Connor Smith is a junior news journalism major. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Connor at email@example.com.
In 2020 — a year full of surprise and unpredictability — the two No. 1 seeds in the American League and National League will face off in this year’s World Series.
Following two tightly-contested, seven-game league championship series, the Tampa Bay Rays (AL) and Los Angeles Dodgers (NL) will battle in the 2020 World Series, beginning Tuesday. The Rays are seeking their first championship in franchise history, while the Dodgers are vying for their first since 1988.
Now, something is for certain. Whichever city comes on top will experience its second championship in under a month. The Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup Sept. 28 after defeating the Dallas Stars, while the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to capture the 2020 NBA Championship Oct. 11.
Below is a breakdown of where each team stands in four categories heading into this year’s Fall Classic, followed by my series prediction.
Perhaps the story of this year’s postseason, rookie outfielder Randy Arozarena has been nothing short of dominant for the Rays. Arozarena has hit a whooping .382 this postseason, along with seven home runs — the league record for most home runs by a rookie in a single postseason. However, there’s reason for concern throughout the rest of Tampa Bay’s lineup, as the Rays have hit just .209 combined this postseason.
A balanced offense has been key in the Dodgers' sustained success. Shortstop Corey Seager took home this year’s NLCS MVP award for good reason, as the 26-year-old hit five home runs and finished with 11 runs batted in throughout the round. Outfielder Mookie Betts remains an absolute stalwart, too.
While Arozarena has been a fun success story, I’m not sure I see the rest of Tampa’s youthful lineup keeping it up with Los Angeles. The Dodgers have a little to offer at each position and possess more experience.
EDGE: Los Angeles
In short, Tampa Bay’s rotation is capitalized its three-headed monster. The trio of Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton and Blake Snell — the 2018 AL Cy Young award winner — might be the scariest top three of any rotation throughout baseball. Morton has been an issue for batters this postseason, posting a 0.57 ERA through three starts.
For the Dodgers, there’s room for concern after Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. The team will need to head to its bullpen to find a third and possibly fourth starter. With a 4.31 lifetime postseason ERA, Kershaw has experienced his share of inconsistencies throughout the playoffs over his 13-year career.
The Rays’ top three is no joke. Give me Tampa Bay here.
EDGE: Tampa Bay
The Rays’ bullpen is dominant. Although closer Nick Anderson has struggled this postseason after posting a 0.55 ERA through 19 appearances in the regular season, he remains one of the top relievers in baseball. If he continues struggling, there are plenty of options for Tampa Bay to close it out late, including homegrown pieces Peter Fairbanks and Diego Castillo.
It was a mixed bag for the Dodgers’ bullpen in last week’s NLCS. Los Angeles’s bullpen allowed 15 runs in 15 ⅔ innings in Games One through Three, followed by just four through 18 innings in Games Four through Seven.
Because of greater consistency and their number of options, the Rays easily have the edge in this category.
EDGE: Tampa Bay
A small-market team, it’s fun to see the Rays advance and look this powerful, but I’m concerned after their performance in last week’s ALCS. Leading the series 3-0, Tampa Bay blew its lead to the Houston Astros in Games Four through Six but ultimately took the series in seven games. I’m not sure if they can afford to have that happen against a stronger Dodgers team.
In last week’s NLCS, it was the exact opposite for Los Angeles, who climbed back down three games to one and defeated the Atlanta Braves 4-3. Although there’s no doubt Saturday’s series-clincher gave Tampa Bay a boost of energy, it’s hard not to feel good about the Dodgers after their comeback.
EDGE: Los Angeles
These two teams have incredible pitching staffs, which could make for some entertaining and low-scoring duels. However, Tampa Bay is inherently the underdog in this series, facing a Los Angeles team that has been a favorite to take home this year’s title since the end of last year’s World Series.
Although strong pitching often wins ballgames, there is a clear gap between Tampa Bay’s lineup and Los Angeles’s. This series could — and likely should — go at least six or seven games. Ultimately though, the bats of Betts, Seager and outfielder Cody Bellinger will give Los Angeles the edge, breaking its 32-year title drought.
SERIES PICK: Dodgers win, 4-3
Contact Connor Smith with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cnsmith_19.