So much for the chaos World Series matchup that many predicted would happen when the playoffs were expanded to 16-teams for the COVID special season.
After all the dust had settled, the two teams with the best records in baseball were the two left standing to determine who will be the 2020 World Series Champion.
On paper, the series would seemingly be tilted in favor of the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who have an ungodly amount of talent on offense and have made themselves comfortable in the thick, humid Arlington air.
But the American League Champion Rays are their own brand of pesky and cannot be discounted in this series.
They bring with them a brand of baseball that is the happy love child of Moneyball and analytics in 2020. Manager Kevin Cash has flabbergasted AL titans New York and Houston with various defensive shifts and timely pitching strategies like having every pitcher only work through the lineup once.
All throughout the shortened season, the Rays brand of baseball worked, and it worked really well. That success has continued in October, with the team discovering a new star along the way in the sensational Randy Arozarena, whose timely home runs carried the Rays past a relentless Astros team into the championship round.
The Rays reward for vanquishing the Yankees and Astros in successive rounds is the team that boasts the Majors highest payroll and has been practically foaming at the mouth in pursuit of a championship for the last several seasons.
The Dodgers enter the World Series as heavy -210 favorites and for good reason. They, like the Rays, are also very good at baseball.
All-Star talent is found all throughout the Dodgers lineup with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner headlining a dangerous 1 through 9 where each batter is a threat to go yard at any given moment.
As we enter the Fall Classic it’s time to break down the World Series by position group and determine what the Best Bet is for the final few games of a crazy season.
With the payroll the Dodgers possess, it should be no surprise that their pitching comes with a treasure trove of riches. Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1 and is tentatively slated to be the Game 5 pitcher if the series goes that long. Kershaw’s checkered past in October will once again be the main topic involving the Dodgers, with the biggest question being whether or not this is the year he finally breaks through.
Beyond Kershaw, the Dodgers also have the likes of Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, and their bullpen duo of Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. They are very well equipped for a long series.
On the other hand, the Rays boast one of the best rotations in baseball with Game 1 starter Tyler Glasnow being the main attraction of a stable of dominant young arms.
Glasnow is joined in the rotation by Blake Snell and veteran Charlie Morton with Ryan Yarbrough being penciled in for Tampa on their bullpen days.
Incredibly the young Rays look to have the expensive Dodgers beat at starting pitching. However, the Dodgers pitching has a major advantage the Rays pitching does not have — the Dodgers starters will not have to pitch against the Dodgers lineup.
Once again, the Rays look as though they hold a distinct advantage over the uber-loaded Dodgers roster at another position group.
But that’s not a slight against the Dodgers, because the Rays have a better bullpen than everybody.
Tampa Bay boasts the best bullpen in the bigs, and they have relied heavily on them throughout the postseason thus far, especially in the ALCS against Houston.
Nick Anderson, Peter Fairbanks, and Diego Castillo have provided Kevin Cash with many key outs in their march through the American League. John Curtiss, Ryan Thompson, and Aaron Loup are additional resources in the Rays bullpen that have looked terrific thus far.
The Dodgers meanwhile pale in comparison to the Rays in this category. While Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol are capable relievers, the overall talent of the Dodgers bullpen is nowhere near that of the Rays.
In fact, the bullpen has been an area of concern for Dave Roberts’ Dodgers, ratcheting up the pressure on the Dodgers starting pitchers in this series that much further.
If there is a point of concern for the Dodgers in this series it could be in situations in which it becomes a bullpen game, in which case would figure to be a Rays advantage.
This one isn’t remotely close, at least not on paper. The Dodgers boast one of the best, if not the best, lineups in baseball. The Doyers have it all: speed, power, contact, clutch hitting. And they have it from both sides of the plate.
Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and so many more threats lurk in a Dodgers lineup that led the majors in slugging percentage (.483), ISO (.227), and wRC+ (122). Comparatively, the Rays finished 15th, 9th, and 9th in those categories respectively. The two lineups are not the same.
Where the Dodgers are capable of putting 11 up in an inning, the Rays tend to get their runs a little bit slower. While Tampa Bay can, and has, erupt and put up a large crooked number in an inning, they’re much more likely to kill you with 1000 tiny papercuts. In other words, they like to grind you to death with timely hits, walks, and savvy baserunning.
Randy Arozarena (.382/.433/.855) has been the story of the Rays run to the World Series and is their biggest threat in the lineup coming into this series, but this is a team that has got clutch hitting from a wide range of players including the likes of Manuel Margot and Mike Zunino.
At the end of the day, however, there’s no way you can take the Rays lineup over the Dodgers. This is why they have the biggest payroll in sports, they get what they pay for.
Rays vs. Dodgers: World Series Pick
If we were betting with our head, we’d pick the Dodgers as everything on paper screams this being the year they finally prevail and win the World Series, but a team as good as the Rays should not be offering a price of +170.
Our betting pick is the Rays, our sensible pick is Dodgers in 7.
Enjoy the World Series everybody.
The Hook Predicts: Dodgers in 7
Best Value Bet: Rays (+170)