After two thrilling series which required 7 games to decide the champion of each respective league, the 2020 World Series matchup is finally set and will kick off on Tuesday night.
The two top seeds in the 2020 Postseason will face off, with the AL’s Tampa Bay Rays taking on the NL’s Los Angeles Dodgers. This matchup of 40+ win teams is the first time that the two top seeds have faced off in the Fall Classic since 2013 when the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.
Let’s break down the World Series matchup and pick a winner, shall we?
The Los Angeles Dodgers led the Major Leagues in wRC+ during the regular season (122), hitting the most home runs in the league (118) and posting an enviable .338 on-base percentage. LA’s lineup did all of this despite an off season from 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger, who might have woken up after hitting a game-winning home run in Game 7 of the NLCS.
The Rays have many strengths, and Kevin Cash knows how to get the best of platoon advantages and a roster without any offensive superstars. They were an above-average regular season offense but lack the punch that the Dodgers have. They are clearly the weaker side on offense.
The Rays and Dodgers both excel at pitching, as they finished the regular season 3rd and 1st in the Majors in ERA. The Dodgers have a deep rotation and bullpen anchored by future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw and a whole stable of young, talented arms like Walker Buehler, Brusdar Graterol, and Dustin May.
Tampa might not have the big names that LA does, but they are good enough to go toe-to-toe in this facet of the game. Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton are a heck of a one-two punch at the top of the rotation, and a bullpen led by Nick Anderson, arguably the Majors’ best reliever in 2020, is nothing to sneeze at either.
This is the one facet of the game where Tampa has a clear advantage. The Rays, buoyed by a stable of excellent defensive players and a strategy which emphasizes shifting and positioning to get the best out of those players, had the best defensive record in MLB based on UZR/150 (10.6) and the fifth-best total of defensive runs saved (24).
The Dodgers are a super team, but their Achilles’ heel can be their defense at times. Located near the bottom of MLB’s defensive rankings, Mookie Betts’s excellence in right field isn’t enough to make up for holes that other players like Corey Seager (SS) and Max Muncy (1B) have.
The Rays have made history by qualifying for the World Series with the 3rd-lowest payroll in baseball, and they are a genuinely excellent team. They can pitch and play defense with anyone, but they haven’t come up against a hot Dodgers team which is firing on all cylinders like this one yet.
The Dodgers are a super team, filled with MVP-level talent, playoff experience, and generational talent. Tampa Bay will put up a fight, no doubt, but I just cannot see a situation in which Los Angeles’s talent doesn’t rise to the top and lead them to their first World Series crown since 1988.