2020 World Series preview

The 2020 World Series is about to begin. 

The two teams squaring off for the Commissioner’s Trophy will be none other than the Tampa Bay Rays from the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers from the National League. 

With the first pitch of Game 1 scheduled to begin Oct. 20 at 8:09 p.m. EST, both teams will look to cap off their strong seasons on a high note. To get to the World Series, both teams underwent different strategies. For the Dodgers, it was all about maintaining momentum and coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Atlanta Braves. For the Rays, it was about halting momentum from the Houston Astros, who almost came back to win the series despite falling into a 3-0 series hole. 

No matter the circumstance, both teams are now looking ahead to bigger and better feats. What team holds the edge over the other in terms of positions, though? Within this preview I break down each position and determine who holds the edge. I reckon a prediction is in order, too. Well, let’s check it out. 

Starting Pitching: 

Both teams bring the star power in terms of traditional starters. For the Dodgers, it is all about Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, in addition to their flame throwing sinker-baller in Dustin May. The Rays, meanwhile, bring Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow to the fold. At this stage of the postseason, all of the starters listed have excelled even scuffled to varying degrees. It is not taboo to really call this position a wash, given the fact that both teams relied on a strong rotation to get to the postseason anyway. Cliché, perhaps? It is possible, but both teams are just that good when it comes to traditional starting pitching. 

Edge: Even

Bullpen:

I mentioned the term “traditional starter” for a reason. After all, Tampa Bay’s bullpen has been revolutionary in using the “opener” strategy, which revolves around starting a reliever to begin the game. The Dodgers, although more traditional in the usage of their relievers, have even experiment with the strategy. Regardless, Tampa Bay is fearless when it comes to their bullpen usage, and who would blame them – through the likes of Diego Castillo, Ryan Thompson and company, Tampa had the third best relief ERA during the regular season (3.37). The Dodgers, ironically enough, had the second-best relief ERA during the regular season (2.74). Despite the success on paper, Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers has been spotty at times. Although the Dodgers do bring nice relievers to the mound, Tampa Bay’s relief core is better equipped to take on any role or matchup on a game-to-game basis. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

Catcher:

The Dodgers have utilized 25-year-old Will Smith as their primary postseason catcher, whereas Tampa Bay has gone with their 29-year-old veteran in Mike Zunino. While both do not bring a consistent offensive presence with the lumber, they provide invaluable defense, framing and pitch-calling for their respective pitching units. While Smith has been slightly flashier with the bat (he did pick up a five-hit game earlier in the postseason, after all), Zunino’s power is needed for Tampa Bay, as their lineup is not as deep when compared to the lineup of Los Angeles. Make no mistake – offensive production from Smith is nice to have, but it is not as much of a necessity when compared to Zunino. Zunino gets the edge here, even by a technicality. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

1st Base: 

In case it needs to be said, both teams are extremely versatile on defense. As a result, both teams have mixed and matched different players at this position. When delving through the roster flexibility, Ji-Man Choi has been Tampa Bay’s primary first baseman, while Los Angeles has rolled with Max Muncy. Both have shown to be productive this postseason, as Muncy possesses an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .881, while Choi has an OPS of .952. At a glance, it looks like Choi has the edge, as he does hold the advantage in terms of batting average (.290 vs. .211). Muncy, however, brings more postseason experience and a slightly better eye, as he has 15 walks compared to Choi’s seven. It is a close race between the two, and while Muncy brings more postseason experience, Choi has been a slightly steadier presence in the lineup. It is close, but give credit where credit is due. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

2nd Base: 

Enrique Hernandez for Los Angeles started 30 games at second base during the regular season, while Brandon Lowe of Tampa Bay started 44 times there. Combined with five games played in last season’s postseason, Lowe has only played in 19 postseason games. Hernandez, on the other hand, has played in 52. Coupled with Lowe slashing .115/.193/.173, it comes to no one’s surprise that Hernandez takes the cake from an experience standpoint. It also helps Hernandez’s case that he is hitting for power during the playoffs (the 29-year-old is slugging .556 in 2020 postseason play). 

Edge: Los Angeles 

3rd Base: 

Joey Wendle for the Rays, nor the hot-corner tandem of Justin Turner and Edwin Rios for the Dodgers, have been consistent producers this postseason. Wendle is certainly an intriguing piece for Tampa Bay at the bottom of order. No doubt about that. The duo of Turner and Rios, though, provides more veteran experience and youthful upside. Should there be a choice of one team over the other, give me the balance of veteran experience and youthful upside every time. Los Angeles, that means you. 

Edge: Los Angeles

Shortstop:

Willy Adames for Tampa Bay does bring a nice eye to the plate, as the 25-year-old has 13 walks during the 2020 postseason. While a nice sight to see, his .132 batting average and 17 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances leaves a lot to be desired. Corey Seager for Los Angeles, meanwhile, is slashing .298/.358/.766 this postseason and has mashed six home runs to boot. To top it all off, he won the NLCS MVP Award. I am not saying this is a lopsided comparison, but, well, you get the idea at this point. 

Edge: Los Angeles 

Left Field: 

Do not misinterpret things, now – A.J. Pollock in left field for the Dodgers, coupled with Joc Pederson, have combined to provide a steady diet of nice hits, decent defense and big-time bombs. On the flipside of the coin, you have the 25-year-old Cuban phenom in Randy Arozarena that has captured the infatuation of the baseball community, as he almost literally carried Tampa Bay’s offense during the ALCS. Luckily for Arozarena, his services were rewarded with the honor of claiming MVP honors for the series. At some point, you have to ride with the hot hand with a high ceiling over the certainty of a serviceable floor. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

Center Field: 

Cody Bellinger for the Dodgers faces off against the defensive wizard in Kevin Kiermaier for Tampa Bay. It is true that Bellinger’s postseason could be going a little bit better (he is currently hitting below the Mendoza Line), but then again, his go-ahead home run in Game 7 against the Braves could be a sign of wonderful things to come. Kiermaier’s defensive prowess, despite being Platinum Glove-caliber, will not be able to offset Bellinger’s potential should he heat up to the level he can crank up to. While it might seem like a tough choice on the surface, the upside for Bellinger (despite a shoulder injury) is too much to overlook. Although Bellinger has traditionally been positioned in center field, another outfielder for Los Angeles can take the position to heart as well, too…

Edge: Los Angeles 

Right Field: 

Manuel Margot has been a nice power addition in what has amounted to a double down of power output in regard to Tampa Bay’s offensive philosophy. On the Dodgers’ side of things is a five-tool player who almost single-handedly kept the Dodgers’ postseason hopes alive with his defensive catches all over the outfield. Mookie Betts, through his contact, defense and speed, has time and time again proved his worth as one of the better players in all of MLB. There is no contest when it comes to who takes the edge in this matchup. 

Edge: Los Angeles

Designated Hitter/Bench: 

Both teams bring deep benches. Tampa Bay’s roster on defense, coupled with the bats of Austin Meadows and Mike Brosseau, creates a plethora of pinch-hitting opportunities as the games get into the latter innings. Los Angeles, with the likes of Chris Taylor, Hernandez, Turner, Pederson and company, also has a deep bench that could almost be a lineup on its own accord. Although the Dodgers’ bench on paper carries more talent, the matchup-savviness of Tampa Bay makes this closer than the eye can identify. Until games happen on the field and situations unfold, this looks like another draw, although either could take the advantage should their team gain the upper hand.

Edge: Even

The Verdict: 

Coming into this series, both teams have had to accomplish a ton. No matter the payroll obligations (or the lack thereof), homegrown talent, external additions or coaching staff, this fact holds true for Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. The good news for both is that their roster makeup will likely see both in the postseason again next season and possibly the season after as well. Regardless of the future outlook, the Dodgers bring more star power and depth than Tampa Bay does for this current bout. Tampa Bay should be able to steal a game at the minimum, but at the end of the day, this World Series is the Dodgers’ to lose. After years of anguish, the wait for Los Angeles fans will pay off. 

Prediction: Los Angeles in 6

Published by John Crane

I am originally from Alexandria, Louisiana, but have lived in South Carolina, Texas, and now Arizona. I am a huge sports fan, with baseball being my primary sport. The dream is to one day become a sports reporter or broadcaster.

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