World Series Prediction!!
In 2020 we were given one of the craziest and most unusual seasons. The playoffs expanded and moved to neutral sites, yet we ultimately ended up with the best records for the World Series. The World Series gives us two teams with two completely different journeys to this point. The Dodgers entered the season as the betting and experts favorite. They made all the moves necessary to build the best team in baseball with years of spending. The Rays, on the other hand, weren't even expected to win the division. They surprised by putting together a deep roster that was able to power through their injuries and earn them the best record in the American League.
The World Series is poised to be an exciting one with both teams possessing the depth and star power to make this a fall classic. Just two mind-boggling stats before jumping into the preview. Randy Arozarena hit 7 home runs in the regular season, he has hit 7 home runs in this postseason. The Rays batting order is so deep that their regular-season home run leader (Brandon Lowe) can go 22 days without hitting a homer and the team doesn't lose a beat.
3 keys for the Tampa Bay Rays to win the Series
1) They must work the counts
The Rays are going to be aggressive at the plate and you can't blame them. We saw the deep batting order take early hacks and it paid off more than enough times. In the World Series, Tampa Bay must work the counts against the Dodgers pitching. I see these games and this series as a boxing match that Floyd Mayweather would win. The Rays need to work the pitchers of the Dodgers, be fine with taking walks, constantly place runners on the bases, and force Dave Roberts to make more pitching changes than he wants to. I know the Rays may want to swing aggressively but that falls right into the hands of the Dodgers pitching.
2) Keep the games low-scoring, win in pitchers duels
When it rains it pours for the Dodgers. LA's offense scores in waves and many of their victories see them scoring 8 or even more runs. This is understandable for one of the best lineups in baseball. While the Rays lineup can also pile on runs, the team has specialized throughout the season in winning pitchings duels. The Rays will have to dominate on the mound, painting the corners of the strike zone and mixing in offspeed pitches that don't hang in the strike zone. If the Rays keep the Dodgers batting order in check, this series will be theirs. They won't win shootouts but will win pitching duels.
3) Somebody else will have to step up
Randy Arozarena has been the talk of the postseason and rightfully so. The rookie belted 7 home runs in the postseason, 4 in ALCS to earn him the MVP of the series. With that in mind, the Dodgers pitchers won't serve him any pitches that can be knocked out of the park. The Dodgers may even choose to walk Arozarena and dare one of the other Rays batters to beat them. This is where the rest of the lineup comes into play. Kevin Cash has a deep batting order to work with and will have to find the hitters with the hot hands. For now, I would have Mike Zunino bat shortly after Arozarena. He provides a respected bat, had multiple clutch hits for Tampa Bay in the ALCS. If Zunino struggles, Cash will have to find the hot and ready bat elsewhere.
3 keys for the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series
1) Use your pitching wisely
The Clayton Kershaw conversations are endless. The choking narrative will surround him throughout the series. Many will be wondering if he will be able to provide the Dodgers with a viable start in this World Series or falter again in the spotlight. This isn't just a Kershaw issue. Kenley Jensen has been the Dodgers best closer but also struggled in recent postseason appearances, the same can be said about Joe Kelly. Dave Roberts will need to be aware of every situation with his pitchers and not be afraid to keep them in or pull them at any moment. The Dodgers have plenty of bullpen depth and should use it to their advantage in the World Series.
2) Place Betts
Mookie Betts has been the most valuable Dodger this season, winning games for Los Angeles with all five tools. In the NLCS we saw a plethora of highlight plays from Betts in the outfield. While Betts will continue being a force in the field, with highlight-reel catches and run-saving plays. The Dodgers hope he'll provide the spark from the leadoff position. When I think of Betts as this postseason begins, I think of the late great Lou Brock and his ability to get on base and swipe any bag casually. Brock was the spark for the Cardinals from the leadoff position that led the team to 2 World Series Championships. The Dodgers have to hope that Betts is a constant threat from the leadoff position. If he can put the Dodgers on the board early, the series can be entirely in LA's control.
3) Situational hitting
The Dodgers led the MLB in home runs during the regular season. Throughout the postseason we have continued to see the Dodgers win games with the long ball. At the same time, the Rays are going to pitch around the Dodgers lineup and avoid surrendering the big hit throughout the World Series. The Dodgers have to know when to hit for power and when to just knock in a single to drive in a run or two. We saw Will Smith use situational hitting to perfection in Game 7 of the NLCS when he beat the shift for a base hit to tie the game at 2. These games can be awfully low-scoring and many at-bats will require the Dodgers to just get a run on the board and keep a rally going. I know this might be unconventional for 2020 baseball, but the World Series is known for its oddities.
Why I am picking the Rays in 7
Aside from the fact that nothing would make me happier than watching the 3rd lowest payroll beat the 2nd highest payroll in the World Series (side note, they already beat the highest payroll in the New York Yankees)? In terms of an analysis of this series, I see both teams forcing the opponents to adapt and tweak their rosters as more games occur. We should expect this series to go 6 or even 7 games. With the many games comes the stamina of a pitching staff and deep batting orders. The Rays have the starting rotation that will be more deadly as the series elongates. With Glasnow, Morton, and Snell all being capable of starting two games and the bullpen to pitch another. The Rays also have a more flexible roster not only at the plate but in the field which also favors Kevin Cash in a deep series. The Dodgers can win it all but it will become less likely the more games are played.
Regardless of who wins, we will have a city that wins 2 Championships in the year. The Tampa Bay Lightning already won the Stanley Cup and the Los Angeles Lakers already won the NBA Championship. Tampa Bay didn't win a championship since 2004 and only had 2 total from its 3 pro sports teams before this season. Tampa Bay can now become the city of champions, leave it to 2020.