The 2020 MLB season has been unlike any other in the history of the sport, but it will end with the two best teams in the league playing in the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers won 43 games, the most in baseball, before dispatching of the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, and Atlanta Braves in the postseason. The Tampa Bay Rays won 40 games, the second most in baseball during the regular season, before knocking out the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros to reach the World Series.
The Rays and Dodgers are polar opposites in terms of how they’ve gone about team-building. The Dodgers have used one of baseball’s biggest budgets to supplement their homegrown core with high-priced acquisitions such as Mookie Betts. The Rays built their roster through trades, draft picks, and internal development on one of baseball’s smallest budgets. The Dodgers enter the World Series with a prorated payroll of $107.9 million, while the Rays payroll is only $28.2 million.
With the 2020 World Series set to get underway, we asked representatives from our team communities True Blue LA and DRays Bay to state the case for why their team will win the series end the season as champions.
From Jim Turvey of DRays Bay:
The Rays are fresh off a pair of series in which the big boppers faced were almost entirely right-handed, and they were legitimately terrifying (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Jose Altuve all say hello). As such, their Three Horseman of the Pen (no, not four, TBS), consisting of Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, and Peter Fairbanks have been relied on night-after-night to shut down those big righty bats so far this postseason. Against L.A. the Rays are going to face a different challenge. In Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Max Muncy, the Dodgers have a trio of intimidating and toasty (most notably Seager) lefty bats. The Rays pen is stacked with righties, but a little light on lefties. How the Rays pitching staff fares against those opposite handed bats will decide this series.
As such, don’t be surprised to see Kevin Cash (who will be the real MVP in the hearts of many Rays fans) turn soft-tossing, softer-contact-inducing southpaw Ryan Yarbrough throughout the series to put out so many fires you’d think he was Celeste Ng’s mortal enemy. Dave Roberts has been using the alternating R-L combination throughout most of his lineups this postseason, but should his standard five-man stretch starting with Seager in the two-hole and ending with Bellinger up sixth be due up at a key moment early in the Series, don’t be surprised if Yarbs got the nod, and then again in those situations throughout the series as demanded in those spots. (There’s also the potential for the Rays to start Yarbrough in Game 4, but given his versatility, and the fact that the Rays could roll out a potential bullpen game instead, personally I like this fireman role for Yarbrough instead.)
Ultimately, the Rays and Dodgers are two of the deepest teams in baseball, and that’s a very big part of why they are the two teams left standing at this point in the No Days Off 2020 Postseason. While it would make sense to expect a name like Randy Arozarena or Charlie Morton (who, if the Rays win in 7, will almost certainly get the MVP) to take center stage, it seems highly likely that in this World Series, of all of them, it will be a depth piece, utilized in the most modern and Rays-y fashion, who will be honored when Tampa Bay (hopefully…) lifts the Commissioner’s Trophy in a week.
From Eric Stephen of True Blue LA:
The Dodgers offense is as deep as it has ever been, such that they aren’t reliant on any one hitter. Cody Bellinger was the National League MVP in 2019, but spent much of this season in and out of slumps after tinkering with his swing. He bats sixth, and is hitting again, evident by his pennant-winning home run on Sunday. Max Muncy was one of the best hitters in baseball in his first two years in Los Angeles — no fooling, his 146 wRC+ ranked eighth in the majors in 2018-19 — but this year has struggled, to the tune of .192/.331/.389. Still, he bats fourth every night, the Dodgers are comfortable with his patience even if he’s not hitting (he has 15 walks in 12 postseason games, hitting .211/.434/.447).
Muncy’s approach is not unique in a packed lineup that spends its time grinding opposing pitchers down to the nub. This postseason the Dodgers are averaging seeing 19 pitches per inning on offense. Rays pitchers in their three rounds so far are averaging 16.6 pitches per frame. The Dodgers preach winning each count, and passing the baton if they have to. Those five extra pitches every two innings might not seem like a lot, but it could make the difference over a long series, with the Dodgers ready to pounce at any sign of fatigue.
The depth is there on the pitching side, too. The Dodgers don’t absolutely have to win every Clayton Kershaw start to survive like past teams did. Julio Urias has been fantastic all postseason, and the Dodgers will get contributions in some form from Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, even if both were shaky last week. The two off days built into the series should help a Dodgers bullpen that is effective — though not as good nor as deep as the Rays’ pen — after a looooooong week against Atlanta.
Oh yeah, and Walker Buehler is the best pitcher in the series. He’s not starting until Game 3, but that lines him up for Game 7, if the Dodgers don’t win it before then.
We asked writers from around the SB Nation network to give us their predictions for the World Series winner and MVP.
Who do you think will be crowned as World Series champion? Give us your predictions in the comments below: