 homers, 59 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 96.

He can be strikeout-prone when his swing gets too big, going down 108 times this year, but has dramatically improved his approach and become a major weapon in Chicago’s lineup. Throw in some of the best defense we’ve seen in the postseason, and Baez has arguably been the Cubs’ MVP in their quest for a championship.

Advantage: Push

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