In a year where we didn't think we would have a baseball season, the World Series is here—and it's actually happening. A 60-game season, multiple COVID-19 outbreaks, countless seven-inning doubleheaders, but we're actually here, and what a matchup we have. The 16-team playoff format really didn't effect it too much, as we're getting the #1 team from the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers taking on the top team in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays.
We love previews here at Burbs Sports, so I'm going to be breaking down both teams for you guys, giving my x-factors for both teams, and ultimately picking a winner. Fasten your seatbelts—this is going to be a fun one.
2020 World Series Preview
Los Angeles Dodgers
We'll start it off with the National League-winning Los Angeles Dodgers. They started out their World Series campaign with two sweeps—one against the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild card round, and one against the San Diego Padres in the division series. In the championship series, they overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits from the Atlanta Braves, winning a hard-fought game seven 4-3 after Cody Bellinger hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh.
The strength of the Dodgers is their lineup, boasting one of the best in all of baseball. It's hard to find a better 1-2 punch than Mookie Betts and Corey Seager. While Betts struggled for most of the championship series, Seager more than made up for it—hitting over .300 and getting clutch hit after clutch hit on his way to NLCS MVP. It doesn't stop there for LA's finest. Do you want lefty power? They got it with Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, and Joc Pedersen. Do you want righty pop? Guess what? They have that too in Justin Turner, Will Smith, and Chris Taylor.
Another factor that makes this lineup so tough is they don't swing at bad pitches. Most of these hitters have low chase rates, meaning they rarely swing at balls. They make pitchers work extremely hard to get outs. In the Braves series, it felt like Braves pitchers threw at least 20-25 pitches an inning.
Pitching is going to be the key for the Dodgers in the World Series. They'll have future HOF Clayton Kershaw for game one and likely will have Walker Buehler for game three. They're going to need to get contributions from guys like Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May in the games Kershaw and Buehler don't pitch. The back end of their bullpen should be fine—it's the starters and openers that need to come through for Los Angeles.
Dodgers X-Factor: Dustin May
I'll specifically touch on May here as my x-factor. He has brilliant stuff but struggled to get outs against a tough Braves lineup. He gets a Tampa Bay lineup that has the highest strikeout rate in baseball, so he should be able to get back on track in this series. If May can give them three or four appearances and shut down Tampa, that gives the Dodgers a major advantage.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays had a much more difficult path to get here. Like the Dodgers, they started off their playoff run with a sweep—but that was followed up by two series that went the distance. They beat their division rivals—the New York Yankees—in five games in the division series and beat reigning AL champion Houston in seven games after almost blowing a 3-0 lead. The Rays almost became the second team in Major League history to blow a 3-0 lead, but ultimately won game seven 4-2 and are in the World Series for the second time in franchise history.
While the Dodgers do it with hitting, the Rays do it with their pitching. Top to bottom, Tampa Bay arguably has the best pitching staff in baseball. They've got three guys who would be aces on other teams in Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, and Charlie Morton. Those guys are great, but their bullpen is even better. Mostly everyone in their pen throws 95+ with a wicked breaking pitch. They have four or five different guys who can be the closer on any given night. Diego Castillo and Nick Anderson had rough outings against the Astros, but their stuff is too good and should be able to bounce back nicely.
The lineup is a little shakier. Well, except for Randy Arozerena. Arozerena went OFF in the championship series against the Astros. He hit over .320 and smacked four home runs—essentially carrying the Rays offense. Tampa needs somebody to step up and be the robin to Arozerena's batman. They typically get scattered production from catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Manuel Margot, but they need more—especially going up against the Dodgers and all their firepower.
Tampa Bay X-Factor: Brandon Lowe
This was easy. The Rays need Brandon Lowe to perform if they want to win the World Series. He was their best hitter in the regular season but has been horrific in the playoffs. Lowe has six hits in 52 at-bats. Yeah, that's not great. He needs to get back to regular season Brandon Lowe—the guy who hit 14 tanks and had an OPS above .900. They don't need stinky Brandon Lowe. If he's able to replicate his regular season, the Rays have a legitimate shot to win.
As much as I don't like the Los Angeles Dodgers, I think they're clearly the better team than the Tampa Bay Rays. It kind of reminds me of the NBA finals. The Lakers were the better team, but Miami was good enough to steal a few games. I think the World Series goes the same way. The Rays pitching staff will be able to hold the Dodgers to 1-2 runs in a few games, but ultimately, I think the Dodgers will be too much for Tampa.
Dodgers in 6