2020 World Series Preview
If you were to look at the standings at the end of this shortened season, this should not surprise you. Both the Rays and Dodgers had the two best records in baseball this year. While most people can agree that after the acquisition of Mookie Betts, the Dodgers were a sure thing to make the World Series, I can say we didn't think of the Rays getting this far.
The Rays don't necessarily have a star studded lineup. Pushed into the playoffs with MVP level play by Brandon Lowe and sabermetric-style pitching, the Rays made their way in as the number one seed. After rolling through the Blue Jays in the Wild Card round, the Rays faced the Yankees. It took until the final game of the series (and a timely home run off of Aroldis Chapman by now-folk hero Mike Brosseau), the Rays faced the Death Star which was the Houston Astros. These low scoring affairs between the two came down the game seven. Playoff MVP Randy Arozerena hit a two run bomb in the bottom of the first and the Rays didn't look back. The lowest payroll in baseball now meet their opposite, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers are supposed to be here. They acquired Mookie Betts this offseason from the Red Sox (who for some reason didn't like the idea of paying a top five player the money he deserved), and were off to the races from day one. Thanks to simply outscoring everyone, the Dodgers rolled into the playoffs with the best record in baseball. They rolled through both the Brewers and the Padres to find the Atlanta Braves. Only three of the seven games were relatively close, with the last two margin of victory being by two and one run. Thanks to a two out, two strike home run in the bottom of the seventh by Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers, winner of three of the last four NLCS pennants, find themselves back in contention for the World Series.
It’s safe to say that Tampa Bay has the most complete pitching staff top to bottom. From the three headed SP monster of Glasnow/Morton/Snell to the opposite end of relievers of Castillo/Anderson/Fairbanks, teams are hard pressed to find any runs against the Rays this year. Their stellar defense rarely makes mistakes as well. Spearheaded by Gold Glove CF Kevin Kiermaier, they also feature many more sure-handed fielders such as Mike Zunino, Joey Wendle, and Willy Adames.
Weakness: Offensive production
Remove Randy Arozarena and Ji-Man Choi from this team in the postseason, and the Rays have struggled to score. Their top run producers from the regular season of Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe have gone for a combined 6/48 in the ALCS. In order to keep up with the offensive onslaught that the Dodgers pose, they'll need these players to get somewhere close to their regular season selves. Not that Kiermaier was the pinnacle of offensive production, but his hurt wrist seriously hindered his ability at the plate. After missing three games because of a HBP, Kev went 0/3 with 3K's
Strength: Talent potential of Offense
Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez, Corey Seager, Max Muncy; all are players with the potential to hover around the 1.000 OPS mark. As for the other two bats in the lineup, most likely Chris Taylor and Will Smith, are not guys you can throw meatballs to either. If you were to put the Dodgers offense with the Rays pitching, I'm fairly certain you would have an unbeatable team. On injury to look out for is Cody Bellinger. He strained his shoulder celebrating a homer in Game 7 of the NLCS.
Weakness: SP depth
While Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler are some of the leagues best SP, their rotation falls off hard. As it stands now, Dustin May and Julio Urías platoon between the opener role and bullpen help rather than being the #3 and #4 that the Dodgers may need in this series. If they burn these two guys, they’ll have to turn to the shaky Blake Trienen and Jake McGee to fill the middle innings before they get to the reliable Kenly Jansen. They do have a couple of intriguing wild pitchers of Joe Kelly and Brusdar Graterol but the potential for a passed ball in pivotal moments is high.